On September 11th, 2001, what we knew as the United States of America changed forever. In the weeks after the tragedy that killed almost 3,000 innocent people, the country came together. American flags were displayed everywhere to show the support and the togetherness that the country had. There was hardly a house, school, business and even cars that didn’t have an American flag flying from them.
One of the most recognized showing of support from the auto industry at the time, was the sight of a few Jeep vehicles that were customized with American flag livery and displayed outside the Toledo Assembly Plant (home to then, the all-new 2002 Jeep Liberty (KJ) and the iconic 2002 Jeep Wrangler (TJ). In fact, there were two “patriotic” themed Jeeps that were created to be on display. But not many people, know the story of how they came to be.
In the weeks following September 11th, the United Auto Workers (UAW) and Chrysler commissioned 30-year Toledo Assembly Plant painter Paul Clawson to paint the patriotic scheme on vehicles to go on display in remembrance of the victims of September 11th. Clawson painted four vehicles in a custom full-on Red, White and Blue American flag design. Those vehicles were a 2002 Jeep Wrangler and a 2002 Jeep Liberty model. Clawson also customized his own 1976 Jeep CJ-5 with the identical scheme.
The Wrangler and the first completed 2002 Jeep Liberty were positioned in front of the iconic Jeep stone logo in front of the Toledo Assembly Plant, along Interstate-75. These vehicles sat there for months and were sadly eventually scrapped by DaimlerChrysler.
Shortly after the vehicles were displayed in front of the plant, Ed Schmidt Jeep of Perrysburg, Ohio commissioned Clawson to replicate the Liberty scheme for its own. This 2002 Jeep Liberty started life as a Patriot Blue 2002 Jeep Liberty Limited 4×4. It was equipped with every option available, except a sunroof (to allow more room for additional stars).
This particular model was to be sold to Kroger foods and used as a promotional vehicle by the company. However, the deal fell through and Ed Schmidt Jeep kept the vehicle on display. The dealer eventually sold it to a new owner as DEMO vehicle with 955 miles on the odometer. The vehicle ended up being sent to New York state to its new owners, where it was used as a daily vehicle.
Nick Priola, an enthusiast found Clawson’s 1976 CJ-5 on a Craigslist and purchased the vehicle. After doing some research he found the Liberty on an eBay post and purchased it as well. Priola, showcased both of the vehicles together at the Memorial Day Parade in Arlington Heights, Illinois and many other local events. Unable to find a museum to purchase the vehicles, both vehicles were placed on the auction block at the 2014 Mecum Auction in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Both vehicles were not sold with the CJ-5 taking a high bid of $16,000 and the Liberty taking a high bid of $13,000. The vehicles were then in Highland Park, Illinois when the Liberty was placed on eBay, where a woman who was looking to replace her recently wrecked Patriot Blue 2002 Jeep Liberty Limited 4×4 found it. She purchased the vehicle and it was then sent to it’s new home in Virginia.
According to the latest owner the Liberty, it is her daily driver. The patriotic Jeep sees its fair share of car shows. She has done an amazing job trying to document this once historic piece of Jeep history. You can see a lot more pictures and read more stories about this historic vehicle HERE.