| 15/07/2011 | 0 Comments

Jeep – one of the world’s few, true 4×4 icons – is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2011. It was born 70 years ago to answer the modern military needs of the time and then evolved to provide civilians with mobility and the means to rebuild their dreams. The first Jeep 4×4 vehicle rolled off the line on July 15th 1941.

1940 Willys Quad Original

In July 1940, the U.S. military informed automakers that it was looking for a “light reconnaissance vehicle” to replace the Army’s motorcycle and modified Ford Model-T vehicles. The Army invited 135 manufacturers to bid on production, but at first, Willys-Overland and American Bantam Car Manufacturing Company were the only two companies answering the call. However, soon Ford Motor Company entered the picture also, and competition began among the three over which company would receive the lucrative government contract.

1941 Jeep Willys MA

Each company produced prototypes for testing in record time and delivered them to the Army in the summer of 1940. The Army issued the next round of contracts in March 1941. Bantam was to produce 1,500 Model 40 BRC vehicles, Ford would build 1,500 modified and improved GP Pygmies and Willys would build 1,500 Quads. Further testing and evaluation led to the Army’s selection of Willys vehicle as the primary manufacturer.

1944 Jeep Willys MB

With modifications and improvements, the Willys Quad became the MA, and later the MB. But the Army, and the world, came to know it as the Jeep. Some claimed that the name came from the slurring of the letters “GP,” the military abbreviation for “General Purpose.” Others say the vehicle was named for a popular character named “Eugene the Jeep” in the Popeye cartoon strip. Whatever its origin, the name entered into the American lexicon and, for a while, served almost as a generic title for off-road vehicles, while the Jeep itself became an icon of the war.

Jeep Willys MB

1945 Jeep CJ-2A

The Willys MA featured a gearshift on the steering column, low side body cutouts, two circular instrument clusters on the dashboard and a hand brake on the left side. Willys-Overland would build more than 368,000 vehicles, and Ford, under license, some 277,000, for the U.S. Army.
The rugged, reliable olive-drab vehicle would forever be known for helping win a world war. Willys trademarked the “Jeep” name after the war and planned to turn the vehicle into an off-road utility vehicle for the farm – the civilian Universal Jeep. One of Willys’ slogans at the time was “The Sun Never Sets on the Mighty Jeep,” and the company set about making sure the world recognized Willys as the creator of the vehicle. The military Willys-Overland became the forefather to the first civilian Jeep, the CJ-2A, that was mass produced in 1945 and is universally considered the first modern off-roader of the automotive industry.

1947 Jeep Willys Wagon

In 1946, with Jeep Station Wagon (grandfather of Jeep Cherokee), Jeep fitted an all-wheel drive system on a station wagon vehicle thus introducing the concept of Sport Utility Vehicle. In 1963 with the Jeep Wagoneer, Jeep invented the premium SUV segment. 
To mark the anniversary, the Jeep brand is creating distinctive, unique 70th Anniversary Edition models of each vehicle in its lineup.

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Category: HISTORY

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