What is the Jeep story?

The US military asked 135 manufacturers to bid on a quarter-ton capacity, four-wheel drive "light-reconnaissance vehicle," but only three responded: Bantam, Willys-Overland, and Ford. The original design came from Bantam, but there were government concerns that the company was too small so the contract eventually went to Willys. However, as part of the war effort, Ford received one to help meet demand. In fact, the famed slat grille design so commonly associated with Jeep was a Ford contribution. It weighed less than the Willys design and thus was incorporated into the standardized Jeep.

What happened after the war?

Jeep's civilian production began with the CJ-2A in 1945. A replacement, the CJ-3A, followed in 1950. The CJ-5, which was the longest running model in Jeep history, came out in 1954. Kaiser Motors bought Willys in 1953. By 1963, Jeep offered 49 unique pickups, wagons, and SUVs. American Motors, the former supplier of Kaiser V8s, purchased Jeep in 1970 and reduced the number of available models from 38 to 22 by the next year. The first new Jeep to come out under AMC was the Cherokee in 1974. At that time, the lineup was down to nine models leading to less crossover and more sales. Along with the CJ series there was a DJ series, a two-wheel drive delivery version often used by mail carriers.

What about the Wrangler?

The CJ, or "Civilian Jeep," series came to an end in 1987 when the Wrangler replaced it in the lineup. Revisions for the Wrangler came once a decade, in 1997 and again in 2007 and 2017. The Wrangler Unlimited appeared in the 2007 update; set on a longer wheelbase, it's the first four-door with the classic Jeep appearance. Wrangler models have a number of features that set them apart from most competitors:

  • Windshield: The Jeep Wrangler features a fold-flat windshield, that can lie down along the hood for off-road driving.
  • Convertible Top: The Wrangler Unlimited is currently the only four-door convertible offered in the United States.
  • Removable Doors: Many Wranglers feature removable doors for the summer driving experience. This is only possible because the doors are not structural members on the Wrangler.

Where is Jeep now?

After Chrysler's acquisition of AMC in 1987, the Jeep division was streamlined, paring out pickups and boosting the best sellers. Jeep's replacement for the long-running Cherokee was the controversial Liberty. Some complaints came from the use of independent front suspension, others from the vehicle's appearance, but it went on to receive nomination for North American Truck of the Year and outsold expectations. Jeep expanded into crossovers in 2007 with the Compass and Patriot. The Compass targeted first-time Jeep buyers not looking for any off-roading, while the Patriot was styled more as a traditional Jeep wagon with "Trail Rated" badging.