History of the Civilian Jeep®
In 1908, John North Willys
purchased the Overland Automotive Company, which by then was located in
Indianapolis, Indiana. As Runabout sales grew, production was moved in
1908 to the newly purchased Pope-Toledo automobile manufacturing plant
in Toledo, Ohio.
1914 Overland Model 79
Willys-Overland Company was formed and, in addition to the Runabout,
began producing the Willys-Knight series automobile and the popular
"Whippet." In 1936, as the result of a Depression-era bankruptcy
reorganization, the company became Willys-Overland Motors, Inc.
In 1939, the idea of
a universal military vehicle was in the making. The army needed a
replacement for the vehicles they had been using. They used motorcycles
and side cars from World War l, and vehicles like the modified Ford
Model T. The military wanted new standards for the vehicles they used.
The military submitted the standards to American auto makers.
load capacity of 600 pounds
wheelbase under 75 inches
height under 36 inches
engine run smoothly from 3 to 50 miles
rectangular shaped body
two speed transfer case with four wheel
windshield that folds down
three bucket seats
blackout and driving lights
Gross vehicle weight under 1200 pounds
135 companies had
been invited to submit designs but only three did. They were Ford Motor
company, Willys-Overland, and American Bantam Car Company. The initial
contract for 70 jeeps was given to Bantam. Their model was a failure
when tested by the military. World War II had already broken out. More
prototypes were accepted from the other two companies. Willys-Overland model was the best, followed by Ford,
and then Bantam.
In 1940 Willys-Overland
started there vehicle development with the design and manufacture of a
prototype for America’s first four-wheel drive 1/4-ton utility vehicle.
Willys-Overland was granted the production contract and began
production in 1941. In all, more than 350,000 "Jeeps" were produced
during the 1940’s in support of the war effort. The military paid
$738.74 per vehicle. During the War Ford built the vehicle using
Willys-Overland blue prints.
As part of the war effort,
Willys-Overland also became a supplier of munitions and military
materials, including the "Robomb", the allied version of the German V-2
rocket, bullet cores, shells, projectiles and parts for aircraft
The name "Jeep" also has an
interesting history. The name is generally accepted to have come from
the Ford name for its general purpose vehicle, of GP for short.
When slurred together it sounds like "Jeep." Willys made the word
"Jeep" its trademark.
After the Second World War, Willys
soon realized that there would be a huge market for a civilian version
of the Jeep with returned servicemen. Willys had begun to promote the
versatility of the Jeep vehicle as a work and recreational vehicle as
early as 1942, but all Jeep production had been allocated to supplying
the armed services.
The first civilian Jeep vehicle,
the CJ-2A, was produced in 1945. Willys advertisements marketed
the Jeep as work vehicle for farmers and construction workers. It came
with a tailgate, side-mounted spare tire, larger headlights, an
external fuel cap and many more items that its military predecessors
did not include.
The CJ-2A was produced for
four years, and in 1948 the CJ-3A was
introduced. It was very similar to the previous model but featured a
one piece windscreen, and retained the original L-head 4 cylinder
The CJ Model was updated in 1953,
becoming the CJ-3B. It had a taller front grille and hood than its military
predecessor, to accommodate the new Hurricane F-Head four-cylinder
engine. The CJ-3B remained in production until 1968 and a total of
155,494 were manufactured in the U.S. In 1953 Willys-Overland was sold
to the Henry J. Kaiser interests for $60 million. The Kaiser company
began an extensive research and development program that would broaden
Jeep product range.
Two years later in 1955, Kaiser
introduced the CJ-5. It was based on the 1951 Korean War M-38A1, with its
rounded-front-fender design. It was slightly larger than the CJ-3B as
it had an increased wheelbase, overall length and was wider.
Improvements in engines, axles, transmissions and seating comfort made
the CJ-5 the ideal vehicle for the public's growing interest in
off-road vehicles. The CJ-5 featured softer styling lines, including
rounded body contours. A long wheelbase model was introduced and was
known as a CJ-6. Apart from a longer wheelbase the CJ-6 was almost
identical to the CJ-5. Jeep also introduced a forward control
cab-over-engine variation to the CJ line in 1956.
The Jeep CJ-5 had the
longest production run of any Jeep vehicle, from 1954 to 1984. In the
16 years of Kaiser ownership, manufacturing plants were established in
30 foreign countries, and Jeep vehicles were marketed in more than 150
Jeep introduced the first
automatic transmission in a four wheel drive vehicle in 1962, in their Wagoneer line (a
predecessor to the Jeep Cherokee). The 1962 Jeep Wagoneer was also the
first four wheel drive with an independent front suspension.
