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  • Writer's pictureTim Jackson

Popular go anywhere Jeep transcends ages

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

Jeep is an iconic brand in the automotive industry and has built a rich history of innovation and success. The brand was born from the need for a versatile and rugged vehicle that could handle the demands of military operations during World War II. Today, Jeep is a global brand and is known for its off-road capabilities, rugged design and adventurous spirit. This is intended to explore the history of Jeep and its journey as it became a leading automotive brand and the foremost all-terrain vehicle and beginning of SUV crazed era of cars.

The origins of Jeep can be traced to the early 1940s when the US Army put out an official request for a specially designed four-wheel-drive vehicle that could handle the rugged terrain of the battlefield. The US Army needed a vehicle that could transport troops, effectively tow artillery to activation sites and perform reconnaissance missions. The new vehicle would need to be lightweight, durable and fully capable of navigating through mud, snow and all forms of rough terrain and landscape.

The task of designing the new vehicle was awarded to three companies: Willys-Overland, Ford Motor Company and Bantam. The three companies submitted designs, and in the end, the Willys-Overland design was chosen. The Willys-Overland design was based on the company's civilian vehicle, the Jeep, which had been in production since the 1930s.

The new military vehicle, which was officially named the Willys MB, went into production in 1941. The Willys MB was a four-wheel-drive vehicle that was powered by a four-cylinder engine and had a top speed of 65 miles per hour. The vehicle was designed to be lightweight and easy to transport, so it could be quickly deployed to the front lines.

The Willys MB was an immediate success and quickly became a favorite among soldiers. The vehicle's rugged design, off-road capabilities and reliability made it ideal for military operations. The Willys MB was used in a variety of roles, including transportation, reconnaissance and could even serve as an ambulance.

After the war ended, Willys-Overland began producing a civilian version of the Willys MB, which they named the Jeep CJ-2A. The CJ-2A was designed for farmers, ranchers and others who needed a versatile and reliable vehicle for their work. The CJ-2A became big hit with consumers and quickly became a popular, must-have vehicle for off-road enthusiasts.

In 1950, Willys-Overland introduced the Jeep M38, which was a military version of the CJ-3A. The M38 was used by the US military for implementation during the Korean War and was also sold to foreign governments. In 1953, Willys-Overland was purchased by Kaiser Motors, which continued to produce the Jeep line of vehicles.

During the 1960s, Jeep introduced the Wagoneer, which was a four-wheel-drive vehicle that was designed for families. The Wagoneer was popular with consumers and represented the first four-wheel-drive vehicle to be marketed as a luxury vehicle.

In the 1970s, Jeep introduced the Cherokee, which was a smaller and more fuel-efficient version of the Wagoneer. The Cherokee was also a hit with consumers and quickly became one of the best-selling vehicles in the Jeep lineup.

In 1987, Chrysler Corporation purchased American Motors Corporation, which owned the Jeep brand. Chrysler continued to produce the Jeep lineup of vehicles and introduced new models, including the Grand Cherokee, Wrangler and Liberty.

During the 1990s, Jeep continued to innovate and introduced the first SUV with a unibody design, the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Grand Cherokee was popular with consumers and became the first SUV to feature a driver's side airbag.

In 2007, Chrysler was purchased by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. Under Cerberus, Jeep continued to produce new models, including the Patriot, Compass and Renegade.

In 2009, Chrysler filed for bankruptcy and was purchased by Italian automaker Fiat. Under Fiat, Jeep continued to produce new models, including the Cherokee and the Wrangler JK.

In 2018, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) announced plans to invest $4.5 billion in Jeep over the next five years. The investment is part of FCA's plan to expand the Jeep brand and increase production. FCA planned to introduce new models, including a pickup truck and a three-row SUV.

In 2020, FCA and PSA Group (Peugeot) merged, creating the fourth largest automaker, worldwide, by volume under the brand Stallantis. All 12 brands remain intact, including Fiat, Dodge, Ram, Chrysler, Alfa Romeo, Masserati, Mopar (accessories), Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel and Vauxhall.

The Jeep marque has been headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, since Willys Overland launched production of the first Civilian Jeep (CJ) branded models there in 1945. Its replacement, the conceptually consistent Jeep Wrangler series, has remained in production since 1986. With its solid axles and open top, the Wrangler has been called the Jeep model that is as central to the brand's identity as the 911 is to Porsche.

Over the past 14 years, I’ve relied on the modern Jeep Grand Cherokee as a daily driver. They have all been reliable, stylish, pleasurable to drive and a good fit for Colorado-based operations.


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