If you have been blessed with the gift of sight and, like me, you spend any amount of time checking out Jeeps, you have probably seen more than your fair share of headlight euro guards. While not an officially registered name for the accessory, it seems as though it is the label most often given for the metal bars that go over a Jeeps iconic round headlights. With a name like “Euro Guard”, safe money would wager that these things were inspired by some feeble attempt at establishing a styling trend, in hopes that the appearance of light guard-equipped Jeeps would spread over mall parking lots around the greater upper Midwest like a wildfire; much like adorable nose rings and alcohol-induced lower back tattoos.
The truth is, headlight euro guards have roots that extend well beyond the origins of the phrase “mall crawler”. The first time a headlight guard was featured on a production Jeep dates all the way back to 1950; making them older than reality TV and even rock music. The Willys M38 was a ¼-ton purpose-built military workhorse that was based on the popular civilian CJ-3A, however was fortified with a reinforced frame & suspension, a stout 24 volt electrical system and, yes, headlight guards. While only a single diagonal bar on each headlight, it is still quite clear that these light protecting guards were behind the looks of today’s euro guards all along.
While my heart rests a little easier knowing that euro guards are not just another goofy styling accessory, like louvered triple blade wipers or neon purple ground effects; it’s still hard to piece together how a rugged design feature borrowed from such a legendary combat-proven vehicle can be given a name like “euro guard”. Shouldn’t it have been granted a less fanciful name? Maybe headlight armor…sealed beam shield or even headlamp barriers. It seems to me that tacking ‘euro’ in front of the name incinuates that the vehicles owner is likely be clad in a beret, leather driving gloves with a satiny scarf flowing gently in the breeze as he sports about.
Originally, the M38’s headlight guards were implemented as a means of protecting the fragile glass headlamps from hazards that might be encountered on the dirt roads and jungle trails it would certainly be exposed to as they hung precariously out from the steel grille, unlike the recessed lights on prior MB/GPW models. While many of the geographic locations earlier military Jeeps like the MB and GPW, were exposed to were located all across Europe, the M38 was primarily assigned duties in the Korean War during the early fifties. Maybe the responsible marketing people should have named the headlight guards “East Asia Guards”? Best I can tell, that doesn’t have even the slightest ring to it. Nevertheless, I still can’t get behind the name ‘euro guard’.
As it turns out, the use of ‘euro’ in the name was really nothing more than a marketing scheme after all; a ploy by some people in white shirts and pressed khakis to relay an inherent sense of exclusiveness, possessing qualities that only the most descriminitaing Frenchman could even identify. You see, since the end of World War II, the Europeans had pretty much lead the way in terms of innovative automotive design. While U.S. manufacturers like Studebaker and Packard were largley using carry-over styling until the mid 50’s, auto crafters in Europe, especially the United Kingdom, were forging new territory with what was widely recognized as exhaustive engineering practices, higher quality materials, noteworthy build standards and styling that was was remarkably more refined than what was being practiced stateside. For those reasons, referring to any mundane gizmo with a ‘euro’ prefix could possibly be all that was needed to skyrocket said gizmo to vast popular appeal, but only in regions far removed from the actual continent of Europe- a practice that is both wide-spread and blessed with long life. Yeah…even Grandmas walker was fair game for the “Euro” treatment. The addition of the ‘Euro’ in the title and suddenly this thing needs not one but TWO hand brakes?
In spite of their name, Euro Guards never really pretended to make your Jeep go faster or win you bonus points at the Concours d’Elegance. They are, however, a pretty attractive way to protect your aftermarket headlights from an unexpected run-in with a tree limb while you’re out on the trail. Certainly if headlight guards were cool enough for an inclusion on an old Willys M38, they’re not deserving of even a portion of the negative scrutiny they’ve been exposed to over the years.
In the end, we can all agree Euro Guards make a pretty cool accessory to add to your Jeep. They look tough and are simply a breeze to install; in fact, they are the perfect project for those young Jeepers in your family in that they won’t break the bank or leave the family transportation straddling a puddle of costly fluid in the driveway. There are even more modern variations available today that truly do live up to the ‘euro’ name; achieving standards in terms of styling, unique designs and choice materials that make the original headlight guards look their age. You can always find your perfect Euro Guards and a ton of other Jeep stuff at www.ruggedridge.com (beret & scarf not required).