History of the Jeep Grand Cherokee
History of the Jeep Grand Cherokee
Posted on August 18, 2016
One of the most-loved members of the Jeep family is, unquestionably, the Grand Cherokee. Highly-versatile, spacious, and off-road capable, even adjustment and subsequent generation leads to a vehicle that offers drivers opportunities few SUV can.
Just how did the Grand Cherokee find its way into the hearts and minds of drivers looking for the superior Jeep quality with a touch of luxury for a comfortable, exciting driving experience?
To answer that question we have to follow the product line backwards, all the way to the a time when the Jeep company had yet to take its modern shape - but, all the same, the vehicles themselves had the functionality and features that made them as remarkable then as they are today.
The Willys Jeep Station Wagon from 1946 is often regarded as the ancestor to the Grand Cherokee - and earns a place in the history books first and foremost for being the first mass-market all-steel station wagon designed to be a passenger vehicle. Now, station wagon and Jeep don't exactly fit together in the modern sense (however - we are getting a new Wagoneer in a few years!) and despite that small fact, the model went on to sell over 300,000 models in the United States alone.
Recognised as the most successful post Second World War model, it came at the perfect period of social and economic expansion - particularly with the development of large suburban communities, rushing to fill a new middle-class.
Designed by Brooks Stevens, whose own legacy includes being called by New York Times Magazine "a major force in industrial design" - this first generation was offered in a 2- or 4- door station wagon, a panel van, and a pickup truck body style. It should be said that alongside the Station Wagon, Willys was producing the Jeep Truck as of 1947 as well as Willys-Overland Jeepster in 1948, all of whom have lent those features that were best received by consumers of the time to their respective heirs.
The Station Wagon was the first Willys product presented with independent front suspension, and would have various engines over it lifetime, from the original L-134 Go-Devil flathead inline-four engine, to the 6-226 Super Hurricane flathead inline-six engine by the 1954 model. Production for the Wagon went until 1965 in the United States and would continue until 1981 in other countries such as Argentina.
Enter the Wagoneer in 1963 - touted as being the first luxury 4x4, it carried a variety of names during its impressively long, 28-year run. Offered in 2-door panel truck or 2- and 4-door SUV body styles, you've likely seen one of these on the road at one or another. They were designed to stand the test of time, with models that allowed for both rear and four-wheel drive, it's about as capable as you can imagine it to be.
Again, designer Brooks Stevens was called to develop the new Jeep, and under his guidance (as well as US$20 million for development) the new SUV took shape. Early models came equipped with the new Tornado SOHC 3.8-litre, six-cylinder engine that produced 140 horsepower and was noted for its efficiency in a time when there was far less importance placed on it.
These also happened to be the days that Kaiser entered the Jeep brand, adopting the new company name Kaiser Jeep Corporation, the Wagoneers became one of the first vehicles to launch under the merger. This did not last, however, and in 1970 American Motors (AMC) acquired Kaiser Jeep, implementing across-the-board upgrades on existing and future models.
All the same, for the next 14 years things were good for the Wagoneer, with improvements and model changes that were regarded well by drivers across the market.
Like Kaiser and Willys before it, AMC's financial woes reached their peak in the '80s - but not before rebranding the Wagoneer as the Grand Wagoneer - but would, regardless of these efforts, be acquired by Chrysler in 1987. The last model would roll out of production on June 21st, 1991 (but, as we said - there's a new model coming with the same name in just a few years!).
This has been a long road, we know - but we've finally made it!
In 1993 Chrysler, having forecasted the need to replace the full-size SUV market with something modern and attractive - launched the Grand Cherokee. Which has continued to enjoy a competitive slot in a segment its predecessors effectively created for nearly 3 decades - and 4 generations - the most recent launching in 2011. Join us today at Coquitlam Chrysler and test drive our new and pre-owned Jeeps!