A Look at Jeep Wrangler Models Through the Years - Part I

Ever wonder what all those Jeep Wrangler names mean? There were so many, and not all of them were just different trim levels. Let’s start with the basics. The Wranglers first came around in 1987, as a direct descendent of the CJ-7 and the Cherokee XJ’s (I’m still a CJ-5 fan). So, let’s break these down into the different models.

1987-1995…. The YJ. Even though it looked like a new, fancier CJ7, it was not. It shared some of the body designs, but it all sat on top of a Cherokee. It had much better handling, which was needed for the on road time that they would be seeing. With its wider stance and rectangular headlights, you could easily see that this was different. You could get your “base” model, also known as an “S” or the “SE”, for around $9,000. This price really got you the “base” - 2.5 liter 4cly, manual transmission and basic interior.

Now, for a price you could get the tried and true 258 cid (4.2 liter) and in 1991, that option changed to the injected 4.0 that has been around since. Now, we could spend a lot of time talking about options, but I wanted to cover the “packages” instead.

After the base model was the Laredo. It came with the chrome grille, bumpers, a hard top and full doors, tinted windows, body colored fender flares and custom Jeep wheels. With the Laredo stripes and stickers, there was no mistaking this for another model.  The interior received the same treatment. Typical AM/FM with a cassette player (anybody remember those?), rear sound bar, removable rear seat and high back buckets completed the inside. This one even came with A/C as standard equipment. Not a bad little Jeep, even if it did need to be lifted.

Much like the Laredo, the Jeep Wrangler Rio Grande (1995 only) was a slightly more “custom” base Jeep. This model only came in in champagne gold, moss green, white, along with the rare colors aqua pearl metallic, and Bright Mango. The interior was very much like the Laredo’s as well, but with a Pueblo flair. As always, special stickers on the body let you know what it was.

Next was the Sport, which featured "sport" graphics (I know, no one expected that). This is where it started getting fun for me. In 1991, this model came standard with the new injected 4.0l engine. Injection is so much better for off road then a carb ever could be, not to mention the things you could do with this motor. Think bored and stroked with a procharger…

Jeep Wrangler Sahara Jeep Wrangler Sahara courtesy of www.bernspark.com/best-of- 1992-jeep- wrangler-sahara- images-7126.php

Now, how about the Sahara? I always liked the way this one looked. The Sahara came with most available options, including body color fender flares, exterior color steel wheels, front bumper mounted fog lamps, and plastic ends (on the front bumper). All of this was standard! The interior stood out on this one. It shared the design with the other models, AM/FM stereo with cassette player, rear speaker sound bar, rear removable bench seat, but with special edition green trail-cloth seats with storage pockets, interior door panels with pockets.

The Islander was only around from 1988 to 1993, and was just another themed Jeep. Special colors were offered, such as Bright Red, Pacific Blue, Sunset Yellow, teal, and white. Sunset graphics on lower body and hood as well as the Islander logo on the front fenders and spare tire cover gave the impression of a laid back weekend Jeep for the beach.

Lastly, the Renegade. This was the one I liked the best. This one was the off road Jeep that the others just were not. From 1990 until 1994, Jeep produced an options package on the YJ listed as the "Renegade Decor Group". These Jeeps were shipped as optioned Wranglers to American Specialty Cars in Detroit, where the package was installed, then shipped back to Jeep for delivery to dealers. Initially, all Renegades were white, black, or red. Blue and bronze were added for the 1992 and 1993 model years, respectively.

The Renegade Decor Group was a $4,266 option over a base Wrangler for 1991. The contents of the Renegade Decor Package included the 4.0 injected motor, (again, think bored and stroked with a procharger), power steering, courtesy and engine compartment lights, and that’s just under the hood. 8-inch wide aluminum wheels wrapped with 30x9.5R15 LT OWL Wrangler A/T Tires, that were kept under control by the off-road gas shock absorbers. The interior got the full treatment as well. High back buckets with Trailcloth Fabric, leather-wrapped steering wheel, center console with cup holders, floor carpeting (full width, and on insides of body tub) and front floor mats.

The outside, of course, had the “Renegade” striping on the doors and color keyed fender flares with integrated body side steps. A hardtop was a $923.00 option and came with a mandatory rear window defroster at $164.00. Although soft-top models came standard with "half doors", full framed doors with glass windows were an option, and as on all 6-cylinder Wranglers, air-conditioning was also offered. Renegades typically had the tilt steering ($130.00) and the AM/FM/cassette stereo radio. A column shift automatic was also an available option, but it was not popular.

I would still like to find an affordable Renegade to play with, but they are few and far between. Next time, I will get into the TJ’s 97-06 Jeeps, and break them down like I did for the YS’s.

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