What Makes a Jeep a Jeep

A wide-ranging discussion with the man in charge of the look of that venerable marque

By Gary S. Vasilash

Mark Allen is presently the head of Jeep exterior design.

He’s been on the Jeep team since 1994.

Which pretty much means that everything you see in showrooms right now he had his hand in.

And as Jeep owners tend to be hang onto their vehicles—and drive them, drive them in places where few other vehicles can be driven—Allen has probably been involved with them, too.

On this edition of “Autoline After Hours” we spend the entire hour talking to Allen about the how, why, wherefore, who and more of Jeep design.

A good portion of the conversation is dedicated to the vehicles that participated in this the Easter Jeep Safari that occurred this past April in Moab, Utah. This is an annual event that Allen and his colleagues specifically develop vehicles for—bona-fide Jeeps that are able to crawl the rocks with the best of them, but Jeeps that have specific themes or techs that they want to get first-hand feedback about from the people who assemble in Moab with their vehicles.

Among the vehicles Allen describes are:

The Wrangler Magneto. This is a battery-electric vehicle. Allen is particularly interested in the performance of electric motors for Jeeps, not only because they are quiet and so when going on trails it is possible to not scare away the wildlife, but also because they allow the vehicle to be precisely controlled, which can make all the difference when making a difficult ascent or transition.

Jeeps at the 2021 Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. (Image: Jeep)

The Jeepster Beach. A resto-mod based on a 1968 Jeepster Commando. Allen says they like to do at least one resto-mod per Safari.

Jeep Red Bare. A Gladiator Rubicon-based concept that utilizes a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel. Highly customized, he points to the interior seat material, which resembles a lumberjack’s shirt.

Jeep Orange Peelz. This one was done by the Mopar studios. It brings in the half-doors and features a custom one-piece glass sunroof.

Jeep Farout. A Gladiator tricked out with a AT Overland Equipment Habitant Truck Topper. Allen points out that often tents on vehicles are dark and oppressive. In this case they worked to lighten things up.

Jeep Top Dog. Another execution by the Mopar team. This Gladiator-based concept is developed for mountain bikers, with a bike and gear case built onto the vehicle—as is a rotisserie hot dog cooker. (One imagines that serious mountain bike athletes probably don’t eat a whole lot of hot dogs. . . .)

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392. “Wait a minute,” some of you might be thinking. That’s a production vehicle. Yes, but here’s the thing. Allen explains that it was going to be a large part of the 2020 Safari, something of a tease, but then the pandemic got in the way.

Allen also talks to “Autoline’s” John McElroy, freelance writer Mark Williams and me about the forthcoming Grand Cherokee L, the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, and the absolute importance of the Wrangler to what is arguably the phenomenon that is known as “Jeep.”

And you can see it all here.