I spent all day Saturday at the Toledo Jeep Fest, a huge gathering of Willys, Kaiser, AMC and Chrysler-era Jeeps in the heart of a city that’s been building these off-road beasts for over 75 years. The machines I saw there were incredible, but it was one full-size Jeep exhibit that stole the show.
This past weekend, Toledo, Ohio became even more of a Jeeptopia than it normally is, when thousands of Jeep fans took to the streets in massive parade and car show.
Locals lined the sidewalks in lawn chairs, cheering for the vehicles that their city has built since the early 1940s. It seemed like every five minutes, I ran into someone who had either worked at the Jeep plant, or who knew someone who worked on the line, installing bumpers on Wagoneers or bolting axles onto CJs. In Toledo, Jeep love runs deep.
But enthusiasm for the vehicles reaches well beyond the bounds of the hallowed city, with folks from around the country bringing amazing rigs, like this tall Willys wagon sitting next to a custom CJ-5 fire truck:
There were also farm Jeeps like this CJ-3B dually with a hydraulic power-takeoff-actuated dirt scoop:
And there were luxury resort Jeeps like these two-wheel drive CJ-3A-based Jeep Surreys:
There were car-Jeeps like these Jeepsters:
And there were miniature military Jeeps (though really, this is more of an honorary Jeep, since AMC designed it before buying Jeep) like this Mighty Mite:
And of course, the standard heavily-built JKs that have become so common on America’s streets were out in full force, too:
Also, whatever the hell this is was there, too:
But by far, the stars of the show were the full-size Jeeps, which included everything from Gladiator pickups (later called J-trucks) to Wagoneers to Cherokees and even to M715 military vehicles. The SJ platform was incredibly versatile, and that was evident by the variety of awesome trucks at the show.
Many of the Wagoneers, Grand Wagoneers and Cherokees shown above belong to a man named Jeff Nelson, a passionate full-size Jeep enthusiast who put on an incredible exhibit called “When Wagoneers Roamed the Earth.”
The exhibit included the world’s largest collection of Wagoneer ads and brochures, broken up by Wagoneer styling milestone (the grilles changed quite a bit over the years).
It was a fantastic display, showing not just brochures and ads, but also magazine road tests, newspaper articles and dealer window stickers.
The memorabilia even included official colors for certain model years:
There were also a bunch of ads from South America (see the Wagoneer and Gladiator ads on the bottom left):
Check out the Jeep dealership posters and lights in the background:
The walls were littered with what, to a full-size Jeep enthusiast, would definitely qualify as pornography:
Check out the Gladiator body prototype, which looked pretty awful, but yet somehow turned into a styling icon:
More importantly, check out these awesome truck and Wagoneer cutaways:
Out front, there was even an AMC 360 V8 on a cart, hooked up to a radiator, battery, and a number of switches that fired up the old Kenosha-built iron-block:
The whole show was a blast, but the full-size Jeep exhibit took it to another level. It was art, it was history, it was a little bit of tech—what more could anyone possibly want?
More photos of the Toledo Jeep Fest: