How the name Jeep came to be is largely disputed. There are several plausible stories with the most likely being an extension of the term G.P., the early military term for ‘General Purpose’ vehicles. In 1950, Willys-Overland was granted the U.S. Trademark Registration for the Jeep trademark. Since then the associated Jeep trademarks have been acquired by Kaiser, American Motors Corporation, and now the Chrysler Corporation, who owns more than 1000 Jeep® trademarks worldwide.
Dating back to the early 1940’s the first light-weight all-terrain vehicle, now recognized as a 4×4, was used by the U.S Army. They requested a running prototype matching their desired specifications to be ready in just 49 days. With more than 130 automotive companies invited to respond the Army only received two submissions; one from The Bantam Car Company and the other from Willys-Overland. The tight 49-day deadline proved to be a serious test.
Willys-Overland filed a request for more time to complete their prototype and Bantam resorted to sourcing a consultant engineer by the name of Karl Probst to help them achieve the blueprints for the proposed vehicle. Karl accepted the brief and without salary drew up completed plans for the proposed vehicles in just two days.
Bantam submitted their bid to the U.S. Army and would later go on to produce their first hand-built running prototype on September 21, 1940. Some time later, Willys-Overland and Ford would submit their prototypes to the Army, both of which were based on the original Bantam designs which the U.S. Army had made available to all automobile manufacturers in an attempt to improve on the original. The Willys “Quad” was eventually awarded the contract, and the Jeep was born.
1945 and the end of World War II saw the production of the first Jeeps for civilian use.
The CJ (Civilian Jeep) series was launched and was an instant success. The SUV’s were used as modern replacements for agricultural and delivery vehicles nationwide. The breed of civilian Jeeps started a trend of companies imitating the new style of vehicle worldwide; with Land Rover, Renault, Toyota and countless other manufacturers quick to cash-in on the popularity of the Jeep concept and styling.
Despite the increased popularity in SUV’s for the domestic market, and increased competition from other manufacturers, Willy’s, Kaiser and other producers of the Jeep brand continued to produce the vehicles which became the nation’s preferred choice. The CJ-5 had the longest production time of any Jeep, running from 1954 to 1984.
Since the time of Willys and Kaiser, the Jeep brand has constantly been redeveloped to address the demands of the modern audience. The Cherokee, Wrangler, Wagoneer and Grand Cherokee have all become international household names and have all been synonymous products of the “domestic power-horse” principal. At the heart of every Jeep is its powerful engine, known for reliability and longevity. This mechanical heart is the driving force behind the success of the vehicles and the reason why so many different models are built around engines such as the “Go Devil”, “Hurricane”, “Lightening” and “Tornado”.
The Jeeps of today are much more refined than their military ancestors, but the Jeep concept is still associated with durability, adaptability, and freedom.
The new 2016 lines of the Jeep Wrangler, Renegade, Compass, and Patriot are all award-winning models, with the Grand Cherokee being the most awarded SUV ever produced.
In 2017, Jeep plans to extend its already successful range of SUV’s. Most noticeably, Jeep has plans to continue production of its existing Wrangler alongside the all new Jeep Wrangler for six months. They also promise a Wrangler Pickup and Jeep Trailcat.
It’s clear to see that Jeep has a lot of projects planned and intends to keep developing their products in line with their customer demands. Perhaps what’s more interesting is just how Jeep continues to reinvent award winning products which command the attention of their target consumers year after year.