20 Interesting facts about Jeep

The great-grandfather of all SUV vehicles, Jeep is no doubt among the most influential and recognizable car brands not only at its class but in automobile industry in general. The first Jeeps of Willys MB model went into production in 1941 specifically for the military, arguably making them the oldest four-wheel drive mass-production vehicles now known as SUVs. The car, designed with adventure and discovery in mind. Jeep – 20 interesting facts.

1. By the eve of the Second World War, the United States Department of War had determined it needed a light, cross-country reconnaissance vehicle. In 1938 the US military authorities announced a competitive tender for a replacement of its existing, aging light motor vehicles, mainly motorcycles and sidecars. Eventually, the American Bantam Car Company had won the army contract for the new off-road vehicle. The prototype designed by engineer Karl Probst in 1940, the Bantam Reconnaissance Car (BRC), was a low-maintenance, quarter-ton four-wheel-drive vehicle with an open body. Eventually, the Army felt that the Bantam company was too small to supply the number of vehicles it needed, so it supplied the Bantam design to Willys-Overland and Ford, who were encouraged to make their own changes and modifications. The model went into production in 1941 after several improvements by Willys and Ford. One of the hypotheses suggests that the common term “jeep” may be derived from an acronym “GP” for General Purpose or Government Purposes.

2. Originally, in 1941 Willys and Ford got an Army order for 1500 cars each. By the end of the Second World War both companies issued 361 400 and 277 900 vehicles respectively.

3. In 1944, US authorities and general public were mostly sure that Allies would eventually win the war. This confidence enabled the Willys-Overland to experiment with Jeep designs for civilian market. The first post-war model was called Civilian Jeep (CJ). The first iteration – CJ-1 was apparently an MB that had been modified by adding a tailgate, drawbar, and a civilian-style canvas top. But during the later post war years company had to use Willys nameplate due to the number of lawsuits with American Bantam Car Company regarding the ownership of the “Jeep” trademark. However, American Bantam went bankrupt by 1950, and that’s when Willys was granted the “Jeep” trademark.

4. While experimenting with alternate layouts for civilian Jeep, Willys-Overland come with an original design in 1946. The rear-wheel-drive, seven-seater Willys van was one of a kind vehicle at that time. Three years later, company released the four-wheel drive version.

5. Further developing the idea of the off-road vehicle, Willys debuted with a Station Wagon in 1951. The model featured a comfortable passenger compartment, which gave it a feel of a roomy modern car rather than simple utility vehicle. At the same time company’s structure had changed with Kaiser-Frazer buying Willys in 1953. The company’s name was changed to Willys Motor Company. After reorganization, the newly created car manufacturer continued production of Jeep models.

6. In 1954 the new iteration of Civilian Jeep – CJ5 had arrived. The design of this four-wheel-drive vehicle was so immensely successful, that it remained in production for 29 years and was discontinued only in 1983.

7. The Jeep vehicles ware quite technically advanced at that time. Debuting in 1962, the Wagoneer model was the first US made vehicle to feature an overhead camshaft engine. In addition, the new Jeep was the first car to combine four-wheel-drive with automatic transmission. Eventually, the Wagoneer’s popularity surpassed the North America and become one of the most recognizable car designs in the world.

8. In 1963 the Wagoneer model received a new 250 hp engine, Vigilante V6. At the late ‘60s, company’s engineers created brand new V8 Dauntless series engine. The new engine was used on J-series vehicles: Wagoneer and Super-Wagoneer models.

9. In 1970 the company had changed owner for the second time. It was bought by AMC.

10. In 1973 for the first time Jeep presented a Quadra-Trac – full-time four-wheel-drive system. The Quadra-Trac was the first full-auto system with self-locking differential.

11. In 1974 the Jeep Motors company had debuted with Cherokee model. Thereafter this car become the most popular vehicle in company’s history. Simultaneously, a full-size pickup truck – the Jeep Gladiator was released on the market.

12. On the occasion of the bicentenary of the USA, Jeep Motors released the seventh generation of Civilian jeep – CJ7.

13. In 1976 Jeep Motors presented its top-of-the-line model – Wagoneer Limited. It featured a leather interior, AM/FM stereo radio and plenty of chrome. But due to Arab League embargo and following global oil crisis, the production of Wagoneer and Gladiator models had dropped drastically. On the other hand, CJ jeeps were in great demand.

14. In 1984 the company two modified variants of its previous models: 2/4 door Cherokee and 4-door Wagoneer. The new Wagoneer was relatively smaller than its predecessor – 1963 Jeep model. It was 53,3 cm shorter in length and 15 cm narrower, also 10 cm shorter in height and 453 kg lighter. The Cherokee model was the only car in the compact class, to feature four-door layout and two-wheel drive system – CommandTrac and SelectTrac. It took six years for the competitors to catch up with Jeep at this segment. The success of the Jeep, in particular the Cherokee model was not fleeting. The car was named the best SUV of 1984.

15. Jeep Wrangler, the most compact of all jeeps, was presented in 1986. While smaller, it shared incredible off-road performance of Jeep family.

16. In 1987 the American Motors Corporation went bankrupt, and was bought by Chrysler. The Jeep trademark become Chryslers property as well. The new owner decided to modernize Jeep.

17. During the seven years of production, Cherokee was the most popular model of the Chrysler corporation in Europe. A milestone and symbol of triumph of the Jeep XJ series come on March 22, 1990, when the one-millionth Jeep XJ – a Cherokee Limited, was produced.

18. On January 7, 1992 at the Detroit Motor Show, Jeep Motors had presented a brand new model – the Grand Cherokee. This model combined within itself a strict and simple nature of SUV with comfortable interior of a full-sized luxury car. This model quickly gains its popularity among upper class car enthusiasts.

19. The Jeep is hands down, one of the most recognizable automobile brands in the world. In some languages, such as, for example, in Russian, the brand name had become synonymous with the designation of a cross-country vehicles.

20. Currently, Jeep sells its vehicles in more than hundred countries. The global financial crisis of 2007–08 took away many automakers, big and small alike, including Chrysler, the parent company of the Jeep Motors. Nevertheless, as on 2009 Jeep was one of the most stable and profitable divisions of Chrysler. In spite of parent company’s bankruptcy, Jeep subdivision was still self-sufficient, and was bought by the Italian auto giant Fiat. Thanks to financial support of the new owner, company quickly recovered after the crisis of 2009. Remarkably, just three years later, Jeep had beaten its own record in terms of sales.

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