Thanks to Scott Huntington for this Guest Blog Post!
You can spot a Wrangler from a mile away. The rugged Jeep’s silhouette has retained its major stylistic elements for over 70 years. It’s like the off-road equivalent of the Porsche 911 — the ongoing refinement of a classic design.
At the core of that design is the unmistakable Jeep grille. Its seven upright slots have graced the front of every Jeep model since the CJ. Each Jeep iteration has gone about it a little differently, but to depart from such an iconic Jeep element now would be blasphemy. Check out the slight differences in this visual history of the Wrangler grille:
From Humble Beginnings
The first CJ Jeeps had 60 horsepower from a four-cylinder “Go Devil” engine. The most attractive thing about them for the off-road crowd was reliability and simplicity, which meant they were easy to service in the field. Keeping the little devil cool was a simple, upright grille with openings to let the Jeep’s radiator breathe. It’s a formula that remains in place to this day.
Enter the Square Headlight
Another instantly recognizable feature of the Jeep was its round headlights. When Chrysler first introduced the Wrangler in 1987, they rolled the dice on departing from this design, by introducing square lights. Needless to say, the look didn’t gel with Jeep enthusiasts, and the YJ will forever go down as the jeep with the ugly eyes. They’re easy to spot, though.
Wider and Rounder
The TJ, introduced in 1995, demonstrated that Jeep/Chrysler had learned from their mistakes. This Jeep was better equipped for on-road use as a daily driver. It was also better looking than the YJ, thanks to retro-style round lights and softened edges around the grille. The TJ retains the wide, narrow appearance of the YJ, but with round headlights and driving lights.
The JK Returns to Its Roots
The JK design we have today is even more round than the TJ, using a taller profile with chamfered edges. Driving lights have been removed, and a single set of larger, rounded headlights replace them. If you squint, it looks like a grown-up version of the CJ-4 grille.
New for 2018
The JL body style is coming around the corner, and while it hasn’t officially been released, a healthy supply of press photos and accidentally leaked spare hoods gives us a good idea how it will look. The design is both modern and a fitting tribute to the Jeep lineage. It maintains the seven-slot design, but in a handsome, wider profile that sets the rounded headlights at the corners of the front end.