The end of World War II led to a boom not only in babies, but in motorized recreation, as well. Suddenly the US was flooded with a vast surplus of military vehicles, so it was only natural that our predecessors take it out for a spin. Land speed record-setting racers, built inside the cut-out belly fuel tanks of long range bombers, peppered the salt flats of Utah and California. Hydroplane race boats began cropping up everywhere, powered by Rolls Royce airplane engines. And there were Jeeps. Many, many Jeeps.
Returning vets knew just what a Jeep could do, so they bought surplus Jeeps in droves. And this was no strain on their market, since Willys-Overland and Ford built over 650,000 Jeeps during the War. Many of them ended up back on our shores, or never left in the first place. So off-roading became an entire automotive subculture, and Warn was there for the whole ride.
But although he’s now famous for it, Arthur Warn didn’t really start the company as an off-road venture. Warn wasn’t born into mud and snow, but onto a fresh pad of tarmac. Their first product was a set of locking hubs for the Jeep, pairing the rugged, battle-tested machine with America’s burgeoning highway system. Suddenly Jeeps were just as good on pavement as they were everywhere else.
It wasn’t until 1959 that Warn produced their icon, the WARN winch, for which they’re still known worldwide today. It had a rugged drive train, and it became an instant sensation among the now healthy off-roaders of the American wilderness. Many ranchers and other professional workers used them, but for the most part they were purely recreational. Today the WARN is recognized as the first recreational winch.
So one might credit the WARN with the invention of an entire sport. Today, winching is as common as mud, a legitimate sub-sport of off-roading. Would it exist today without Warn? Possibly, but it’s good to have a company like Warn leading the way, regardless, because they’re always digging for new innovations, new designs. They’ve refused to sit back on their chief success.
Their passion for innovation is one reason they’ve won no fewer than 65 awards and citations. And that’s only since 1989. Today they still build innovative and powerful winches for sport and industry, but they’ve also added plowing systems, off-road lights, body armor, fender flares, and bumpers to their lineup. And they seem to have remembered their roots, too, because they still build 4WD hubs, as well.
It’s a drive that keeps them going, but one that was inevitable. After all, when you invent a new sport, you raise the bar fairly high. But with every new product and innovation,
Warn seems to raise it even higher.
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.