If you’ve been escaping the heat this summer curled up in front of your air conditioning and binge watching bad reality TV, then you’ve undoubtedly seen the new show on Bravo called Andy Cohen’s Then & Now. And if you’ve seen Then & Now, then you definitely know that 1997 was kind of a big deal. In 1997, Princess Diana died tragically in a car accident, Mike Tyson decided to bite off Evander Holyfield’s ear, J.K. Rowling released the very first Harry Potter book, South Park aired for the very first time, Titanic blew up the box office, and Hanson released MMMBop (I know you just started humming it). No matter how old you were in 1997, those are some defining cultural moments all packed into one year.
However – if pop culture really isn’t your thing and you have no idea what’s even on Bravo because you’re more of Top Gear type, then there’s one thing you need to know about 1997.
It’s the year that American Expedition Vehicles was founded.
AEV: 20 Years in the Making
Now in 2017, AEV – the company that outfits Jeep Wranglers to take on the elements in the most aggressive fashion – has just celebrated it’s twentieth birthday. Not bad for a company founded by a college kid.
Yup. In 1997, Dave Harriton was a business and engineering student trying to complete a business plan for his senior year capstone class at the University of Montana. As Harriton had already modified his first Jeep – a 1991 Canyon Blue 4.0L YJ – he decided to focus on a company that would do the same. He wrote his business plan outlining a company that could build long-wheelbase Wranglers, and that plan not only won the competition, but it also helped Harriton get a bank loan and start AEV – American Expedition Vehicles.
AEV Spreads its (American) Wings
From humble beginnings in a small, one-bay rented garage in Missoula, Montana, AEV now operates out of three facilities: a 120,000-square foot facility just outside of Detroit in Wixom which handles all the production vehicle builds, as well as houses the sales, marketing, supplier development, finance and quality control teams. An 80,000-square foot facility in Commerce Township, Michigan handles AEV’s shipping and receiving warehouse and a 7,000-square foot facility in Missoula is where AEV focuses on research, development, design, engineering, and sales. It is also where the team builds out the show cars.
AEV is proud of their commitment to American manufacturing, stating that “over 90% of our products are made within 200 miles of Detroit” – in fact, the only thing AEV does not manufacture in the Detroit region are their wheels, although AEV says they “would much rather have our wheels manufactured in the United States, but right now, getting wheels made in the United States in aftermarket production volumes is very difficult. We hope that in time, US plants will be able to compete and we will start to see some volume move back to the US.” With 20 years backing the product and the company, if buying American-made is important to you, you can feel confident that American Expedition Vehicles truly are American-born.
Celebrate in Style
To celebrate AEV’s 20-year anniversary, the company has released two special 20th Anniversary Edition models: the JK350 Wrangler and the Ram1500 Prospector XL. The 20th Anniversary models come with Custom Onyx painted bumpers, giving the jeeps an air of sophistication and elegance even while scaling rugged terrain. The JK350 is protected by an integrated utility rail, and there will be no doubt that you’re riding in a special edition AEV as the unique body-side decal featuring craggy mountain peaks is only available on the 20th Anniversary Edition. Likewise, the JK350 and the Prospector XO will come with special 20th Anniversary commemoration badges. And lest you think that all the style is on the exterior, the interior is styled with bronze accents that are exclusive to the Anniversary editions.
Not only that – these AEVs are beasts. There is no terrain too rough for these monsters to crawl over and they are finely-tuned and fully-loaded to take an adventurer on the ride of their life through the off (and we mean seriously off) roads. The JK350 Anniversary Edition comes loaded with an AEV Front Skid Plate, heavy-duty Differential Covers, AEV Rear Corner Guards with Protection Tubes, a Warn winch, a 4.5-in DualSport RS suspension kit and 37-inch BF Goodrich KM2 tires. Oh, and all of that is powered by your choice of two engines: either the 5.7L HEMI or the 6.4 HEMI.
While that all sounds pretty great, unfortunately, your chances of getting your hands on either are pretty slim, as AEV only released twenty of each model. However, if you still want to own a piece of AEV, you can always order and purchase your own custom-built AEV Jeep Wrangler right from your local AEV Certified Chrysler Dealership. Or, if you have a Jeep Wrangler but feel as though it needs a little something extra – perhaps a snorkel kit or a roof rack – hop online and have AEV ship it directly to you. Of course, if installation is not your thing and your Jeep needs a little more tweaking than what you’re comfortable handling, AEV can ship your Jeep right to their production facility and modify the car to your specifications before shipping it right back to you. So, while you may not be able to buy a 20th Anniversary Edition model, you can always go one better and build a Jeep that’s just perfect for you.
Commitment to Quality
AEV’s commitment to quality is apparent and it’s what has kept the company growing over the past 20 years. While AEVs are not cheap cars by any means, for the rugged outdoorsman, there is no money better spent. In fact, AEV is so well-trusted and such a high-quality brand that it is struggling to combat the fight against counterfeit products. As AEV bluntly states, “They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, we’re not flattered.” So, if you see an AEV product for sale anywhere but in a Certified Chrysler Dealership or on the AEV website, be sure to do your due diligence to make sure you’re getting the real deal because only a true AEV product has the experience of twenty years behind it.
And if you’re feeling bummed out that you missed buying the 20th Anniversary Edition, don’t worry – there’s always 2037 to look forward to.