THE GUY BEHIND JEEP’S 4WD CAPABILITY HUNTS BEARS. WITH A BOW.
CONSIDERING ALL THAT, IT’S ONLY RIGHT THAT BERNIE TRAUTMANN DRIVES A WRANGLER… THE NATURAL CHOICE OF THE YANK OUTDOORSMAN.
Bernie Trautmann is Mr Wrangler. Or to be precise, he is the engineer at Jeep responsible for tuning the Wrangler’s off-road capabilities.
Officially, his title is ‘off-road development lead Jeep Wrangler’. Or as Bernie sums it up: “My job is to ensure the Jeep Wrangler remains the world’s most off-road capable production vehicle.”
Considering all that – his physical bulk, his love for Jeeps and, erm, the predilection for combat with bears – you’d think Bernie would come across like Rambo. Instead he’s gentle, almost cuddly; with a ready chuckle and a relaxed manner.
Bernie was in Australia in January along with his Jeep engineering colleague John Adams to do some preliminary testing and reconnaissance of our unique conditions and 4X4 driving habits. Put it this way… they hadn’t heard of the Grey Nomad before he made it down under.
“Talking to people about their trips through the Outback where there’s two or three days on end and that’s a kind of unique type of off-roading; and for me that’s probably been the most interesting part,” Bernie said.
Bernie’s a walking, talking advert for Jeep. He’s a second-generation employee of the Chrysler organisation (these days known as Fiat Chrysler) and has been there for 20 years; plus another five years before that, working as a contractor.
“I am a Jeep enthusiast by heart and I have lost track, I think I am up to my eighth or ninth personal Jeep,” he smiled. “My wife made me whittle it down, so I am only allowed two at this point.”
Bernie’s received the ultimate accolade from his colleagues. The off-road course at Fiat Chrysler’s Michigan testing facility is named after him. Bernie designed it and incorporated the best bits of Moab, the Rubicon Trail, Parker and numerous other places he’s tested Jeeps at. The ‘Trautmann Trail’ is only 8.85km long but it takes three-and-a-half hours to complete!