The Origins of the 7 Slot Grille

It’s Wednesday, and despite my last blog post being about Jeep, I have this idea of having “Wrangler Wednesdays” where I talk about Jeeps.

I guess what I’m trying to say is… If you like Jeeps, today is your day! If not… I’m sorry and my next post will definitely be about something else. 🙂

I found an interesting picture the other day in my online travels:

7 Continents
I love the idea that the famous 7 slot grille has its roots in history and pioneering, much like the general history of Jeep itself. Taking something that’s already so iconic by default and adding a feat that will never be attainable by any other vehicle is impressive, to say the least.

Impressive, yes – but is it true?

I didn’t have much luck finding an actual definitive source on this. Even a couple of official Jeep pages seemed content to leave it as a “maybe”. I did, however, find some pretty interesting images and comments.

To summarise and get to the interesting parts, I found that:

  • Ford’s Model Ts were produced in six continents, excluding Antarctica
  • The VW Beetle  was the first car to be produced in Antarctica in 1963
  • As another page notes, it’s relatively safe to assume that Beetles had been driven in all other continents by the mid ’60s

You’d be forgiven at this point for thinking it’s “case closed”. But then a reader points out a few counterpoints (and to me, this is where the whole thing gets really cool!).

The first commercial flight to Antarctica was done by Pan American World Airways in 1957 – a full six years before VW started production there. While I haven’t had any success digging up any actual photos of Jeeps in this event, this watercolour is worth consideration:


Note the orange vehicle in front of the plane on the right

Even more compelling is the following about ‘Operation Highjump‘, which took place between 1946-47:

Construction of the base and accompanying aircraft facilities commenced immediately thereafter. Quite an assortment of vehicles were used in this undertaking, including tractors, jeeps, weasels, bulldozers and other tracked equipment


Jeep in the Antarctic – from Wikipedia

I’m yet to find anything further to really confirm the idea, but the above photo in particular tells quite the story.

Just to add a little modern fun to this theory – Jeep recently released a 2014 Polar edition Wrangler.

Polar Wrangler

The badge features the coordinates (in Vostok, Antarctica!) where the lowest temperature in the world was recorded. A nod to the 7 slot grille and Antarctica, or a coincidence?

Other commentary on the grille is that Willy’s original design was nine slots – when they started producing the vehicles for civilians, they reduced the slots to seven. Disappointingly (or not – because it helps keep this Antarctica theory alive), this doesn’t seem to have any hard evidence backing it up either…


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