This was originally from memory of various things I've read, told in my own words. Since then I've made minor additions and corrections. If you can help with more information, please mail me, Rick Grover.
One story has it that the lowly, uninformed GI's thought "GP" was for general purpose, and pronounced it "jeep". Other people say that the word "jeep" was slang for any wonderfully multipurpose thing. The Popeye cartoon had a character, named "Eugene the Jeep" in 1936, who had all kinds of amazing powers. Anyway, the source of the name "Jeep" is now vailed by the passage of time... but on with the story.
The government selected a vehicle based mostly on the design by the Bantam Car Company. Bantam didn't have the mass production facilities needed to supply the government, and the military wanted multiple suppliers. Willys got a contract to build "jeeps" in late 1940. Ford was also awarded a contract a week later. Many parts were interchangeable between the Willys and Ford jeeps. Of the roughly half million jeeps produced for WW2, Willys-Overland made about 360,000 between 1941 and 1945. The jeeps proved to be rugged and dependable in the war, and by the time the soldiers came home, jeeps were well known and loved for their durability and unstoppability. (More details are available in The Jeep, a Real American Hero .)
|CJ-2A||1945 - 1949||214k|
|CJ-3A||1946 - 1953||132k|
|CJ-3B||1952 - 1968||155k|
|CJ-5||1954 - 1983||611k|
|CJ-6||1955 - 1981||50k|
|CJ-7||1976 - 1986||379k|
|CJ-8||1981 - 1986||28k|
|Thanks to Tom Wanamaker, Jeff Hanselman, Joe Schaefer|
The postal Jeeps are designated as DJ for Dispatcher Jeep. They are 2WD and most are right hand controls.
The Wrangler (YJ & TJ) are direct descendents of the CJ line, so I guess you can say that the original Jeep line is still going. But since 1963 Jeeps have been manufactured by Kaiser, AMC, and Chrysler. So I'm getting side-tracked from the Willys story.
These were called the 'Jeep' Utility Vehicles and all retained clear influences of the military Jeep, but the forms were intermediate between the normal rounded forms of the autos of the period and the boxy Jeep. The wagon was similar to the panel trucks or delivery wagons of the day, but with those unmistakable flat fenders (and later 4WD). The truck was similar in size and functionality of a GMC, Ford or Dodge truck of the day, but once again with the Jeep look and available in 4WD.
The Jeepster was a convertible about half-way between a military Jeep and a sports car. This two wheel drive vehicle was only made from 1948 to 1950, but was resurrected by AMC in the '60's as the Jeepster Commando. Some people point out that the Jeepster was technically a phaetom, not a convertible. A phaeton was a type of two-door touring car without a solid top. To the common man, phaeton doesn't mean much.
The wagon and pickup truck were available in both 2WD and 4WD with a 4-cylinder or 6-cylinder engine. Kaiser bought Willys-Overland in 1953 and dropped "Overland" from the name. In the 1956, Willys introduced snub-nosed forward control models. Production of Willys wagons and trucks continued under the name of the Willys Motor Company until 1963, when the name was changed to the Kaiser-Jeep Corporation. Production of the Willys wagons and trucks continued for two more years until 1965. Willys had production facilities in Brazil, Argentina, Israel, and India, and Japan . Some of these continued making vehicles that were essentially the same as the Utility vehicles for several more years. But eventually Kaiser sold these. Thus ended the production of those interesting vehicles we call Willys.
If the folks at Willys had known that driving in the dirt was a sport, they would have called them Sport Utility Vehicles, but they didn't, so they were dubbed simply Utility Vehicles. It is up to those of us who came latter to make a sport of driving them. The Willys Utility Wagon is clearly the grand daddy of all modern SUV's. It was a 4WD wagon with enough space inside to load up and go most anywhere.
|Wagons||1946 - 1965||over 300k|
|Trucks||1947 - 1965||over 200k|
|Jeepster||1948 - 1950||19k|
|Thanks to Tom Wanamaker|
Kaiser bought Willys (1953), AMC bought Kaiser (1970), and Chrysler bought AMC (1987). Then Chrysler merged with Daimler in 1998. The Germans who lost the war to the Jeep now own it!
Since the company is no more, who is to tell me I'm saying its name wrong - the Germans?
Rendering from a photo of Ken's 1950 2WD pickup.
|© Richard B. Grover 1997 to 2006.||Last updated: Monday, August 5, 2002|