There have been various cross-promotional deals between Pepsi-Cola and Jeep, from the 1960s 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 side view appears to be a factory photo showing a proposed color scheme for the project.
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.
In the 1950s, 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.)
An article in Willys News, March 1960 (150K JPEG) reported that "The largest single order received to date for the recently introduced 'Jeep' Surrey is one for one-hundred units placed by the Pepsi-Cola Company.
"Typical of the Surrey-Pepsi-Cola promotions is the campaign which is being sponsored in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area.
"Eighteen Surreys will go to this section. Twelve will be put into service as utility and delivery vehicles by bottlers in the area. Six will be given as promotional prizes, five in consumer contests, and one in a sales contest among the company's route salesmen in the area."
The photo above from Willys News shows those 18 Surreys posed (at some effort no doubt) on the steps of the Administration Building at the Toledo factory.In this photo, the windshields are painted white, the side steps are yellow, and the bottle cap logos are not present. The "WILLYS" lettering on the hood is highlighted in a darker color rather than white lettering.
A photo in the Summer 1960 issue of the Pepsi-Cola World employee magazine shows the delivery of a dozen of the Surreys to Tulsa bottler Joe Branham in March 1960.
The Pepsi-Cola World article "Fringed Benefits" (270K JPEG) provides more background on the origin of the Jeeps. It mentions the prototype displayed at the February 1960 Bottlers' Convention in New York, and the the 18 vehicles promptly ordered by the Tulsa bottler, but doesn't mention the "eighty on the spot orders" claimed in the Willys News article.
Tulsa Pepsi and their ad agency launched a contest with the grand prize of a Surrey Jeep to be awarded just two months later, on 15 May 1960. This full-page newspaper ad found by Colin Peabody was published in the Miami, Oklahoma Daily News-Record on 11 April 1960. Contest entry forms came with cartons of Pepsi, although the small print said you could also use the entry blank from the ad, or a facsimile.
The article above in Pepsi-Cola World in fact mentions there were two contests held in Tulsa with Surreys as prizes, the first of which generated 43,910 entries suggesting a slogan for Pepsi. (The winning suggestion was "Pepsi-Cola, the light refreshment.")
Another Surrey went to Tulsa Pepsi's top local salesman in a five-month competition, and apparently eight salesmen purchased Jeeps for their personal use. (This leaves 7 of the 18 Surreys unaccounted for.)
It's unclear whether any further yellow Pepsi Surreys were actually produced after the first 18 were delivered to Tulsa.
The Fall 1960 issue of Pepsi-Cola World included a photo showing one of the Surreys, with a Colorado license plate, at a Boy Scout event in Colorado Springs.
Thanks to Phil Dillman of the Pepsi Cola Collectors Club for these Pepsi-Cola World clippings.
Phil Dillman also found this photo of an additional color scheme I haven't seen before. This picture again has the look of a Willys factory photo, and the presence of an empty Pepsi carton suggests that it is there for paint color reference rather than promotional purposes. Perhaps this is the original prototype displayed at the New York Pepsi convention or an alternate proposed color scheme.
Several 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."
"The color is a seafoam blue/green. The wheel wells and the trim are a creamy off-white. The canvas for the doors and side curtains is all yellow/white stripe. All is original except the spare tire cover which I had custom made for him as a Fathers' Day gift a few years ago."
Michael Wierda also sent a front view (60K JPEG) of his father Raymond Wierda and the Milwaukee Surrey. The serial number (70K JPEG) is 56337 18478, dating its production to late 1959 or early 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. It seems clear that the choice of vehicle was part of a marketing strategy initiated at the 1960 Bottlers' Convention described above.
The official hostess for that Pepsi-Cola Bottlers' Convention held in New York on 1-4 February 1960 was Hollywood actress Joan Crawford.(1)She had recently been appointed to Pepsi's Board of Directors, after the death of her fourth and final husband, Alfred Steele, who had been Chairman of the Board and CEO of the company.(2) In this 7 May 1959 Associated Press photo, she is seen attending her first meeting of the company's board of directors in New York.(3)
An interesting coincidence is a report from Westhampton Beach on Long Island NY that in the mid-1950s Crawford "could be seen driving an aquamarine Jeep Gala around Westhampton Beach when she spent vacations here."(4)
Is it possible that the original Pepsi Jeep displayed at the 1960 convention was Joan Crawford's idea?
According to Willys-Overland Production Figures 1945-1961 there were also 12 DJ-3A Jeeps produced in a stripped-chassis version in 1960; it's interesting to speculate what kind of special vehicles they were turned into.
Meanwhile, I'm interested in hearing about any more of these Pepsi Jeeps, and more information about their production and use.
Thanks to Phil Dillman, Dave Silberman, Dave Eilers, Michael Wierda, Neal Reynolds and Colin Peabody for photos, and Leif Peng for the ads. -- Derek Redmond
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