In the middle of the 20th century, Jeep sold the Forward Control, or Jeep FC for short. At the time, it shared engineering with CJ-5, and its goal was to be a versatile commercial vehicle, offering a short turning radius and large cargo bed size thanks to the compact cab-over design. They could be found in all sorts of configurations, from pickup trucks, to response vehicles, to vans. These little work horses may not have been “Trail Rated” at the time, but it doesn’t change the fact that at one point, Jeep was part of the van life.
And that seems like the next wide open opportunity for the Jeep brand. There’s no denying that van customization for overlanding and off-road use has sprouted up in recent years like an uncontrollable sprawl of wild mint. But much of it is concentrated into the aftermarket, where third parties upfit everyday work vans into go-anywhere machines complete with stoves, beds and showers.
And the folks running Jeep these days have taken notice.
“I can’t talk about future product, but at the end of the day we’re not going to make a minivan. Whatever we did in terms of future product, it’s still going to be a Jeep,” said Brandon Girmus, senior brand manager of the Jeep Gladiator pickup truck. “It’s still going to be off-road capable. It’s still going to be Trail Rated. It’s still going to check all those boxes. We’re always looking for new ideas, and new places, and new directions we could take the Jeep brand. We’ll have to see what we come up with next.”
Earlier this year, a rendering of a modern Jeep van sparked the curiosity and attention of the blogosphere and social media. Imaginations were left running wild, but so far, the existence of an official Jeep van remains absent from the brand’s product portfolio. We imagine, however, that it won’t be for much longer.
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