The Unstoppable Jeep History

The Unstoppable Jeep History

The Jeep won WWll – such was the reputation of the unstoppable Jeep, and it went on the become the most recognizable trademark in the world, second only to Coca Cola.
Going back to WWI days the American Army was aware it needed a light general purpose fast response vehicle, and it did have one developing during WWI – the experimental Hupmobile,  but it really wasnt until 1940 that the Army had to become serious in developing a LMV [Light Military Vehicle] that was capable of performing multiple tasks with reliability.

  • The Army drew up quite a list of the initial requirements it wanted, which included:
    4 wheel drive
    3 passengers plus driver
    1600lb maximum weight, plus 600lb payload
    75 inch maximum wheelbase
    47 inch maximum track
    Pedestal machine gun mount fixed to the chassis
    3 mph crawl speed
    50mph minimum top speed
    and so the list went on.

Some items like the maximum 1600lb weight proved impossible and this was later increased to 1850lbs.  Later it was said the Ford Jeep was given 1 coat of paint only to keep it under the weight requirement, and Bantam and Willys would also be into counting and weighing each nut and bolt scenario to keep the weight down.
The Army’s thinking here was the vehicle had to be light enough to be able to be man-handled if necessary.
Enter Bantam Motors,  a very small manufacturer of light cars,  who designed what was to become the Jeep.
From this design they were given 49 days to produce a prototype for testing and they manged this with just minutes to spare before the deadline expired.
Meantime the Army kept shopping around other manufacturers until finally Willys and Ford were asked to submit similar vehicles, and after some back and forth changes the best features of the 3 manufacturers were incorporated into the final Jeep specifications, but with each using their own running gear.
Bantam, who had just 150 employees, compared to Willys 5000, and Ford with 100,000 employees, were given an order for 2700 Jeeps, the largest order it ever received,  but it did go on to produce a considerable number or trailers and other items for the military.
From 1941 -45 Willys made 350,749 Jeeps, and Ford 290,151.

Of the two the Willys was the most popular with the troops as it was lighter with more power,  and damaged ones could be quickly stripped to provide parts to repair those in need.
The rest is really legendary with the Jeep becoming highly respected and often proved to be the only vehicle able to get through conditions that stopped even tanks and half-tracks.
After the war Willys gained ownership of the name Jeep, and continued to expand on its reputation, and in spite of financial problems and changing ownership first to Kaiser, then AMC and finally Chrysler the Jeep has survived firmly intact and well positioned for the future.

But one question remains, where did the name Jeep come from, as not everyone agrees and has been the cause of many an argument.
Most popular answer is officially it was classed as a GPV – General Purpose Vehicle, but amongst the troops this was shortened to GP which sounded jeep.
If you consider I am wrong do put a comment on the Facebook page.

See more Jeep history here:

The Army sure gave the Jeep a hard workout to get it right before ordering any.

Thankyou to Wheels for this documentry, photos are screen shots from the video.