Although the overall Wagoneer/Gladiator design was often attributed to industrial designer Brooks Stevens, in reality his main contribution to the design was the upright grille, often referred to as the “rhino grille” found on the early 1963-65 Wagoneers and the Gladiator trucks up to 1970. In 1971, after Jeep was purchased by American Motors, the Gladiator adopted what was then the full-width, vertically slotted grille found on the then-current Wagoneer, which got a more upscale grille itself.
Many Jeep enthusiasts don’t realize that when the Gladiator was introduced, it had two innovations that set it apart from its competitors besides being engineered from the ground up for four-wheel drive. (Two-wheel-drive Gladiators made up a small percentage of overall sales.) First was the overhead-cam 230 Tornado six-cylinder engine. It was the first mass-produced U.S.-designed overhead-cam engine, introduced before Pontiac’s Sprint OHC Six in 1965.
It was an update of Willys’ 226 Hurricane flat-head six that was a mainstay of the Jeep lineup from 1954 to 1962. While the OHC Tornado Six was an economical engine with good low-end torque, it developed a reputation for oil leaks that led to undeserved warranty headaches. It was replaced halfway through the 1965 model year with AMC’s new overhead-valve 232-cubic-inch Six. This basic engine architecture served for four decades in a variety of Jeep products, all the way to 2006, when the fuel-injected 4.0-liter version in the Jeep Wrangler was replaced by a Chrysler V-6, a move that many Jeep purists lament to this very day.