JEEP TURNS 75
Happy birthday Jeep. In 1940, with war raging in Europe, the US Government issued a requisition for a ‘‘light reconnaissance vehicle’’ for the Army and invited 135 manufacturers to bid on production.
Willys-Overland and the Bantam Car Company were the only two to respond. The Bantam-based Willys-Overland MA (M stands for Military and A indicates the series number) prototype led to the production of the Overland MB.
Whether the name Jeep is a contraction of ‘general purpose’, or taken from a 1936 Popeye cartoon character called Eugene The Jeep who had magical problem-solving abilities, the name was trade-marked by Willys after the war for a vehicle marketed as an off-road civilian utility for farms. This 1945-1949 CJ-2A claims to be the first modern mass-production off-road vehicle (CJ stands for Civilian Jeep).
In 1946 came the seven-seater Willys Wagon, arguably the first SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle), and the first all-steel-bodied station wagon to be sold as a non-commercial vehicle. 4WD was added in 1949.
In 1955, the CJ-5 with improvements in seating comfort became more of a recreational vehicle.
In 1963, the Jeep Wagoneer had the first automatic transmission linked to a 4WD system. It was also the first 4WD equipped with independent front suspension. The 1973 model featured Quadra-Trac, the first automatic full-time 4WD system.
1974 saw the launch of the twodoor Cherokee. 10 years later, the Cherokee was the first SUV with a unitary body.
The Grand Cherokee of 1992 was the first SUV to be equipped with a standard driver-side airbag and the first to offer three different 4WD systems.
A 1941 World War II Willys-Overland MA Jeep. Jeep celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.