Today, the Jeep® brand is officially celebrating its 80th anniversary. It was on this day in 1941, that the U.S. government issued a contract to produce the legendary Jeep. Originally called the Willys Quad, the first version was considered a “light reconnaissance vehicle” to replace the Army’s motorcycle and modified Ford Model-T vehicles. After modifications and improvements, the Quad would become the MA and then the MB. However, the Army would call it 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.
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 struggled to reduce the weight to the new Army specification of 2,160 lbs. Items removed in order for the MA to reach that goal were reinstalled on the next-generation MB, resulting in a final weight of approximately just 400 lbs. above the specifications.
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.
After the war, the popularity and functionality of the Jeep soared. It wasn’t long after a civilian model (called the CJ-2A) towards the end of 1945. 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. Several CJ-2A features, such as a 134-cubic-inch I-4 engine, a T-90A transmission, Spicer 18 transfer case, and a full-floating Dana 25 front and Dana 23-2 rear axle, were found on numerous Jeep vehicles in future years. The CJ-2A was produced for four years before being replaced by the CJ-3A.
The CJ-3A was very similar to the previous model, but featured a one-piece windscreen and a more robust rear axle, yet retained the original L-head four-cylinder engine.
YouTuber Tedward (Tom Coletta), recently got his hands on an original 1948 Willys CJ-2A Jeep with a significant rust problem! Nevertheless, the Willys CJ-2A shows us just how far the Jeep has come from its original iteration to today’s modern Wrangler on public roads. The POV ride is simply amazing to watch in itself.