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by Don Sikora II
Note: The following story was excerpted from the April 2020 issue of Collectible Automobile magazine.
Jeep began building pickups in 1947, but the streak ended when the Cherokee-based Comanche ceased production in 1992. For 2020, Jeep jumps back into this important market with the Gladiator. Though its name comes from the Wagoneer-derived Gladiator (later J-Series) pickups the brand sold between 1963 and 1987, it was arguably inspired more by the CJ-7-like 1981-85 Scrambler.
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As shown at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, Jeep is going after the desert-driving crowd with the new Desert Rated Gladiator Mojave.
While most think of “off road” as consisting of rocks, hills, and mud, it can also include sand. And for those who follow that path, Jeep has built a special vehicle.
Badlands Off-Road Park in Attica, Indiana, is something like heaven on earth for off-road aficionados. It’s an incredible facility that spans 800-plus acres and encompasses a broader variety of off-road terrain than you’d ever expect to find in the Midwest. There are sand dunes, forested areas, streams for fording, several types of gravel (part of the park was previously a quarry), loose rocks and solid-rock trails, and lots of good ol’ dirt and mud. There are trails that are easy enough for children, trails that will challenge the most-experienced off-roader, and trails at most every level in between those extremes.
‘What took you so long?”
That was one of the first questions raised during the preview for the 2020 Jeep Gladiator, voiced by someone (OK … me) who used to own a Jeep Scrambler pickup — and has been anxiously awaiting the versatile vehicle’s second coming.
Jeep debuted the long-rumored pickup version of its Wrangler SUV at the Los Angeles Auto Show, bestowing it a name from the company’s storied past.