The history of Jeeps dates back only as recently as the 1940s. Given the overwhelming presence of Jeeps in the current military scenario and their popularity with the general public as well, one would be forgiven for thinking that Jeeps have been around much longer.
After World War I, The US Army felt the need for a go-anywhere reconnaissance vehicle and this resulted in several proposals over the years. Finally, it was in July 1940 that the Quartermaster Corps laid down exact specifications of the vehicle they wanted. Thus began the history of Jeeps.
135 U.S. automobile manufacturers were sent invitations to place bids for 70 ‘Jeeps’. The small Bantam Company delivered the first model in September 1940 and produced the first ‘Jeep’ – the Model 60 or MKII. Thereafter Willys Overland submitted the model for its Quad and Ford of its Pigmy. The army ordered 1500 units of each of the three and field-tested them. The modified versions were the Bantam 40 BRC, The Willys MA, and the Ford GP.
Subsequently, Willys was given the contract to make a standardized vehicle named MP based on features of all the previous three. However, America entered WWII soon after, and Ford was called in to speed up production. Ford labeled its vehicle GPW.
A common misconception in the history of Jeeps is that the term GPW stood for General Purpose Willys. GPW was actually Ford’s internal code for the vehicle where ‘G’ stood for ‘Government Contract’, ‘P’ for Ford’s code for 80″ wheelbase, and ‘W’ for Willys design motor.
Another common misconception about the history of Jeeps is that the slurring of the term “GP” resulted in the word Jeep. However, the word Jeep was being used as early as 1938 – almost 2 years before GP made an appearance. So where exactly did the 4×4 reconnaissance get its name from? The history of Jeeps is unable to answer that one!
Shortly after WWII ended, Ford stopped manufacturing Jeeps. They did have to their credit the extremely rare Amphibious Jeep or Seep manufactured in 1942. However, Willys introduced civilian versions of the Jeeps, which became very popular. The CJ2A was the first civilian Jeep, which lasted from 1945-49. 1948-1953 was time for the CJ-3A model.
The history of Jeeps continued it journey as Willys-Overland was taken over by Kaiser in 1953. The American Motor Co. (AMC) took over Kaiser-Jeep in 1970. Between 1982-86, Renault owned AMC Jeep, before finally in 1987 Chrysler took over AMC and Jeep of course. 1998 saw the merger between Mercedes Benz and Chrysler to form Daimler Chrysler – the current owners of Jeep.
The history of jeeps would be incomplete without the many Jeep models that hit the markets. After the CJ-3A in 1948, CJ-3B was introduced in 1953. The CJ-5 introduced in 1955 had a one-piece windscreen with high wipers. In 1970 the CJ-5 was introduced with low wipers. However, it was discontinued in 1983 for safety reasons.
The CJ-6 was introduced in 1955 with a one-piece windscreen, high wipers, and a 101″ wheelbase. It was re-introduced in 1970 with low wipers. It was eventually terminated in 1976 with the advent of the popular CJ7 (MK). The CJ7 and CJ8 were discontinued in 1986 when the Wrangler YJ made an appearance.
The Wrangler YJ was lower and wider than the CJs. A total of 632,231 YJs were produced between 1986-1996. In 1997 the Wrangler TJ was introduced and was a turning point in the history of Jeeps. Other than the basic YJ platform, everything was completely overhauled. The new coil-spring suspension made this the best performing Jeep in the history of Jeeps.
However, the introduction of the Jeep Rubicon 2003 will go down in the history of Jeeps as a momentous event. The Rubicon is today by far the most superior trail run Jeep ever.
The CJ series is a series of popular civilian jeeps. Other than that the military Jeeps too evolved to the present HMMWV or Humvee. Other Jeeps also include the Grand Cherokee 100 series, Land Rovers, Mitsubishi’s Pajero, and Toyota’s Landcruiser.
Thus even within a short span of 60 odd years, the history of Jeeps is intriguing as Jeeps change and evolve even as we speak.
Below you will find links to the different models Jeep has built over the years.
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
With the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, you can now take your friends and gear along at the same time.
The Jeep Rubicon has many trail-ready features. It is a great vehicle for off-roading.
The Jeep CJ has had a long run and seen many changes over the years.
Get the lowdown on Willys jeeps from the Quad to the MA and the MB. Take a look at the historical journey of Willys Jeep from Willys Overland to Kaiser.
The DJ3A and DJ5 were popular postal jeeps. Jeep introduces the new 2003 Jeep Wrangler as the newest addition to the postal service department.
The Jeep TJ was completely redesigned and has little in common with its predecessors. If Jeepers are to be believed, the ultimate trail machine.
The Jeep YJ was AMC’s response to a decline in the popularity of the CJ. See some of the modifications that made the Jeep YJ popular.
The Jeep Wagoneer is often considered the first real SUV and for good reason.
The Jeep Cherokee is considered by many as the ultimate 4×4 off-roading vehicle ever created. An illustrious history and continued upgrades stand testament to its popularity.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is irrefutably the most popular SUV on the market. A great drive – on-road and off-road!
The Jeep Liberty is a victorious successor to the Jeep Cherokee and offers a great on-road and off-road driving experience.
The Jeep Commander is a gorgeous mix of yesterday’s looks with tomorrow’s technological inventions.
The Jeep Scrambler was produced for only 5 short years but won over many admirers in that time and continues to trade well in the used car segment even today.
A Detailed Introduction to The Army Jeep.