Jeep is a brand known around the world for their off-roaders with vehicles that are designed to tackle the toughest of climates, road conditions and is suitable for all drivers. But do you know much about how they became the go to brand for off-roading fun? We’ve got all the details below for you! 


History of Jeep

In 1940 America was not yet involved in the Second World War but it was looking increasingly likely that they would be and so the US military contacted over a hundred car manufacturers to design a prototype vehicle that could then be mass produced for the army.

They asked for a lightweight vehicle that could easily be transported across the Atlantic and used for reconnaissance but would also be tough enough to carry military equipment in a combat environment.

Only three companies ended up responding to this request and they were Willys-Overland, Bantam and Ford.  They each worked on different vehicles that fulfilled different needs but it was Willys-Overland’s models that would become the Jeep we know today.

Jeep in the War

There were a couple of prototypes made before Willys MB, the version that was eventually approved and used by the army.

First came Willys-Overland’s prototype Quad, named for the 4x4 driving system it used, which was delivered in just 75 days of receiving the army’s criteria. After this the company then adapted the vehicle to create the MA which added a handbrake, low and rounded side door cut outs, a steering column mounted gear shift and a few other changes to make it better suited for the Army’s specific needs.

The MA then became the MB when it underwent a second round of changes, and this is the model that is generally considered the first Jeep. There’s a lot of speculation on how the car became known as the Jeep and nobody really knows which is the correct story but it was so well known by the moniker that in 1950 the name was trademarked and Jeep became a brand.

Jeep After the War

When the war was over the MB was modified and went on to be sold on the American market under the name CJ, which stood for civilian Jeep. Its rugged looks and impressive off-road capabilities made it popular with drivers of all ages and across the states, with their different road conditions and terrains.

Over the following decades Jeep continued to expand with SUVs such as the Wrangler and Cherokee, pick up trucks like the J-2000 and even a short-lived van.

The Jeep brand has had a few owners during this time but the essence of the brand has remained the same. In 1953 Willys-Overland was sold to Kaiser Motors and they continued to produce Jeeps until American Motors Corporation (AMC) purchased the brand in 1970.

AMC utilised their existing passenger components to help increase the production volume so they could continue to grow on the American and international markets. In 1987 AMC was bought out by the Chrysler Corporation when they went into financial difficulties. Since then Chrysler has gone through a few name changes and restructuring themselves but Jeep remains a part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Evolution of Jeep Cars

Willys MA

The first vehicle that was called a Jeep was Willy’s MA. Though it was only a short lived model compared to some of their others but it was the fore-father of the MB which is considered the original Jeep icon.

It featured a gearshift on the steering column, low side body cutouts, two circular instrument clusters on the dashboard, and a handbrake on the left side of the driver.

In order to meet the army’s 2,160 pound weight requirement they shortened nuts and bolts and lightened the panels.


Willys MB

The MB is the model that made it into the war and the history books as the most capable off-roader at the time.

As the second generation of the MA, items that were removed to meet the original weight limit were reinstalled. Additionally as the war progressed changes were made to improve the vehicles for better user function.

It was a versatile car that was able to be fitted with .30 or .50 caliber machine guns, could be modified for sand deserts, snow plowing, telephone cable laying, saw milling, fire-fighting, to be a field ambulance and even a tractor. They were used by the US army and their allies throughout WW2 and one even received an honourable Purple Heart for its service.

Jeep CJ-5

When Kaiser took over the Jeep brand they were quick to announce the new CJ-5 which was a new softer direction for the brand, with rounded body contours and more comfortable interior while still providing incredible off-roading capability and being stronger and more versatile than previous models.

In 1965 it was boosted with a V6 engine that nearly doubled the power of the standard four-cylinder engine it had before and then in 1973 all CJ models were offered with the V8 engines for better power and off-road performance.

During its life the CJ-5 was sold in a number of special editions and was one of the most successful models under the Kaiser umbrella.


Jeep Wagoneer

In 1963 Jeep began to sell the Wagoneer – a 4x4 SUV designed for luxury. The focus was on its styling, comfort and convenience but that didn’t mean the four-wheel-drive and off-roading tools were any less than Jeep was known for. It was full of firsts such as the first automatic system in a 4x4 and the first 4x4 with independent front suspension, but most notably it was the first real luxury SUV and the beginning of cars like the Range Rover Evoque and Audi Q3 that saw driver comfort and convenience as important as the ability of the car.

The popularity of the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer meant it was sold for over thirty years in the original production run and has since been reintroduced to the current Jeep line up.  

Jeep J Series

The J tag was given to Jeep’s series of pick up trucks from the early 1960s to the late 80s.

It covered a lot of different vehicles including the Gladiator which was a truck originally released in 1963 on the same platform and powertrain as the popular Wagoneer.

The two different sized pick ups were then rebranded as the J-200 and J-300 to make their size difference recognisable from their naming. These were then later renamed as the J-2000 and J-3000 respectively in 1965 and were produced until 1987 with regular updates to keep them in line with the advances the company made in driving technology and comfort features.


Jeep Cherokee

The Cherokee is a car still produced to this day though it looks a little different to the original model you can see pictured to the left.

It was originally designed as a sportier, two-door version of the Wagoneer with bucket seats, a sports steering wheel and detailing inspired by racing to attract a younger and more adventurous driver.

Jeep then added the Grand Cherokee and over the years there have been several variations of both the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee as the styling, technology and systems were updated to keep up with the latest advancements.

Jeep Wrangler

The Jeep Wrangler replaced the popular CJ series to become Jeep’s go to off-road model. It had a wider track, angled grille, rectangular headlights and a modern interior making it a modern and stylish choice that seemed a little more refined than the CJ but was just as capable.

Today’s Wrangler  takes inspiration from the original model which is visible in the shape and styling features, however it contains all the latest 4x4 systems, driver assistance technology and comfort features.


Jeep Today

Jeep remains the go to brand for drivers looking for a car that’s as comfortable and capable off the road as it is on the road and is sold around the world. They continue to make cars that recognise the heritage of their original models but are capable of performing in the modern world with the challenges that drivers face today.

If you think a Jeep could be the right choice for your next lease then take a look at our great Jeep leasing deals


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