Each Friday on the Jeep® Blog, we explore the Jeep brand’s iconic heritage by highlighting a different historical vehicle. This week’s vehicle is the 1986–1995 Jeep Wrangler (YJ).
Every legend has a beginning. In 1986, the Jeep brand first began manufacturing a vehicle that would forever change not only off-roading, but the automotive world, forever. While the beloved CJ series had its admirers (and still does, to this day), the Jeep brand needed a vehicle to shake things up – both from an on- and off-road perspective. Enter Wrangler YJ.
The Wrangler featured a wider track, angled grille, and a modernized interior compared to the CJ series. While it did share the open-body profile of the CJs, it shared few parts with its predecessor. That includes the headlamps.
Oh, the headlamps. The introduction of square headlamps, replacing the familiar round headlamps of CJs, was a very controversial decision. While the storm has long since blown over, and YJs are a part of Jeep brand lore, there was a lot of negativity towards the vehicle for its perceived repudiation of Jeep brand styling. What the naysayers might not have realized is that the Wrangler, square headlamps or not, was the modern embodiment of classic Jeep brand style and capability.
Trim levels through the YJ’s reign included Base (“S” or “SE”), Laredo, Islander, Sport, Sahara, Renegade and Rio Grande.
The YJ endured a somewhat tumultuous era, and one year after its introduction, American Motors Corporation was sold to the Chrysler Corporation. The Jeep brand then became a part of Chrysler’s Jeep/Eagle division.
Although there was never any question, the Wrangler re-cemented the Jeep brand’s position as maker of the most capable vehicles on- or off-road.