It was the year 1940, in Butler, Pennsylvania, when Jeep set out to become one of the most iconic American brands with the Willys Quad, and would consistently rival any product on the market today. Throughout the history of Jeep, its versatility has continuously changed the world. First manufactured by the American Bantam Car Company (ABCC), the U.S. Army was the first to test the Willys Quad, but with its massive size and slow speed drawbacks, the U.S. Army defined a list of specifications for an extreme scout car and solicited bids from 135 manufacturers. To win the government contract a lightweight all-terrain military vehicle had to be produced. In July of 1941 a U.S. Army contract to manufacture 16,000 Willys MBs (revision of the Willys MB model) was awarded; with most of the MAs shipped to American allies in England and Russia. The sport utility vehicle gained popularity quickly and the lightweight 4-wheel-drive vehicle became the preferred choice for the U.S. Army and Allied Forces during World War II. However, the civilian world would not be introduced to the Jeep until late 1945.
On the TV show, Mail Call, retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey went on record saying soldiers using the Willys MB on military missions referred to the vehicle as “Eugene the Jeep”, Popeye cartoons character’s “jungle pet” able to handle any situation he encountered. In 1950, Willys-Overland registered “Jeep®” as its trademark.
For more than 70 years, Jeep® evolved with the constant changes of modern eras without deviating from their roots, subsequently developing one of the most loyal “cult followings” of any other vehicle today. Jeep®’s legendary off-road capabilities and performance are unmatched making it popular as the consumer’s choice as an all-terrain, all-weather and all-season vehicle. Whether for the extreme off-road experience or novice Sunday driver, both seek the thrill of driving off the beaten path.
“Jeep® is America’s only real sports car.” ~Enzo Ferrari, racecar aficionado.
The history of Jeep® goes back for more than 75 years, with a rich heritage connected to freedom, authenticity, adventure and passion. Through steadfast commitment, the brand has consistently proven dedication to strength with meaningful engineering and has forged an extraordinary bond between owners and their vehicles.
American Bantam Car Company manufactures the first all-terrain vehicle in Butler, Pennsylvania – 1941
U.S. Military is the first to test the Jeep
Willys MB Jeep wins U.S. Army contract bid to produce lightweight-all-terrain military vehicles
Willys MB Jeep introduced to the public – late 1945
America sees a rise of the recreational vehicle
Jeep Jamborees are manufactured
Independent carmaker Kaiser-Fraizer purchases Willys-Overland – 1953
Name changes to Willys Motor Company – 1953
Seven unique models spikes sales.
All-New Jeep Wagoneer is manufactured
The brand now has fourteen models available for play, work, recreation and luxury transportation
Name changes to Kaiser-Jeep – 1963
American Motors Corporation (AMC) purchases Kaiser-Jeep – 1970
Jeeps are equipped with the first full-time 4x4 system.
First sporty full-size 2-door Cherokee (SJ) appears
The Cherokee is awarded 4WD of the Year
Six models spike sales at an all-time high
The All-New Jeep Cherokee (XJ) rolls off the production line
Revolutionizes the 4x4 market
First 4-door SUV compact Jeep
First to be equipped with UniFrame construction
First full-time 4x4 system with shift-on-the-fly ability
Chrysler Corporation acquires AMC – 1987
In years to follow, Chrysler goes through changes
merged with Daimler-Benz
sold ownership majority to become Chrysler Group LLC
All-New 1993 Jeep® Grand Cherokee (ZJ) sets benchmark industry wide
Improved on and off road balance
New coil suspension – 1997
Grand Cherokee (WJ) noted as most capable SUV in history – 1999
Total 1990s’ sales reach 629,000 units sold
2000 – Present Day
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon most capable vehicle in Jeep’s history – 2003
4-door Wrangler variant launch
Wrangler Unlimited (4-doors) provides room and utility capabilities
Patriot and Compass first to known as small cross utility vehicles – 2006
Grand Cherokee redesign – 2011
Cherokee replaces the Liberty as redefined midsize vehicle – 2014
Renegade takes the Jeep brand into the small SUV market – 2015
There is no denying it; Jeep is an American icon that has played an intricate role in shaping the country’s (and world’s) history. From the battlefields of WWII to the backwoods and down the highways, the history of Jeep radiates American as no other vehicle can.