By now, you might think the story of the most famous stuck Jeep Wrangler in the world is complete after last night’s daring recovery operation pulled it back from the brink. But no. This one’s got some layers, folks. We’ve now confirmed that the Ford Motor Company wanted to mount a rescue effort and document it for potential use in a video that probably wouldn’t please Jeep—gee, wonder why.
And though the word Bronco was never mentioned, Ford did in fact reach out to the Wrangler’s owner with a genuine offer to save his truck. “We offered to help, and are glad the owner was able to safely recover their vehicle from the trail,” Ford spokesman Mike Levine told The Drive.
Rumors of Ford’s potential involvement with the Jeep’s recovery spread around yesterday after the initial report on the sticky situation on a California bike trail went viral, and though the story was relayed to us from multiple people with inside knowledge of the rescue effort, we were unable to confirm it. That is, until we heard from Ricky Barba, the owner of the Jeep himself.
The Drive managed to track down Car Internet’s most famous missing person this week, and he provided proof that a Ford official did indeed contact him with an enticing offer to retrieve his Jeep—something Ford only admitted to us once we presented the evidence.
We know there’s a ton of interest in the full story behind the Jeep’s predicament as told by Barba, and we’ll have a separate report on how exactly he ended up on that ridgeline shortly. But for now, Ford’s attempt to mount a complicated recovery operation as both a kind gesture and likely a sharp-elbowed jab at Jeep deserves some attention.
When we spoke with Barba today, he explained to us that a Ford representative had called him on Wednesday after apparently obtaining his contact info through the local police department. We confirmed the number that called him matches that of a Ford spokesman. The rep made it known that Ford had been thinking about a plan to save the Jeep—free of charge to Barba.
Obviously, one can imagine Ford’s marketing team salivating at the thought of a team of Ford Broncos saving the Wrangler from certain doom, all filmed in high-quality cinéma vérité style. But Barba says that the B-word was never discussed; instead, Ford’s gameplan involved a helicopter. Whether or not Ford was thinking of somehow inserting Broncos into the operation at some point isn’t known, but let’s be real: you can’t ask for a better middle-finger to your rival than that.
Whatever the motivations, though, it all seemed close to reality before the Jalados 4×4 group swooped in on Wednesday night and used a combination of winches, anchors, and sheer manpower to pull the Wrangler back to stably ground. Per Barba, Ford’s recovery effort wasn’t supposed to take place until today. Even though it didn’t get its magic moment, the Ford official contacted Ricky once his Jeep was retrieved to congratulate him.
Expect the rivalry between these two vehicles—in a segment Jeep’s had all to itself for a long time—to get even more heated in the coming years and months. The new Bronco was only revealed a couple of months ago and it’s already in a grudge match with the Wrangler in the eyes of enthusiasts.
As they might say on the cover of a car magazine: your move, Jeep.
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