From Scrambler to Gladiator: The Jeep Truck Is Back

November 8th, 2019 by

A grey Jeep Gladiator is parked on a hill over looking mountains near Colorado Springs, CO.

For years, rumors swirled about a mythical Jeep truck. Every year at the Detroit Auto Show, Jeep fans would cross their fingers and hope it would be the year Chrysler finally unveiled its part Wrangler, part pickup. And every year, enthusiasts looking for the Jeep truck went home, hoping that they’d only need to wait one more year. One more year for the perfect pickup they had dreamed of. Sure, if they looked long and hard, they might come across one of the older Jeep trucks, such as the Jeep Scrambler, but they wanted a new and improved truck, with the modern engine and towing capability. You might have even been one of those waiting for the day Jeep would announce the truck edition to its lineup. Well, you don’t need to wish or hope any longer. With the Jeep Gladiator now available and found at most Jeep dealerships in Colorado Springs showroom, it no longer is a myth, and it can be yours.

But just how did the Jeep Gladiator come about, and how does it compare to the Jeep Scrambler and other former Jeep trucks? The best way to understand and appreciate the current Gladiator is to take a stroll through Jeep memory lane (which naturally goes off-road, because after all, it’s A Jeep Thing).

In The Beginning There Was Jeep

When you get right down to it, Jeep invented the concept of the American SUV. The Jeep Wrangler is, more or less, the spitting image of the original Willy used during World War II, only with upgraded features (and let’s not forget power steering).

The very first truck rolled off the Jeep assembly line (back then the company went by the name Willys-Overland) in 1947, just three years after the original CJ, or Civilian Jeep, went into production.

If you were to stop and compare the body of the Willys Overland Jeep 4×4 Truck from 1947, you might be surprised as to just how similar the front of the original truck is with the modern Gladiator. The original truck remained in production through 1965, although the original Jeep Gladiator came out in 1962.

The Original Jeep Gladiator

The first model of the Jeep Gladiator came out in 1962, which was also the final year of Willys Motors. It went on to be built by Kaiser-Jeep in 1963. This particular Jeep used the same body type as the Jeep Wagoneer, which was the company’s station wagon of the time. Basically, it used the same frame, dropped a larger engine under the hood (anywhere from a 3.8L to a 6.6L V8), and left the back open for the truck bed.

Jeep kept the name “Gladiator” through the 1971 version. Part of the name change had occurred because Kaiser-Jeep was now known as the American Motors Corporation. AMC continued to produce the Jeep, now just the J-Series, through the conclusion of the Gladiator’s run.

The 1971 and 1972 models used a 5.0L V8 engine that could produce 210 horsepower, although the company did release a smaller 4.2L I6 engine option in 1972. Eventually, the Jeep Gladiator was phased out in 1988. By then, the truck needed a dramatic upgrade in its visual appearance (which remained almost unchanged throughout its 26-year run), and Chrysler decided to put its “truck attention” on the Dodge Ram lineup of pickups.

The Short-Lived Jeep Jeepster Commando

In the late 1960s, the world of compact SUVs and pickups started to take off. Toyota had the Land Cruiser while Ford had the Bronco (this was before Ford beefed up the Bronco). Jeep came out with the Jeepster Commando in 1966 to compete with the other brands on the market. The vehicle very much used the traditional Wrangler front, but the two-door, one-row cabin opened up to a small bed in the rear. By 1971 the company ditched the “Jeepster” name on the front and called it simply the Commando, but the company went on to stop production in 1973.

2020 Jeep Scrambler…or is it a Jeep Gladiator?

A bird's eye view of a red 2020 Jeep Gladiator, which is a popular vehicle at your local Jeep Dealership in Colorado Springs, CO, is driving up a hill off-road.

If you were to look online for the most recent Jeep Pickup, the first pickup in about 18 years, you’re going to find two different names: a Jeep Scrambler and a Jeep Gladiator. But when you look at pictures you’re going to find it’s the same vehicle. So what in the world is going on?

Well, here’s what happened. There had been rumblings about a brand new Jeep pickup for years, and just about everyone in the industry assumed it would be based on the Jeep Wrangler. Or, more accurately, it would be a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. As such, when word came out that Jeep would be revealing the all-new truck at the Los Angeles Auto Show, most pegged it as the Jeep Scrambler. After all, the Scrambler was the CJ-8, and the civilian Jeep model had been going strong since the Second World War. Because of that, people started calling the soon-to-be-released pickup the Jeep Scrambler.

But that’s where the error came in. While many in the industry believed the new pickup would be called the Jeep Scrambler, Chrysler decided instead to call it the Gladiator. Why did Chrysler decide to do that? Because the Gladiator was originally part of the J-Series, and the J-series is more or less the original Jeep “truck.” Chrysler wanted to make sure everyone knew they were not just selling a civilian Jeep with a bed on the rear but instead a fully capable pickup with its own frame; it went with the Gladiator name.

So if you read or see images of a 2019/2020 Jeep Scrambler, you need to note that this is the same vehicle. The posts calling it the “Scrambler” just came out before December 2018 when everyone in the industry was still under the “Scrambler” name assumption.

Three Trucks At Once

For a short period of time, Jeep had three different trucks in production. From 1981 to 1986, Jeep brought back the CJ line of trucks with the CJ-8 Scrambler. While the Scrambler looked more like a Wrangler with a small bed in the rear (it resembled a wider-body Commando), the Jeep Comanche, which was in production from 1986 to 1992, used the Jeep Cherokee body. It had a longer truck bed and a more modern look than the final years of the original Gladiator. Still, ultimately, Chrysler decided it wanted to focus all of its truck attention on the Ram lineup of trucks, so it discontinued the original Gladiator in 1988, the CJ-8 Scrambler in 1986, and the Jeep Comanche in 1992.

Under The Gladiator Hood

While you can’t look at a Jeep Gladiator vs Jeep Scrambler comparison (as the two are one and the same), we can go under the hood and check out the specs for the all-new Gladiator.

A red 2020 Jeep Gladiator is near Colorado Springs, CO while towing 2 side by sides with 2 dirt bikes in the bed.

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is considered a compact pickup in that it is smaller than a full-sized three-quarter-ton 1500 pickup. The base Jeep Gladiator is the Sport 4×4, which uses a 3.6 V6 engine that puts out 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque while offering you four-wheel drive (would you expect anything else from a Jeep?). This is the base engine on all the trim levels. It comes as a manual, but you can upgrade to an 8-speed automatic. The base also has a max trailering capacity of 4,000 pounds.

When you upgrade to improved trim models, you’ll be able to swap in a bed liner, convertible hardtop, running boards, and other display features, plus some basic internal comfort upgrades, such as a premium sound system. The top-tier trim model also has an increased 7,650 lb trailering capacity.

What Do You Think Of The All-New Gladiator

Here at Faricy Boys in Colorado Springs, we’d love to know what you think about this new truck. So what’s your opinion of the all-new Jeep Gladiator? Does it tickle your fancy? And is it the kind of pickup you’d be interested in, or would you rather go with a more conventional line, such as a Ram 1500? Let us know in the comments!