DETROIT (WTVG) - There are a lot of impressive vehicles on display in Detroit. The North American International Auto Show opened to the media on Monday, and there are plenty of Toledo connections.
The vehicle getting a lot of attention is the Jeep Gladiator truck.
The Gladiator is not only built in Toledo, but one of the lead designers is also from here. In fact, Taylor Langhals is the fourth generation of his family to work for Jeep.
Taylor grew up in the Toledo area loving everything automotive. He started by having car shows on the family's living room floor. From there he started drawing Jeeps on napkins. Several of Taylor's family members worked at the Toledo plant, including his father Gary who spent 30 years on the job, "Jeep is in my blood and it's in my family's blood. Obviously cars were a big part of my upbringing, and I loved to draw. Somewhere along the way someone said you can make a career out of that." And boy has he.
At just 29-years-old, Taylor is the lead exterior designer of the Gladiator, "I spent the last four years of my life designing the Gladiator you see here today. It has been a remarkable experience, very humbling. I feel very honored to even be able to work on this vehicle. I am very proud of the finished product."
Taylor graduated from St. John's Jesuit in 2007 and then went on to college. He began his career at Jeep as an intern, and then was hired full time, "I felt that when I left Toledo I was so well prepared for the work. I was ready to tackle anything and ready to accomplish anything. I am so thankful for my education at St.John's, and especially thankful for my family. They made a lot of sacrifices to make all of this possible."
The Gladiator was revealed last fall in Los Angeles, but it's appearance closer to home has special meaning to Taylor, "My favorite part of the whole thing is to be like a fly on the wall and listen to people's reaction. It's been so positive. There was so much hype and the reaction has made all the hard work worth it. A couple weeks ago, I was able to drive a Gladiator from headquarters to Toledo to show some of my friends and family. As soon as I crossed the state line into Ohio, people were getting out their phones. They were taking pictures and videos and giving me the thumbs up. The car is truly a celebrity, and it's fun to be part of that."
Taylor says the Toledo workforce is a big part of helping make his dream come true, "As designers we sweat over the millimeter on these things. So to have so much emphasis on the build and the quality from that workforce makes a big difference. Those employees take so much pride in their work. There's a great vibe in those buildings. You can feel the pride when you walk in the plant."
Taylor wanted to add a nod to the city he calls home on the new Gladiator. He did that with a heart and the numbers 419 tucked away in the side of the truck bed, "Knowing the love Toledo has for its Jeep, I had to do something to honor that. It is a tribute to the brand and the workforce. I knew I had to put it in the truck. Without them, we couldn't do it."
And here's another fun fact. A lot of things on the new truck were inspired by the Wrangler, but the inspiration for the hood hinges came from ski boots, "We went out and bought a whole bunch of ski boots and studied them and sketched them.That's where the inspiration came from for the hood hinges on the Gladiator."
So what about the pressure of designing the new Jeep? It was a long road, but seeing it here now has been a big reward for the young designer from Toledo, "There's a high respect level, a huge following for Jeep and you think about that as you are designing. I think we accomplished our goals with the Gladiator."
You can see the Gladiator and all the other vehicles at the auto show starting this weekend. The Gladiator is expected on dealer lots in the second quarter of this year.
NAIAS opens to the public this Saturday. It runs until Sunday, January 27th. Tickets start at $14 dollars. There's a discount for children and seniors.
We've posted a link with all the times and details.