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Car lovers, like other enthusiasts of various stripes, like to geek out on their favorite subject. Researching your favorite vehicles is one way to do it, but getting out to a car museum is even more fun. There are plenty of automotive museums in the United States. The Henry Ford Museum is an excellent example. But one museum that is being planned will be especially exciting for the Jeep fans among us, as Ronan Glon of reports. 

Two soldiers riding in a Willys Jeep
Two soldiers in a Willys Jeep | Robert Yarnall Richie/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images

An entire museum dedicated to the history of Jeep

Slated to open in late 2022, the Jeep Experience is a $40 million museum in Toledo, Ohio. A non-profit organization is working on this project with the support of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. 

Toledo has always had a special connection to Jeep because it has been making its 4X4 trucks and SUVs there since the ’40s. Local Jeep buffs have been trying for years to bring a museum to the city. One of them, Randy Oostra, CEO of health care company ProMedica, sold the idea to FCA. And it’s his non-profit that will raise funds to build the museum.

The Jeep Experience will draw inspiration from the Harley-Davidson Museum and the National Corvette Museum. Oostra said that the Jeep’s long and dynamic history will provide plenty of opportunities for interactive events, mentioning the Jeeps used in World War II and in the movie Jurassic Park.

It will be located in a 56,000-square-foot building in the metro Toledo area near Jeep headquarters, and it’s expected that more than a quarter-million people will visit the museum annually. A Jeep-themed eatery and possibly a nearby hotel are supposed to be in the works, also.

Why this museum is coming just at the right time

Critics might wonder why such a large museum is being dedicated entirely to the Jeep. But its launch couldn’t be more timely. For one thing, all the excitement of the Jeep Gladiator’s debut last spring has sparked public interest in all things Jeep.

Fans of the Gladiator, the Wrangler, and other Jeep models might want to visit the museum that happens to be within shouting distance of the plant where those off-roaders are manufactured. 

Pop culture mavens might also enjoy the myriad roles that Jeeps have played in movies, television shows, and even in the lives of celebrities. Jeeps are featured not only in Jurassic Park but also Furious 7, Terminator Salvation, and so many others. 

We’ve seen Jeeps in the old TV hits, The A-Team and The Dukes of Hazzard as well as more recent shows such as The Walking Dead. And Marilyn Monroe was ferried in Jeeps from show to show on tour during the Korean War. 

And if all the pop culture references weren’t enough rich material for the Jeep Experience, then there is even more content to be found in the history of Jeep.

Jeep’s vibrant history

The United States’ involvement in the European theater during World War II triggered an urgent need for four-wheel drive military vehicles. It contracted Willys-Overland to make them in short order.

The final production version was the Model MB. Along with Ford, Willys produced well over 600,000 military vehicles. The MBs were used by every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces as well.

Jeeps as military light-utility vehicles continued to be produced following the end of WWII and continued into the late ’60s. Willys, and Kaiser Motors, who acquired it in the ’50s, started to experiment with new designs for military vehicles, including a deep water fording Jeep, ambulances, cargo pickups, and fast attack vehicles that used weapons platforms.

Non-military Jeeps were also starting to be produced after the war and were badged as “CJ” for “civilian jeep”. These were produced from 1945 to 1984 as the company that made Jeeps changed hands several times. Following Kaiser’s acquisition of Willys, American Motors Corporation bought Kaiser in 1970.

In 1971, AMC created a spinoff company, AM General, that would later produce the Humvee. With an increasing influx of investment funds from Renault in the late ’70s, AMC produced the XJ Cherokee, its first unibody SUV. In the following decade, the CJ series was replaced by the new Wrangler

By the late ’80s, Renault was sinking financially, and Chrysler bought out AMC. Interestingly, Chrysler was quite interested in the Jeep brand at the time of the acquisition, and Jeep was the only brand it hung on to following the transaction. The automaker went through several difficult corporate transformations until it was incorporated into Fiat Chrysler.

Despite the acquisition of the Jeep brand by a company that became a former member of the Big Three, Jeeps still have an enormous fan base. The history of Jeep is an intriguing one and is definitely worth learning more about. And what better place to learn about it than at an entire museum dedicated to Jeeps?