Wrangler and Gladiator painted roof and fenders choices are maddening

Welcome to the 2021 model year Jeep online configurator. You can now waste your free hours configuring your very own 2021 Wrangler or Gladiator. In the Wrangler section you’ll be greeted by the new Islander, 80th Anniversary, and Altitude models. Gone are the North Edition and Freedom models and I doubt that anyone will miss them. Three top choices, four engine choices, and two transmission choices provide endless fun.

The Gladiator range grows as well. Willys, unofficially known as Rubicon Light, is added and it’s damn solid choice. Like the Wrangler, 80th Anniversary and a posh High Altitude models are added and the North Edition is gone. The big news is addition of the diesel engine to all but Mojave models. The Mojave does not get the diesel due to its weigh, which would kill its finely tuned suspension calibration.

Tops and Fenders

While playing around with the configurators, I noticed something very disturbing. This fact was originally pointed out to by a friend who bought a Wrangler Rubicon in 2018. Each of these Jeeps comes with unpainted black fenders. On some models, painted fenders are standard (Sahara, High Altitude, Overland) or optionally painted to match (Sport, Rubicon, Mojave). Let’s ignore the fact that high-clearance (Rubicon) and wide fenders (Max Trailering Package) also exist and just focus on aesthetics.

On each of those Jeep models, a selection of tops are available. The Gladiator comes standard with a softtop or one can opt for an optional hardtop. On some models that hardtop can be painted to the body color. Things get trickier with the Wrangler as that comes with a softtop and an available black three-piece hardtop. On some models that hardtop can be painted to the body color. Making things more complicated is the existence of an available Sky One-Touch power top. That power tops are always painted in the body color of the Jeep.

OCD Issues

The troubling part is that some vehicles come standard with color-matched fenders but only a black hardtop is available. Likewise, many models on which the Sky One-Touch power top is available, painted fenders are not an option. And crazily, as seen in these photos, the Wrangler Willys comes with black fenders but is available with a color-matched top and the Gladiator Willys comes with painted fenders but is only available with a black top.

What the even slightly obsessive–compulsives among can find irritating is the look of a black-fendered vehicle with a color-match top. The opposite, a vehicle with color-matched fenders and black top can be found equally offensive. Either of those mismatches, in your humble author’s opinion, look especially bad on a black vehicle. Perhaps Jeep would make a rule that either all fenders and tops get painted on each, or none. This would allow some of us sleep better at night.

Pros and Cons

Other than looks, there are pros and cons to choosing each type of a fender or roof. The pros having black fenders and tops is that they are less prone to scratches, which can occur on a trail or when removing the top. The cons are the fact that black fenders tend to fade over the years.

The pros of the painted fenders are mostly visual and the fact that they won’t fade. The cons of these painted panels is that they would need to be professionally re-painted if damaged or replaced. Pick your poison.

2021 wrangler islander

Limited Edition Models

If there is a company that loves limited edition models, it’s FCA. The 2021 Wrangler Islander special edition is available with a white three-piece hardtop. But the Islander comes only with black fenders. This is certainly an interesting color combination. If the white hardtop looks familiar, it’s because the 2017 Wrangler Chief was also available with a white hardtop.

jeep dealer lot

The Real Problem

Choosing the fenders and top colors of your new Jeep is not a problem. We can make that decision fairly quickly. The problem arises when one goes to buy the vehicle. Having had a few friends who recently purchased Jeeps, I walked around many dealer lots. The issue is that dealers get, or order, seemly random color and option combinations. Most of the people end up buying whatever is on the dealer lot. It is possible to order your own custom Jeep but that takes time and even that is at times off when it arrives.

19 Comments

  1. We’ve custom ordered our last 3 new vehicles. The Jeep was far and away the quickest to arrive – despite it being a 1st year platform. Has anyone just woke up one morning and said “I think I’ll buy a new car today?” I guess I can wait 5 to 6 weeks (or 9 months in the case of the SS) so I can get exactly what I want.

    I like that white top, but it looks weird with the black fenders. We almost bought a Snow Chief simply because of how the blue and white worked together – glad we went the route we did though.

    1. I have woken up and bought a new car on the day, because we had gone two weeks with no cars after the first car was totaled and the second care blew a transaxle. But that was an emergency. Other times I have been more patient with car buying and for something as configurable as a truck I would definitely consider a special order.

  2. I guess that molding black plastic is cheap while getting the texture smooth and matching paint to stick on it takes a few more steps and dollars. I can’t tell if I actually prefer the color matched versions or if I just subconsciously associate the non-matched black trim with OEM’s nickel and diming customers with punitive trim package groupings of fifteen things you don’t really care about to get the one option that you would actually pay for standalone.

  3. If only there was some sort of aftermarket for Jeep owners who want more selections than what the factory offered. Or someplace (other than an assembly line) where paint can be applied.

    Conformity: it’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand.

    1. Jeep evolution.

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      Okay, guess I need text here to show all of it. Okay, nevermind, disqus is broken.

    2. Jeep evolution.

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      Okay, guess I need text here to show all of it. Okay, nevermind, disqus is broken.

    3. Jeep evolution.

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      Okay, guess I need text here to show all of it. Okay, nevermind, disqus is broken.

    4. Jeep evolution.

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      Okay, guess I need text here to show all of it. Okay, nevermind, disqus is broken.

  4. Ok, I hate being pedantic, but can’t help it. Regarding the trim that references Jeep’s origins, it is Willys, not a possessive form of William’s nickname. There is no apostrophe, and John Willys pronounced his name “will-iss”, not “will-eez”. The surname is a variation of Willis.

    Years ago, I had a coworker friend that shared my interest in old cars, and we would sometimes attend shows and cruise-ins together. I winced every time he pointed out a Willys gasser and called it a “Willy’s”. He was my father’s age, though, so I respectfully didn’t correct him.

    1. You’re entirely correct but the battle over the pronunciation of the marque’s name, concerning whether it should conform with the pronunciation of John North Willys’ surname, was lost several decades ago, much like Subaru:

      1. Or was that just the case of Americans that didn’t know how to pronounce the name of newcomer Subaru? The Japanese stress the first syllable, just as I’m used to hearing it.

        Regarding Willys, I’m somewhat more tolerant of the mispronunciation than I am the misspelling, but that goes back to my dislike of the misuse of the apostrophe in general. I realize the English language is the most convoluted on the planet, but still…

    2. You’re right. I’m losing my mind. I swore I read it on the fender of the Jeep as Willy’s, never looking onto the website. And the way that font is, on a quick glance I saw Willy’s. My bad, will correct. Thx.

      1. Oh hell, it’s not a big deal, so no need to worry with it. In your case it was a simple editorial error, but I’ve been hearing “WILL-EEZ” all my life and figured this was a good forum in which to vent about it. It’s just that I’ve had my name mispronounced so many times, I try to make sure I don’t mispronounce those of others.

        I’ve literally met maybe three other people who pronounce “Willys” correctly.

        And to your point, that font does look like it’s blended with apostrophes and commas.

        1. I’ve never heard anyone say the car’s name as “will-iss” except when that person is telling the story of how everyone always mispronounces it. Even my brother, who has owned a Willys Aero sedan for well over fifty years, only uses that pronunciation when telling the story, as has been the case for the other Aero owners I’ve met. I think they’re all rather pleased about it, truth be known.

          1. Well, I grew up in Appalachia, where many words have interesting inflections (and sometimes extra syllables), so I assumed the “will-eez” pronunciation was a product of that culture.

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