The New Jeep® Gladiator Does Its Namesake Proud

Categories: Vehicles 

The Jeep® Brand has been the legendary leader in 4×4 capability since 1941, an icon of American know-how and ingenuity that’s been reinventing and refining its self along the way. The brand has stayed true to its DNA, and has never forgotten its unique and unrivaled soul and heritage. Most recently, the Jeep® Brand tapped into its “let’s roll our sleeves up and get to work” ethic by reaching back into its illustrious 78-year history to bring back the Gladiator nameplate.

vintage jeep gladiator poster

The original Jeep® Gladiator began production in 1962 as a conventional body-on-frame pickup that had a common frame and chassis with its Jeep® Wagoneer sibling. Production on the first-generation Jeep® Gladiator ran until 1988 and it came in a number of configurations for civilian and military uses. Most popular with consumers was both short and long wheelbase J200, J2000, J300 and J3000 models in both 4WD and RWD models. The original Jeep® Gladiators could also be optioned in cab and chassis layouts for even more versatility to tackle any job their owners could throw at them.

original jeep gladiator model

Throughout the 1960s, ’70s and into the ’80s, the Jeep® Gladiator got more refined but never lost its ruggedness and utility. For power under the hood, a variety of engines ranging from a straight-six to a number of V8s provided the horsepower and torque needed to do its job and do it well. Most popular was the American Motors Corporation (AMC) produced 258 cubic-inch inline six-cylinder, but many Gladiators were built with the muscular 360 and 401 cubic-inch V8 engines that also powered the infamous AMX and Javelin sports cars of the early 1970s.

In 1972, the Gladiator name was dropped and the model became known as the J-series, such as J10 and J20, depending on model. By the mid to late 1980s, the Jeep® Gladiator/J-series pickup days were slowly becoming numbered owing to a shifting market and being a model that was slightly “long in the tooth.” With the purchase of AMC by Chrysler in 1987, the Jeep® J-series truck was in direct competition with the Dodge RAM and Dakota pickup trucks. In 1988, the final Jeep® Gladiator/J-series rolled off the line, marking the end to an illustrious career that spanned decades.

Fast forward three decades and guess who’s back? That’s right, it’s the all-new Jeep® Gladiator ready to “pick up” where its great ancestor left off.

jeep gladiator on top of rocks

The 2020 Jeep® Gladiator has much of the heritage and toughness the name implies and is just as authentic and versatile as its predecessor. Built on a body-on-frame design that is lightweight, stiff and durable, the new Gladiator is also ready to tackle anything you throw at it while delivering the latest technology and best-in-class towing. It also has more power than its older namesake with the standard 3.6-liter Pentastar® V6 engine that delivers 285 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, much more than even the old V8 engines of the 1970s and ’80s. If you’re looking for grunt, an optional 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 engine, rated at 260 horsepower and 442 lb.-ft. of torque, will eventually be available to move mountains, if that’s your thing.

jeep gladiators parked outside

All Gladiator models are Trail Rated and carry that badge on the front fenders. Trust us, it’s not just a decoration, as each Gladiator is designed to perform in a variety of challenging off-road conditions and easily fulfills the five key consumer-oriented performance categories that define “trail-rated”, including traction, ground clearance, maneuverability, articulation and water fording.

jeep gladiator with kayaks parked near a river

Names may come and go, but the 2020 Gladiator is more than worthy to honor one of the Jeep® Brand’s great bloodlines.

Story and photos by David Hakim

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