Flashback: The JEEP Celebrates 66 years
By James Grahame
The JEEP was created during WWII as a light reconnaissance utility vehicle. What you might not know is that there were originally multiple JEEPs built by several manufacturers -- the Bantam BRC-40, Willys MA and the Ford GP. The vehicle grew out of the US government's requirements for a "General purpose, personnel, or cargo carrier especially adaptable for reconnaissance or command, and designated as 1/4-ton 4x4 Truck." Ford's GP designation didn't mean "General Purpose," as most people believed. The G referred to "Government," while P was an internal code that referred to its wheelbase.
Willy's was contracted to produce 16,000 of the vehicles in July 1941, primarily on the basis of their vehicle's more powerful engine and low price. A number of design elements were incorporated from the Ford and Bantam designs and it was designated the Willys MB (Military Model B). The company was unable to keep up with the demand for this versatile little vehicle, and Ford began to produce a licensed version -- the Ford GPW -- later that year.
The most famous feature of the JEEP is probably the stamped slotted grille, created by Ford to reduce material and manufacturing costs. There were nine slats in the original Ford version. Ford decided not to produce the JEEP after the war and Willy's reworked the grille to become the "classic" seven slot look that is familiar to modern JEEP enthusiasts.
Over 500,000 of these versatile little machines were built during WWII, and various military derivatives remained in production until 1968. Literally millions of CJs (Civilian JEEPs) have been produced, and the design single-handedly inspired 4X4 models from Toyota, Land Rover, Suzuki and others.
Read more about the JEEP's early history [off-road.com]