Mark Allen, Champion of Wacky Easter Jeep Safari Designs, Is Retiring
The man behind some of Jeep’s greatest concepts is calling time on a storied career.
Jeep is one of America's most beloved brands, with a unique look and feel of its own. Mark Allen has had a big role to play in that as the company's Vice President of Design. Known for his efforts to modernize the brand and his eye-catching concept builds, he's now heading into retirement.
Allen knew he wanted to design cars from the tender age of just five years old. By the time he got to the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, he had his eyes set on a career with Chrysler. His inspiration was then-head of design, Tom Gale, whose concepts had caught Allen's attention. His wish would come true when he landed an internship in 1993, though things didn't go entirely to plan when he was then hired to work at Jeep in 1994. “I wanted to be a car designer; Jeep was all about trucks,” says Allen, who would go on to become Jeep's head of design.
Allen eventually fell in love with the brand, however, after taking part in his first Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. “The whole vibe of the event really turned the corner for me, and I became a super Jeep enthusiast,” said Allan, adding “I had never driven off-road like that before. I was rock-crawling and appreciated the technique and finesse needed. I fell in love.”
As Allen rose through the ranks at Jeep, he quickly became a part of the Underground, a team charged with designing and building one-off concept vehicles. One of his earlier projects was the 2004 Jeep KJ "Liberator" concept built for SEMA. Allen would later take the vehicle to the Easter Jeep Safari, marking the brand's first official appearance there. It kicked off a tradition of Jeep rocking up to the event with new concepts to demo for the off-road faithful. Over the years, Allen continued his work on bold concept vehicles, with the Jeep Nukizer 715 (center, below) being his personal favorite. “If I could take one home with me, this would be it,” says Allen.
Under Allen's leadership, the brand has gone from strength to strength. The brand's once niche vehicle lineup has expanded to a wide range of SUVs, from the compact Compass to the mighty Grand Wagoneer. Allen was also a key player in bringing the Gladiator pickup to market, with the head of design crediting Sergio Marchionne for championing the project.
As for how he wants to be remembered? "That I didn't screw it up," he says. Allen's contribution is valued far beyond that, though. "I hope that when he looks back on his career, he feels the way we do, which is gratification for the legacy he helped to create that will be enjoyed by the world for years to come," suggests Jeep's Chief Design Officer, Ralph Gilles.
Despite an initial goal to work with cars, Allen's eventual love affair with Jeep netted him a career spanning three decades and a legacy that will last long into the future. The Jeep brand is all the stronger for his commitment in that time. As for the future, it's clear that at Jeep, Allen will be a hard act to follow.
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