Besides offering truly impressive off-road capability, the 2020 Jeep Gladiator is packed full of fun ‘easter egg’ design elements. Like other models in the brand’s lineup, these subtle cues are hidden throughout the exterior and interior of the vehicle and harken back to some part of the brand’s storied legacy. Most of the ones on the Gladiator have already been fully found out and origins known and celebrated. One, however, appears to be a bit more baffling. The mysterious mark? A pair of flip flops.
You’ll find them on the passenger side of the windshield cowl, where there’s a light imprint of sandals included in the black plastic cladding. At a recent media drive event, we asked the brand’s marketing team for the story of why they came to be. Surprisingly, all we got in return was a big smile and the announcement it was something ‘they couldn’t talk about’. Such mystery left us wondering. Knowing that Jeep is always intentional with these kinds of hidden touches, we knew these shoes must serve some integral part to the truck’s story.
Sure enough, after some digging, it turns out they’re a nod to veteran automotive journalist and longtime Jeep enthusiast, Rick Pewe. Pewe, who has written for magazines like Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road and Jp, frequently heads for the trail with feet shod in a pair of open-toed sandals. Over the years, the enthusiast and expert has consulted with Jeep, providing them with insight and ‘lots of design input’. Including the footwear seems to be a way the brand honored his passion, involvement – and unique choice of fashion when out in off-road filth.
The Gladiator isn’t the only Jeep to sport the icon. They’re also found on the JL Wrangler, too.
Front and Center: 1941 Willys
Another easter egg that for the most part has gone largely unnoticed is the 1941 Willys Jeep that displays in the center of the gauge cluster. You’ll have to cycle through the ten menus to find it but when you arrive at the Trip Info screen, you’ll encounter an olive drab military-spec classic Jeep that looks ready for action.
Turning to the Past: Steering Wheel Design
A third overlooked easter egg is the Gladiator’s steering wheel design. Surrounding the distinct Jeep logo is a circle with three chunky offshoots. The company’s marketing team informed us that’s a nod to the original 1940s-era steering wheel, which was a three-spoke design.
After getting plenty of seat time splashing through some rough, rutted trails, it’s clear the Gladiator is one serious off-road machine. We navigated tight wooded trails, slick inclines and declines and all-around wet muddy terrain. While we appreciate the influence Rick – and his sandals – have made on the vehicle, the go-anywhere nature of this rig has us thinking we’ll stick to boots when it comes to time behind the wheel.