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The Seven Slot Grille

Jeep Wrangler Seven Slot Grille

The Seven-Slot Grille Once Had 13 Slats

Jeep’s seven-slot grille is one of the most recognizable features in the automotive world. However, this iconic design didn’t start with seven slots.  We are going to take a look into the evolution of Jeep’s grille and how it eventually settled on the number seven.

The Birth of a Legend

Military Jeep with Slatted Grille


Jeep’s grille story begins during World War II. The earliest “jeep” designs, like the Willys Quad, Ford Pygmy, and Bantam GPV, lacked the now-iconic slotted, stamped-steel grille. Instead, these early government-contracted prototypes featured a grille made up of ten to sixteen steel rods welded in a vertical pattern, resembling a barbeque grille.

The First Jeep

The distinctive slotted grille we associate with Jeeps today emerged only after Willys secured the military manufacturing contract, with Ford handling overflow production. This design first appeared on the Willys MB and Ford GPW, the first mass-produced military Jeeps, featuring a nine-slot grille that paved the way for the modern Jeep’s seven-slot version. Interestingly, Ford initially proposed this design to reduce production time and costs. When the “jeep” transitioned to the civilian market, Willys had to address the implications of this change.

Standardization and the Birth of Seven Slots

Military Jeep with slatted grille.

After World War II had ended, the remaining Willys MBs and Ford GPWs were auctioned off to civilians or purchased by military members. However, these surplus Jeeps flew off the auction block so quickly that Willys devised a plan: patent the Jeep name and mass-produce refined, civilian models of the acclaimed MB. Aside from acquiring the naming rights from Ford and Bantam, Willys also faced an issue with the model’s nine-slot grille–Ford’s design. 

Ford held the patent to the nine-slot stamped steel grille; as a result, Willys needed a design that was both familiar to and different enough from Ford’s. In the end, Willys opted to manufacture a nearly identical stamped steel grille, shedding two slots to form the iconic seven-bar design still used today in modern Wranglers.

The Iconic Status of Seven Slots

The seven-slot grille quickly became a hallmark of Jeep’s identity. Its unique design not only set Jeep apart from other vehicles but also symbolized the brand’s commitment to durability and reliability. Over the years, Jeep has incorporated the seven-slot grille into various models, ensuring that this iconic feature remains a core element of its design language.

Why 7 Slot Mystery

The true root of Willys’ iconic seven-bar design is a bit of a mystery. However, several have speculated on the grille’s significance. 

The first theory suggests that Willys modified the grille to avoid lawsuits related to Ford’s patent without drastically changing its appearance—a “get rid of a couple of slots, no one will notice” approach. It’s also possible that the seven-slot grille was simply the most aesthetically pleasing alternative to a complete redesign, resulting in the familiar form factor we know today.

The second theory, though less credible, is more exciting. As the Jeep began as a military vehicle during World War II, it was stationed by the U.S. military on every continent—there are seven continents. This theory suggests that each slot symbolizes a continent, honoring the Jeep’s status as the first vehicle to traverse all seven significant land masses.

Regardless of which theory holds more truth—whether avoiding a copyright suit, incorporating a thoughtful transcontinental design, or a combination of both—the result is the same: Jeep’s iconic seven-slot front grille.

An Enduring Symbol

Today, over 75 years since its introduction, the 7-slot Jeep grille shows no signs of going away. It remains an irreplaceable part of the brand’s DNA and a constant visual reminder of Jeep’s hardworking, military roots. While its form has evolved over the decades, that distinctive grille shape continues grabbing attention and turning heads worldwide.


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