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The Beginning of the Jeep

The Beginning of the Jeep


The Beginning of the Jeep

by Steven Smith

The history of jeeps started in the 1940's. Jeeps were present in the current military scenario and their popularity with the general public as well. After World War I, The Army felt the need for a reconnaissance vehicle that could go anywhere and this resulted in several proposals over the years. Finally, in July of 1940 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. After this, Willys Overland submitted the model for its Quad and Ford of its Pigmy. The military ordered 1500 units of each of the three and field-tested them. The other versions were the Bantam 40 BRC, The Willys MA and the Ford GP.

Willys was given the contract to make a standardized vehicle named MP based on features of all the previous three. However, America entered the 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 already being used as early as 1938 - almost 2 years before GP made an appearance. So where exactly did the 4x4 reconnaissance get it's name from? No one knows for sure.

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.

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