One of the most important questions concerning our favorite vehicle is: What makes a Jeep a Jeep? That’s going to be the biggest debate around the campfire this summer, when the new Roxor side by side hits the trails. Built by Mahindra in the USA, the Roxor looks like a Jeep (sans the seven-slot grille), acts like a Jeep, and probably is the Jeep that FCA should have built. Based on the Thar, which is built by Mahindra in their home country of India, the new offering is not street legal and doesn’t pass any federal safety specifications for passenger vehicles. But one look at the beast and any Jeeper can tell that it has lots of potential. Think of it this way—we want a Jeep smaller than a Wrangler, with solid axles and a diesel engine. Mahindra is the only one producing such a beast, and it’s made right here in America. While it’s not a flatfender-size Jeep, it’s about the same size as a CJ-7 with a 96-inch wheelbase. It sports a boxed steel frame with leaf springs and Dana 44 axles front and rear. The diesel engine is only a 2.5L with a measly 62 hp at 3,200 rpm, but it does have 144 lb-ft of torque at 1,400 rpm. Even with the 3.73 axle gear ratios it should be fine for a 3,000-pound vehicle. The five-speed tranny has great gear spacing, and the Spicer 18-ish transfer case is a 2.46 low-range ratio version as well. Top that off with the 29-inch-tall tires on 16-inch wheels with a 5-on-5 1/2 bolt pattern, and you pretty much have a Jeep-spec side by side!
And that’s where the problem is. These vehicles are not road legal, nor were they supposed to be. And being built by Mahindra means it’s not a Jeep, right? Well, that’s where the debate can come in. It’s not made by FCA, the current owner of Jeep, but Mahindra has been producing Jeeps under license since the end of World War II. They started with CKD (completely knocked down) kits from Willys and have been licensed to build Jeeps ever since. Depending on what the licenses specified through the years meant that Jeep or Willys could or couldn’t be embossed on the sheetmetal.
So let’s hear it from you, the reader. Is it a Jeep or not, and how can you support and justify your position? We know that haters are gonna hate, and that’s why the internet was invented. But for us, let’s get a real debate going—what makes a Jeep a Jeep?