In 1965, a new "Dauntless"
V-6 engine was introduced as an option on both the 81-inch wheelbase
CJ-5 and 101-inch wheelbase CJ-6. The 155-horsepower engine almost
doubled the horsepower of the standard four-cylinder engine. It was the
first time a Jeep CJ could be equipped with a V-6.
In 1970 Kaiser Jeep was
purchased by American Motors Corporation. 4WD vehicles had become more
popular than ever, and by 1978, total Jeep vehicle production was up to
600 vehicles a day, over three times what it had been at the start of
All Jeep CJ's came equipped
with AMC-built engines, and all were available with 304 or 360 cubic
inch V-8 engines. AMC equipped both the CJ-5 and CJ-6 with heavier
axles, bigger brakes and a wider track.
Another first introduced by
Jeep in 1973 was Quadra-Trac®, the first automatic full-time
4WD system. Quadra-Trac® was available in full size Jeep
trucks and wagons as well as the CJ-7.
In 1976, AMC
introduced the the
CJ-7, the first major change in Jeep
design in 20 years. The CJ-7 had a slightly longer wheelbase than a
CJ-5 to allow an automatic transmission to be fitted. For the first time, the CJ-7 offered an optional
moulded plastic top and steel doors. Both the 93.5-inch wheelbase CJ-7
and 83.5-inch wheelbase CJ-5 models were built until 1983 when demand
for the CJ-7 left AMC no choice but to discontinue the CJ-5, after
having enjoyed a 30-year production run, and concentrate on the CJ-7.
The Scrambler, a Jeep
similar to the CJ-7 but with a longer wheelbase, known internationally
as the CJ-8 was also produced.
Enter the Wrangler (YJ)
In 1983, the growing market for
compact 4WD vehicles still sought the
utilitarian virtues of the Jeep CJ series, but consumers also were
seeking more of the "creature features" associated with passenger cars.
AMC responded to this demand in 1986 by discontinuing the CJ series and
by introducing the 1987 Jeep Wrangler (YJ).
Although the Wrangler
shared the familiar open-body profile of the CJ-7, it contained few
common parts with its famous predecessor. Mechanically, the Wrangler
had more in common with the Cherokee than the CJ-7. The YJ had square
headlights, which was a first (and last) for this type of Jeep. 630,000
On August 5, 1987, about a
year after the introduction of the Wrangler, American Motors
Corporation was sold to the Chrysler Corporation and the popular Jeep
brand became a part of the Jeep/Eagle Division of Chrysler Corporation.
The 1997 Jeep Wrangler looks very
similar to the CJ-7, indeed its
'retro' look is quite deliberate, but it is almost totally different
mechanically. Nearly 80% of the vehicle parts are newly designed. The
TJ uses 4 wheel coil suspension, similar to the Jeep Grand Cherokee,
and a totally new interior, including driver and passenger SRS (Air
The in-line, 6 cylinder,
fuel injected, 4.0 litre (241 cubic inch) OHV engine delivers 130 kw
(180 horsepower) and is also used in the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee
The Wrangler retains
several 'classic' Jeep features such as round headlights, a fold-down
windscreen (first seen in 1940) and removable doors as well as a choice
of a soft top or removable hard top. A factory fitted roll bar is also
Enter the best equipped Jeep ever, 2003
The 2003 TJ became available with some unique options. The
only available in the new name Rubicon. This vehicle deserved the right
to be called by the legendary trail name. Equipped with push button
actuated locking Dana 44 axles front and rear, 4 to 1 low crawl ratio
transfercase with the flange output shaft instead of a weak slip yoke
and many more options not available on any production Jeep ever
Since Willys obtained the
first United States Trademark Registration for the Jeep name in 1950,
ownership of the Jeep trademark, which is now registered
internationally, has passed from Willys-Overland to Kaiser to American
Motors Corporation then Chrysler Corporation. Today with the Mercedes
Benz and Chrysler merge the Jeep trademark belongs to Daimler Chrysler.
Jeep four wheel drive
vehicles, the Wrangler, Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, are now being
built and sold at the rate of over 600,000 each year. Daimler Chrysler
manufactures Jeeps in the USA, Austria, China, Malaysia, Thailand,
Indonesia, Venezuela, Argentina and Egypt.