There have been various cross-promotional deals between Pepsi-Cola and Jeep, from the 1960's into the 2000's, including Jeep giveaways and Jeeps painted with Pepsi advertising. Perhaps the first such deal was the production of limited-edition DJ-3A Surrey Gala Jeeps for some Pepsi bottlers in the U.S. in 1959-60.
In his book Jeep, Jim Allen mentions that "A handful of Pepsi Galas were produced in 1959 for a giveaway in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and featured a yellow color scheme with Pepsi hubcaps."
This photo appears to show one of those Tulsa Jeeps. The original source of the photo is unknown, as are the details of who did the paint job.
The Willys parts book does list the fabric color specifically as: "Code N-57 Pepsi Cola Yellow and Pepsi Cola Creamed Striped Vinyl." This is in addition to the three standard fabric colors (110K JPEG) of Tropical Rose, Cerulean Blue and Jade Tint Green.
A couple of slightly different Pepsi Jeeps have surfaced in the Midwest.
Neal Reynolds, seen in this colorful example, says: "I've worked for the Portsmouth, Ohio bottler for 33 years and this Jeep from what I've been told was a promotional item available to bottlers from the parent company, Pepsi-Cola Company which is now PepsiCo. This Jeep runs and drives. I have driven it 120 miles at one time with no problem at all. Rain or cold would not be good as it has no heater and the vacuum-operated wipers don't work anymore. I believe it is a 1960. It is currently being stored in our Columbus, Ohio facility."
Raymond Wierda Jr. is seen in a Pepsi Surrey he inherited from his father in Michigan. Raymond has now passed the Jeep along to the next generation.
Raymond's son Michael A. Wierda says, "The way I heard the story, my grandfather purchased it from a man who bought his condominium in Florida, who was from Milwaukee and had 5 Pepsi-Cola franchises. He bought one Surrey for each of these, to pull floats in parades. A trailer hitch was on all of them. So there were at least 5 Pepsi-Cola Surreys commissioned in 1960."
Another example turned up in 2012 in Massachusetts. It is similar to the Michigan Surrey above, and includes the original spare tire cover. See also a front view and the engine (70K JPEGs).
The differences in the details of the above examples, suggest that the special paint may have been done locally for Pepsi bottlers, rather than by Willys. But Neal Reynolds believes the initiative came from the parent Pepsi-Cola company, so it seems clear that the choice of vehicle was part of a marketing strategy.
In the 1950's, Pepsi-Cola had moved away from its image as a "bargain brand," and was being advertised as the beverage of the fun, well-to-do, "sociable" crowd. A marketing tie-in with Jeep must have seemed perfect; Willys was starting to target the recreational, second-car market, after more than a decade of trying to sell Jeeps mainly as working vehicles. And Pepsi's new, innovative "swirl" bottle, and the yellow-striped six-pack carton, both seemed to fit with the style of the Jeep Surrey.
This 1960 ad says that "The sociables... do lively things with lively people," and what better vehicle for those activities than a Jeep? Another 1960 ad shows some convertibles (110K JPEG) although I haven't seen any Pepsi ads of that era which actually included a Jeep.
The "Be Sociable" slogan was so familiar that when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon sampled Pepsi at a Moscow international trade fair in 1959, newspaper photos were captioned "Khrushchev Gets Sociable."
1961 brought a new slogan: "Now It's Pepsi For Those Who Think Young," as marketers recognized the increasing importance of the younger, post-war baby boom generation, while trying to maintain the brand's appeal to all demographics. In 1963 it became "Come Alive! You're In The Pepsi Generation," and in 1964 a new product, Diet Pepsi, was introduced.
(See more on Pepsi history from Gary Beene.)
Michael Wierda sent several photos of his father Raymond Wierda and the Milwaukee Surrey:
"The color is a seafoam blue/green. The wheel wells and the trim are a creamy off-white. The canvas is all yellow/white stripe. See also the canvas for the doors and side curtains (160K JPEG). All is original except the spare tire cover which I had custom made for him as a Fathers' Day gift a few years ago."
This Surrey's serial number (70K JPEG) is 56337 18478, dating its production to late 1959 or early 1960.
According to Willys-Overland Production Figures 1945-1961 there were also 12 DJ-3A Jeeps produced in a stripped-chassis version that year; it's interesting to speculate what kind of special vehicles they were turned into.
Meanwhile, we will keep our eyes open for any more of these Pepsi Jeeps, and more information about their production and use.
THanks to Dave Silberman and Dave Eilers for the yellow Surrey photo. Thanks to Michael Wierda, Neal Reynolds and Colin Peabody for other photos, and Leif Peng for the ads. -- Derek Redmond
See more DJ-3A Surrey Gala Jeeps on The CJ3B Page.
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