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What Makes a Jeep, a “Jeep”? Top Down! Doors Off! 4×4!

Posted by on August 21, 2014

The J10 pickup certainly has a following.  The first gen XJ Cherokees (84 – 96) are very capable off-road and enjoy strong aftermarket support.  But the fact of the matter is, say “Jeep”, and most people immediately think of something like a CJ or Wrangler. That’s what I’m talking about here.

So, what exactly, makes a Jeep a “Jeep”? (and please don’t say it’s the “trail rated” badging!!)

Is it the fold-down windshield? (18 bolts, seriously??! Still a win for those ambitious enough, and someday I’m sure I’ll fold mine down.  If nothing else, just to say I’ve done it.)

The solid FRONT and rear axles? (Certainly BIG WINS for those of us who take our Jeeps off-road!)

Body on frame construction? (Another BIG WIN in terms of strength, dependability and ease of making mods, like adding a suspension or body lift.)

The two-speed, MANUALLY operated transfer case? (Yet another BIG WIN for the true enthusiast.)

The relatively small size? (OK, you have to admit the Jeep JK Unlimited has certainly grown-up from its humble Bantam, Willy’s and Ford GP beginnings, but it is still relatively small. That small size allows it to still fit on trails that would be eating full-size sheet metal for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Definitely another BIG WIN!) 

Is it the round headlights? (Jeep YJ fans everywhere will disagree, but round headlights just look right…)

The seven slot grill? (Conventional thinking is that the 7 slots represent the fact that Jeep has successfully conquered terrain on all seven continents.  But they didn’t always have the now famous 7 slot grill.  The WWII era GP flat hood and 9 slot grill – yes, nine – were Ford designs, adopted by both Bantam and Willys during production.)

I sure hope those Jeep Designers & Engineers are paying attention to the list above!

While all of the above are very important, and even considered ‘must-have’s’ by purists, are these the things that actually make a Jeep, a Jeep? No, it can’t just be those things, nor any one of them individually.


Here’s a hint…

 If you haven’t taken the doors off yet, you’re missing out on something big!!


Ask the mainstream masses, and I bet ‘Top Down, Doors Off, 4×4’ sums it up quite nicely.  Quintessential Jeep. Top down, doors off, cruising on the beach, out on the trails, or even just rolling down the boulevard. 

Sure, there are plenty of convertibles out there, but without 4-wheel drive, you won’t see them getting far on the beach or down the trails, and I haven’t seen too many with the doors off…  That’s definitely a 4×4 thing!  And sure, with the right tools, some mechanical know-how, and a little moxy, you can take the doors off just about anything on the road, and I have some wheeling buddies who do it all the time on their Fords, Chevies and Toyotas.

The Early Bronco, First Gen Chevy Blazer, International Scout, First Gen Toyota 4Runner and early Toyota FJ Cruiser all offered similar open air freedom and 4×4 capability.  In fact, that top down, doors off, open air freedom – plus 4×4 capability – are what makes them so cool, collectable, and pricey today.  Unfortunately, Toyota blew it with the 2007 FJ redo, which should have had flat fenders, a removable top & removable doors, and all the rest, but the Jeep Wrangler, have gone the way of the Dinosaur.

No other 4×4 on the road today was designed and built from the factory to make it easy for the owner to drop the top, take the doors off and fold down the windshield.  And nothing else out there coming off the assembly line today gives you the same capability, or feeling!! 

Unscrew a few bolts, pull a couple of quick-disconnects for the wiring, unhook the limiting straps, and viola… 

I don’t care who ya are, you gotta admit, that’s cool, and very likely a big reason why Jeep can’t build ‘em fast enough.  Again for 2014, Jeep is selling every single Wrangler it builds.  So, hat’s off to you Jeep! Err, Make that top down, door off, 4×4, to you!


So, that’s my take.  What do you think makes a Jeep, a “Jeep”?


Wheel Safe. Wheel Smart.  Have Fun.  Hope to see you on out on the trails.

Copyright The Off Road Reference 2014