Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dethroning the ‘King of the Road’

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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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