We’ve had the Jeep Gladiator for a little more than a year now. It’s a great truck. It’s capable off-road. It’s got pretty good towing chops. It looks cool too. But it isn’t selling particularly well anymore, and the recent downturn isn’t likely to help that case very much. But I have an idea. Drop that bed and make it a chassis-cab. It’s super simple.
The best part is that the Gladiator chassis-cab would just be the latest in a long line of Jeeps designed for real work. The original Jeep was probably the hardest-working of all when it was first pressed into service fighting Fascism in World War II. And when it came home? It went right back to giving its all in fields across America as the CJ-2A. With four-wheel-drive, a power take-off, and a low-speed gearbox, the CJ-2A wasn’t just a makeshift work truck. It was purpose-built for the job.
Then there was the beloved postal Jeep. What could have been better for the Postal Service than a simple, hardy truck that would withstand the rigour of a daily route in whatever weather got thrown at it? It wasn’t particularly fast, or powerful, or much to look at, but it was the right truck for the job precisely because it was a Jeep.
Later on, Jeep would go a step further with one of my all-time favourites, the FC, or Forward Control. Bringing the cab up and over the engine and front axle made this Jeep even more practical, with extra room for cargo and clear visibility without a hood in front of the driver. Jeep teased us with what a new one might look like back in 2012 and it quickly became one of my favourite Jeep designs ever, even if it was just a concept. But just because we didn’t get a new one yet doesn’t mean the FC’s spirit doesn’t live on. We still love the things, in any form they took, especially the crew-cab version that lets you bring some more of your fellow workers along.
And that’s pretty much what the Gladiator would be. A crew-cab work truck that could be configured any which way for the task at hand. Jason helped me draw up what this truck might look like. I’m thinking we’ll keep the colour options to a minimum, though if the Forest Service or a municipality wants something special to suit their livery, we can go there too. That removable roof will need to be replaced with something cheaper, body-coloured, and immobile, and we’ll lose the bed, of course, too. And that’s where a utilitarian imagination can get to work.
Need to carry plywood sheets that wouldn’t squeeze into the bed of the standard model? Stick a dropside tray on there, Aussie-style. Have utility work to do? I’m sure you’ll find the right cherry-picker to install on there. Looking to protect the wilderness from brush fires? Your pump and hoses will fit perfectly right behind the cab. Other pickup truck manufacturers, particularly in the mid-sized segments, are happy to lose the standard bed if it means you can build the practical machine you’re dreaming of. At least overseas they will.
Now, I’m not expecting Jeep to actually do this. They’ve done a lot to really position the Wrangler and Gladiator as lifestyle vehicles that are only designed for recreation. But the bones are there. This is a capable truck that has the chops necessary for real work. Maybe we’ll see something like this cooked up for the Moab Easter Safari or SEMA. Or maybe someone will beat Jeep to the punch and do it themselves. I just hope it’s not a militant group that sticks a .50 cal back where the bed should be.