Jeep designers love "Easter eggs," tiny, semi-hidden details tucked away into a vehicle's design. Take a close look at a new Wrangler, and you'll find cartoon silhouettes of WWII Willys 4x4s hidden all over the place. They're fun. They show that Jeep's design team doesn't take themselves too seriously.
This week at the LA Auto Show, folks pored over the long-anticipated Jeep Gladiator looking for Easter eggs. Many noticed a little something molded into the bed liner, on the driver's side right near the tailgate. Larry Vellequette, a reporter for Automotive News, was .
I went to Jeep to find the story.
Taylor Langhals was the lead exterior designer on Gladiator, reporting to Jeep design boss Mark Allen. Langhals made sure to put his own imprint on the long-awaited Jeep pickup truck.
"I’m a big dirt bike guy," Langhals told me at the LA Auto Show. "If you look at the front wall of the bed, I stamped in two imprints of dirt bike tires. I did that on purpose. I want guys like me to not have to think about it when they’re putting their bikes in the truck. You line it up here, the bike is gonna sit perfectly in the truck, helps guide you into the right spot."
But it's the Toledo reference that means the most to Langhals. The western Ohio city isn't just home to the Toledo Complex, the Fiat-Chrysler factory that's been building Wranglers since the model was launched in 1986—it's Langhals' hometown.
"My great-grandfather, uncle and dad all worked for Jeep in the Toledo factory," Langhals told me. "My uncle was a paint shop supervisor. My dad worked on the line building Wranglers his entire career, 30 years. It was cool. Growing up, my mom would take me into the plant every day at 3 o’clock, I’d sit and wait for him to come out. And I’d get to see little things that were going on in there.
"From a really small age I was hooked," he continued. "I loved Jeep, and I always liked to draw. Somewhere along the way someone told me I could put the two together. I worked really hard to get where I’m at, and now I get to draw them and bring them here."
He walks me over to a Gladiator on the show floor and points out the little embossed detail on the bedliner. "Being from Toledo, right here I put a heart and 419. That’s the Toledo area code. That’s a tribute to Toledo. They’ve been doing this for us forever. Toledo is Jeep.
"Ever since I was a little kid I’ve dreamed about designing a Jeep," Langhals said. "I know my dad talked about it, it’s just a dream come true to be able to bring this truck here and show it to everybody.
"It's been a long time," Langhals added. "I felt like I was designing this for myself."