The modern successor of that famous Willys wartime Jeep swaggered onto the scene in the form of the first generation YJ Wrangler, a robust off-roader introduced by Chrysler with a Jeep badge in 1987. Wranglers were initially built in Canada where —ironically — the Wrangler name couldn’t be used because Chevrolet had already bagged it for a pickup.
So Wranglers became the Jeep YJ in home territory. Production switched to the USA in 1992, but when the revamped second generation Wrangler arrived in 1996 the same restriction applied, with Canadian exports bearing the Jeep TJ name. To cut a confusing story short, the rest of the world now refers to the YJ Wrangler and the TJ Wrangler to differentiate between the two models.
The TJ Wrangler was much improved. It featured coil-spring suspension borrowed from the larger Jeep Grand Cherokee. The entry level TJ had a 2.5 litre four-cylinder motor (2.4 litre from 2003), but most opted for the big 4 litre straight six shared with the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee.
There was a choice of transmissions over the production run, with three- and four-speed automatics or five- and six-speed manuals on offer. Stylistically, the TJ had more rounded contours than its predecessor, but this sturdy SUV remained a no-frills two-door soft top.
There were various options within the range, such as the Sport (with the larger engine) and Sahara (a premium model with all the bells and whistles). Along the trail came the X (to replace the Sport from 2002), the Rubicon (another premium model with beefed-up off-road capability introduced in 2003) and the slightly larger Unlimited that offered more interior space and came in standard or Rubicon trim.
The Jeep JK Wrangler displaced the TJ in 2007, carrying this no-nonsense SUV line into a third successful decade of production.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1996 (until 2006)
2.4 l (148 cid) or 2.5 l (150 cid) Straight Four; 4.0 l (241 cid) Straight Six
With 4.0 l engine – top speed of 108 mph (175 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 9.9 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
A right-hand drive version of the TJ Wrangler was produced for export to left-side drive countries, and was also sold to the US Post Office so rural mail carriers could reach out to mailboxes without leaving the vehicle.