We thought you might be tired of hearing what we'd do with Jeep, well Cappa didn't-he tried to get more pages. So we went looking for industry insiders who have been around for a while and have had the experience of seeing where Jeep was decades ago and where it is today. We ended up with 260 years of experience between them and asked them if they were given Jeep to run, would they do anything differently? Would they keep things the same? We ran into some interesting (weird) ideas, and some that just make good sense-and we wonder why we didn't come up with it.
Who: John Currie
Company: Currie Enterprises-Manufactures suspensions, complete heavy-duty axles, and parts
Years Experience: 41
I like what they are doing with the JK, but they should have done it sooner. The upcoming color-matched hardtop and Pentastar V-6 are both good things and I hear the new interior is an improvement. Keep the straight axles. Jeep is a niche market. Historically they wanted to appeal to the person who didn't want what the other manufacturer's had to offer. Now they are getting away from that and trying to cater to too broad a market. They need to keep the large wheel openings so that bigger tires are possible easily, unlike the FJ Cruiser. Stay with a frame. I wonder why Ford and Chevy don't build something similar to the Wrangler.
Who: Anonymous source inside Jeep
Company: Jeep-Manufactures the vehicles we all love
Years Experience: Non-applicable
I would put tow hooks, or at the very least, make them available as an option on every Jeep made. It is a Jeep, it should be expected that it will go off-road, and even if it didn't, it should be able to help lesser vehicles out when needed. I would also address approach, departure, and break-over angles. A Jeep needs to have high ground clearance. I feel that with the Fiat partnership more Jeep-like Jeeps might be possible than were possible with Daimler.
Who: John Smith
Company: Anonymous lift kit manufacturer
Years Experience: 12
Fire every marketing person. Eliminate checks and balances that make things take so long from inception to conception. Get rid of all the power people who don't understand the Jeep people. The JK should have been the XJ replacement and the short-wheelbased Jeep should have stayed smaller, more nimble, and so on.
Who: Jim Reel
Company: JE Reel-Rebuilds old drivelines, builds new ones, also has bolt-on heavy duty driveshafts
Years Experience: 38
I understand trying to increase market share through offering more models, but they don't need nine models. Offer packages on some core models that make them more attractive to a wider customer base. I would like to see Jeep go back to its roots, but I'm not sure that the company can survive on the Wrangler. There needs to be a Gladiator truck based off a small Jeep, but a Jeep truck with an integral bed is not a good idea. Ford tried it and it cracked all over the place. The Wrangler needs a body that doesn't dent when you lean against it-will the body tear over time? The driveshaft in the JK is a joke-a typical case of a bean counter saving a few cents making the end user spend more.
Who: Larie Tales
Company: Jeeps R Us-Modifies and restores Jeeps
Years Experience: 22
Kill that friggin' V-6 engine and build a Jeep with a V-8. Let Fiat have the Patriot and Compass (Editor's note: They probably wouldn't want them). I'm not personally convinced a Jeep should have four doors, but sales numbers say otherwise. Make the computers have less control of the vehicle, such as the computer-controlled line pressure on automatic transmissions. Cut the product line back to the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee.
Who: Jim McGean
Company: Dynatrac-Builds all kinds of heavy-duty Dana axles for the aftermarket
Years Experience: 22
The four-door obviously needs to stay, but make a two-door Unlimited based on the four-door chassis and bob the extra rear overhang off of it. Standardize to the 5-on-51/2-inch wheel bolt pattern and 17-inch rim diameters. Dump the 5-on-41/2 and 5-on-5-inch bolt patterns and let the owner start off with good factory wheels that allow him to install other upgrades without struggling with wheel changes later on. Don't forget to maintain a 41/4-inch diameter center hole in the factory wheels. Make the fenders so they clear up to 37s without a lift, or no more than 21/2 inches of lift from a budget boost. Sell a package car similar to the Challenger Drag Pack. It would be a Jeep with no drivetrain (engine, transmission, T-case, axles) but would have front seats, wiring, full dash, top, and lights. Basically forgo all the stuff we get rid of anyway.
Who: Michael Sailsbury
Company: Collins Brothers-Restores Jeeps, sells used Jeeps and Jeep parts
Years Experience: 13
Kill the Liberty or put a straight axle in the thing. A Jeep used to be a getaway vehicle, a vehicle you could get in and take it out to the woods on the weekend. A vehicle with independent suspension and no low range T-case is not a get-away vehicle; it's a go to the mall vehicle and not a Jeep. The JK is OK, but I might as well be wheeling a Blazer. It is huge! Make it tougher inside so it will take more weather. Build a NuKizer. Make the body of the JK out of something that isn't so close to the thickness of beer cans. Get rid of the re-badged Dodge Yuppie-mobiles. They are too far away from the longevity and ruggedness of what makes Jeeps desirable. That JK is a big truck and it should have a small V-8 in it.
Who: Harold Off
Company: Off Again Enterprises-Installs lift kits, sells Navajo brakes, aluminum 4.0L valve covers, and builds drivelines
Years Experience: 44
I think the Rubicon catches the spirit of the "real" Jeep. The Liberty is good to tow behind the motorhome, but that's about it. I want to see diesels come to the states and the Wrangler should get a small V-8. Go back to the paddle-style door handle because the stand-out door handles on the JK accumulate a ton of mud, especially the button to open the door. I don't even call the Patriot and whatever that other thing is a Jeep. Grand Cherokee is a pile since the WJ came out- warped brake rotors, aluminum rear end issues, and CVs failing in the front driveline are just some of the issues. Build some of the cool concepts such as Lower Forty- call it a limited run if you want.
Who: Mel Wade
Company: Off Road Evolution-Manufactures suspensions, parts, and builds custom vehicles
Years Experience: 18
As far as the Wrangler goes, it is awesome, but I want to see different engine options. Bring the brand back towards more capable off-road vehicles. Patriot? I would get rid of that; it really didn't help the brand at all. I would like to see a solid axle under the front of the Grand and Liberty to better compete with Range Rovers and Land Cruisers. If I were running things, all of the vehicles would be much closer to military vehicles than the cushy froo-froo things they are heading towards building now.
Who: Clive Skilton
Company: Jeepspeed-World famous, ground-breaking, grass-roots Jeep racing
Years Experience: 50
Back in the days of Lee Iacocca, I was on the dealer counsel called Product Planning and Pricing and they asked six of us dealers if we'd rather have the XJ or the MJ. I wanted both and I was the only guy who held my hand up for the pickup truck. They need a big fullsize Jeep on the 3/4-ton Dodge chassis complete with the diesel. They could build a new age Honcho and Wagoneer. I was clamoring for variable ride height about 20-years ago, likewise a four-door Wrangler. In the rest of the world the Liberty is still called Cherokee, kill the name Liberty and bring the Cherokee name back. Bring back the Sport, Pioneer, and Laredo with clear definition between the options. Since the Liberty has independent front suspension and that isn't likely to change, build a long-travel "Cherokee" to compete with the Raptor. A mini-Wrangler, like a Samurai sized Jeep, would be great-a four-banger that is still capable enough to do the Rubicon.