American tactical vehicles have become huge and complicated over the years, to the point that considering a Jeep Wrangler as an alternative is almost counterintuitive. But that's where the American military's offroad prowess all started, after all, even if U.S. military planners show little inclination for going in that direction.
But British armored car maker Jankel has gone retro, bringing back the military Jeep. It's already sold the modified JK-8s to Ghana and Uruguay, and even the Swiss army is checking them out.
U.S. Armed Forces will hang on to their big Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) trucks and Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV) for now, but there's a market for the smaller trucks in countries with already small or shrinking budgets.
Robert Jankel started his company in the early 70s, building (outdated) Jaguar-based sports cars called Panthers that only the super rich could afford. Faced with less than stellar sales by the 80s, his company retooled to sell armored limousines. They had a pretty good business modifying Rolls Royce, Bentley, Mercedes, Jaguar and Range Rover land yachts into luxurious apocalypse protection pods for heads of state (perhaps His Excellency Admiral General Aladeen bought one).
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By the 90s, Jankel had figured out that super wealthy sports car collectors have, collectively, some money; heads of state, as a group, have more, and taxpayer supported militaries have way more money. Building tactical vehicles was the obvious next step for the boutique company.
They're still no BAE Systems or General Dynamics, but Jankel has created some pretty badass vehicles using Toyota trucks. As Americans, we have to give a hearty freedom whoop for their partnership with Chrysler, which has been on since 2008 and resulted in their nifty JK-8 conversions. They have everything a U.N. Peacekeeper or marauding warlord could ever want: light patrol border patrol trucks; a personnel carrier; a cargo and communications truck; a light armored truck; an ambulance; and a plain ol' utilitarian pickup.
Jankel even has a version — the Pegasus — that can do anything a special operations team needs it to do. You can mount not just one, but two .50-caliber machine guns on the roof, it will fit inside a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, it can climb steep hills carrying four or five guys and a bunch of bad guy-killing gear, and it can be rigged to carry extra fuel tanks.
Having driven something like this — Michigan-based VWerks' military kitted Recon — I can tell you first hand that they're pretty awesome. One thing the Recon didn't have that Jankel's Jeeps will is a diesel engine, which seems like it would be a no-brainer from a tactical supply perspective (doesn't almost everything the military uses run on diesel?).
Still, if the U.S. military ever ended up buying something like this on a large scale, I hope they'd do the right thing and buy American.
(Thanks to everyone for the tip!)
Photo credit: Jankel