A Brief History of Jeeps
A Brief History of Jeeps Reveals their Value and Attraction
A brief history of Jeeps clearly demonstrates that this brand has a long and illustrious career in the U.S. and around the world. Designed by Willys -Overland and produced originally by W-O and Ford, these vehicles first known as the Bantam BRC became a significant part of the Allied war effort in WWII. They soon became widely known as jeeps, possibly as an abbreviated version of GP which was common in Army lingo for General Purpose or Government Purpose.
This is disputed by many who believe the soldiers driving these vehicles were reminded of the cartoon character Popeye’s odd little pet named Jeep that was small, tough and had the ability to overcome obstacles and solve challenging problems. The U.S. army made wide use of these vehicles and the Allies were impressed enough to order numbers in the tens of thousands from Chrysler. After the war they continued to be a mainstay mode of transportation in the military and were changed and adapted over the years to produce many other military and civilian models. Domestic and foreign automakers have copied and adapted the design to create dozens of other varieties.
A brief history of Jeeps must include an important event that occurred prior to the U.S. entering the war. The prototype Bantam gained domestic fame in 1941 when demonstrated its agility on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Test driver Red Haussman did the honors and when the he was asked by someone in the sizable crowd, possibly a member of the news media, he responded, “It’s a Jeep.” He’d heard that word used by soldiers at Fort Halberd and when in showed up in print, it stuck. Following the war Willys filed a trademark application for the name and it was accepted.
Whatever the origin of the name, the Jeep was clearly the first off-road, 4-wheel drive vehicle in wide production anywhere in the world. It was the inspiration for the Land Rover and many others of the early vehicles now known as sports utility vehicles, or SUVs. Following the war Willys dropped production of its pre-war passenger cars and focused entirely on Jeeps and their variants, even offering the “Agri-Jeep” to farmers as an alternative to the farm tractor. While that model didn’t sell well the CJ-2A was a hit and sales were robust. With factory supplied 4-wheel drive it became a big seller among ranchers, farmers, hunters, early “off-road” enthusiasts, and those who lived far off the beaten path.
Later military vehicles produced by Willys included the M38 Jeep while the CJ series Jeep continued to sell well in the civilian market. The CJ3B was introduced in 1952 and totaled sales of over 150,000 by the mid-1960’s.
In 1953 Kaiser Motors bought Willys-Overland and changed the name to the Willys Motor Company. The CJ5 was introduced in 1954 and sales of this Jeep model were strong during its entire 3-decade run. In the intervening years the company was purchased by Ford and the name was changed to Kaiser Jeep Corporation, and the name Willys was lost for good. In 1970, American Motors Corporation bought Kaiser-Jeep and in 1979 Renault bought into AMC and eventually took over control of the Jeep brand. In 1987 Chrysler purchased AMC and continues to produce Jeep models under the name Chrysler LLC. This fascinating, brief history of Jeeps is one of the greatest stories in auto making history.
Tags: jeep history