Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dethron­ing the ‘King of the Road’


Be­fore World War II, Austin Mo­tor Co. pro­duced a ve­hi­cle for use as jit­neys, sup­pos­edly an early 20th cen­tury slang word for nickel, and was used to de­note a small bus and un­li­censed taxis. Bachrach Mo­tor Co. in Manila op­er­ated a fleet of jit­neys, call­ing them “au­to­cale­sas.”

The jeep got its name from “Eu­gene the Jeep,” a char­ac­ter in the Pop­eye car­toon. When the US Army in­tro­duced the jeep in 1941, there were two man­u­fac­tur­ers, Ford Mo­tor Com­pany and Willys-Over­land. A Willys pub­li­cist, when asked what the ve­hi­cle was called, told re­porters to call it a jeep.

Af­ter World War II, the US Army left be­hind thou­sands of sur­plus jeeps, which be­came the ba­sis for mass trans­porta­tion as they sold for $50 or P100. En­trepreneur­s like Le­an­dro Sarao cus­tom­ized sur­plus jeeps for cus­tomers and made new bod­ies and chas­sis. The jit­neys that sur­vived the war then gave way to the “jeepney.”

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