Historic Jeeps Roll Into Las Vegas for SEMA

Watch out, citizens. Fire-retardant 4x4s rolling through.

Sean McFarland

This article was originally posted on The Drive, a Time Inc. publication.

Jeep is a brotherhood: a top-down, doors-off, rolling biopic of masculinity. Owners wave to one another and employ phrases like “capable” and “Trail Rated” liberally. Come winter, during weekend shopping trips, they deliberately climb parking-lot snowbanks.

For Jeep fans, the temptation for vehicle modification is enormous, and ubiquitous. In spring, an overlanding haj to Moab makes a convenient excuse to show off your latest mods.

So where does this zeal come from? Jeeps have been around since World War II, but their civilian uses began with a fistful of rare-formed rigs. And they’re coming together next week in Las Vegas, in conjunction with the Specialty Equipment Market Association show (SEMA). Owned by Omix-Ada, an aftermarket parts manufacturer, these working Jeeps are as iconic as the seven-slot grille itself. Here are some of the collection’s highlights.

1946 Willys CJ-2A Farm Jeep


Jeeps can already be likened to the automotive equivalent of a multi-tool, but how many tools are too many tools? This CJ-2A makes a solid pitch: a GE welder in lieu of a passenger’s seat, a buzz saw, work bench, wrecker boom, a power winch, mower bar and an air compressor are all aboard. Fear not about lugging this equipment to the job site, for this Willys is eight wheels of overkill, and it’s lovely.

1947 Willys CJ-2A Fire Truck


Converted to a fire engine by an Indiana manufacturer named Boyer, these fire trucks were used to battle fires that were too remote for larger engines to access. However, it probably took crews a while to arrive. This Willys’ “Go Devil” engine generated all of 63 horsepower, being harnessed through a three-speed manual gearbox. Snail pace aside, these axe- and ladder-clad Jeeps quickly gained an international reputation. Willys-Overland sold 20 of them to the Brazilian military.

1955 Willys Pickup


The 1955 Willys pickup was a no-nonsense truck with simple suspension and a rigid stature. Each of its four engine names was aggressively termed in that Fifties good-‘ol-boy way: Hurricane, Super Hurricane, Go Devil, Tornado. Over 200,000 were produced in all. This satin-sheened Tin Man was originally owned—and worked hard—by a company near Yosemite National Park, but has been preserved to near mint condition.

1959 Jeep FC-150


This sub-nosed engine-that-could is the American equivalent of the Volkswagen Type 2 Pickup. In the Fifties and Sixties, the “Forward Control” Jeeps featured a hydraulic bed and a puppy-dog fascia that won over municipalities, civilians and even the military. When Willys wrapped up production in 1964, roughly 30,000 had been made. Jeep fans have been lusting for an encore since the brand teased a concept version in 2012.

1978 Jeep J-10 Pickup


There are few things more American than a showroom-condition Jeep pickup with a Levi’s denim interior. With only 2,440 miles on the odometer, this sexy J-10 came replete with a brush guard, light bar and factory air conditioning to cure passengers of envy-induced hot flashes. Of course, all this kit is enhanced by a 5.9-liter V-8. Just our kind of Canadian tuxedo.

1982 Jeep CJ-7 Fire Truck

semajeeps_1982firetruck_artThe CJ-7 offered drivers a road-friendlier alternative to its war-era predecessor. The changes were well received, and more than 375,000 were produced in 11 years. Everything on the CJ-7 was customizable, and buyers were given a buffet of options: nine transmissions, three transfer cases, two axle options and five different engines. This particular CJ-7 was converted to fight wildfires with a brigade in Texas. Like the Willys CJ-2A, it was typically deployed to attack inaccessible infernos.

Five ways to bring summer on the road

Sean McFarland

This article was originally published on BBC Autos.


Winter has retreated from the northern hemisphere and warmth reigns supreme, setting many readers to dream of escapes. Not just any escapes, but the kind of adventures where the vehicle is as much a protagonist as the destination. Few things are better than a car filled with friends en route to a beach or campsite, and the fun factor only grows when a car can adjust for prolonged absences. These are some of our favourite ways to stay away a little bit longer this summer. (Photo: AT Overland Equipment; Cover photo: Kylie McLaughlin/Lonely Planet Images/Getty)

Audi Q3 Camping Tent

The Q3 stuffs Audi’s core tenets of sport and luxury into an appealing soft-roader package. But for weekenders who’d rather not be fodder for mosquitos, Audi has devised a solution. The Q3 camping tent can withstand winds of up to 43mph, making it a formidable shelter in an impromptu storm. Audi estimates that the inflatable fortress and attached exoskeleton will be ready for occupants in just seven minutes. Don’t want to get wet walking from the car to the tent? Fear not, for Ingolstadt’s engineers have thought of it all: the tent attaches seamlessly to the Q3’s open rear hatch, enabling crawl-throughs. How very civilised. (Photo: Audi of America)

Volkswagen California

Grandchild of the recently deceased Kombi, the California is Volkswagen’s response to adventurers seeking a self-contained holiday. The California comes standard with an accordion-like expandable roof, cooking facilities, a sink and a refrigerator. Add the optional camping pack, and a retractable awning turns this Swiss Army van from an overnight shelter to a second home on wheels. At the end of a long summer day, there’s a double bed for a restful night’s sleep. This latest pop-top VW truly has everything you’d need on a camping holiday, save for a fire pit for roasting weenies and preparing late-night s’mores. (We assume Volkswagen will issue a recall to mend this minor design flaw.) (Photo: Volkswagen Group)

Airstream Autobahn

Fancy having your business associates over for a meeting before a daytrip to the countryside? The Airstream Autobahn is the summer solution for the terrestrial jet set. Airstream takes a standard Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van and adds all the humble road-trip necessities: leather-lined captain’s chairs, power window shades, a beverage cooler and, of course, a flat-screen LCD television. Though a journey in the Autobahn would never be construed as “rouging it”, this modified cargo-mover is a choice shelter for those with high-tag adventuring in mind – a tag starting at $133,000 in the US, to be exact. (Photo: Airstream)

Nissan Titan Bed Tent

Notwithstanding nomadic tribes of surfers and snowboarders, most owners of pickup trucks overlook their vehicles’ ability to double as makeshift campgrounds. This bed tent for Nissan’s full-size Titan comes directly from the Japanese brand, and is ideal for providing a dry night’s sleep. But while the shelter part of the camping equation is covered, it’s still in adventurers’ best interest to throw in a mattress. The steel bed of a full-size truck may be a bit on the firm side. (Photo: Nissan North America)

AT Overland JK Habitat

This solution is built for the daytrips that turn into weekend-long trailblazing expeditions. Jeep Wrangler owners end up in the darnedest situations as it is. They might park for the evening in fender-deep mud, simply because they could. For just such occasions, the JK Habitat lofts its residents above the vehicle. This origami nest bolts directly to the body of a Wrangler Unlimited (the Jeep’s four-door configuration) and unfolds to reveal a 15ft-long canvas penthouse. Setup takes just 60 seconds, according to the manufacturer, and the unit can sleep four comfortably. An opening at the rear of the cabin makes a clever entry point, allowing occupants to move upstairs without exiting the vehicle – a smart idea considering the tricky footing in typical Wrangler habitat. (Photo: AT Overland Equipment)