Did you know Jeeps were created as a result of the ever looming threat of WWII? Today Jeeps are one of the most popular vehicles of choice for off-roading enthusiasts. There are dozens of Jeep variants to choose from, but none are as iconic as the original WWII Jeep. Let's take a look at 12 facts you probably didn't know about these first Jeeps.
WWII had just come to America's doorstep, and the government was woefully aware their antiquated fleet was not sturdy enough to weather the coming storm. What was needed was a small, lightweight four wheel drive vehicle that could seat at least three people. Karl Probst was the man elected to find a solution to this issue and just two days after he started he was able to hand over a full proposal of the first Jeep.
Quite a few big-name companies were taken aback by the popularity and utility of the original Jeep and decided they also wanted a piece of the action. Take Toyota for example, who outright used the name "Jeep" in their advertisements to promote their own vehicles. This was temporary, however, as they eventually changed the name to "Land Cruiser" after talking with lawyers. Other companies have taken a more legal path, such as Ford and Mitsubishi, who have made licensed copies of the Jeep.
Jeeps may have started on the battlefield, but they eventually made their way to the civilian population where they became a major hit. One man in particular, one Mark A. Smith, made Jeeps especially popular when he gathered a group of Jeep enthusiasts and made the trek across the Rubicon Trail in 1953. Ever since that infamous trek, Jeep enthusiasts have regularly gathered to makesimilar trips (known as Jeep Jamborees).
Several decades later, Mark A. Smith once again gathered a group of fellow Jeep enthusiasts and led them on a massive expedition that spanned 21,000 miles. The group traveled through some of the most inhospitable terrains they could possibly encounter and passed through multiple countries as they did so. This expedition, known as the Expediciones De Las Americas, made Mark A. Smith a legend in the Jeep community.
No one really knows where Jeep's name originated from. One theory is Jeep derived its name from the popular cartoon "Popeye." The character's name is Eugene the Jeep. Due to the character's name, it's obvious why so many people believe this theory. However, it has never been confirmed.
Jeep wasn't just interested in making models for the military. They also created a model called the Surrey or the Gala (depending on which market you were in) in 1959 that sported a canvas top lined with fringe. This model was specifically designed for ferrying vacationers around resorts.
WWII Jeeps weren't only used to carry troops. When it was necessary, they were also capable of being converted for rail use. Once the conversation had been completed, these Jeeps were capable of pulling up to ten tons via rail.
This might come as a surprise to some of you, but Jeep provided the United States Postal Service with vehicles for 30 years. During this time Jeep was also supplying the government with a large number of vehicles and were forced to open up a separate factory dedicated solely to fulfilling government orders. After American Motor Corporation took over, that separate factory split off into an entirely separate company called AM General. Later on down the line AM General created the hummer.
With the threat of WWII looming overhead, the military wasn't interested in receiving a product that wasn't the best that it could possibly be. They needed as many units as they could get their hands on as quickly as possible. That meant the first Jeep needed to focus on both ease of production and quality. As a result, they turned to Ford who designed the 9 slotted grill that was common for Jeeps of that era. Ever since that time the Jeep brand has used a 7 slotted grille design because Ford copyrighted the 9 slot design.
WWII Jeeps were made with sturdiness in mind. Therefore it shouldn't come as a surprise that they can haul up to 600 to 1,000 pounds.
Jeeps weren't just used in Europe against the Germans. They were also utilized on the Japanese front as well. On the battlefront, Jeeps were often used to ferry around high ranking officers. Jeeps were also designed to carry the wounded, as the back seat was able to convert into a stretcher. Jeeps were also used often to lay communication lines.
Though this may sound amazing in theory, Ford's amphibious Jeep, the "Ford GPA" was a miserable failure. Ford was commissioned to build a Jeep that was capable of driving in water to aid the allies as they crossed rivers and streams. After testing, Ford realized the GPAwas too slow and heavy to be viable on the battlefield. Plus, they performed very poorly in the water. Overall, 13,000 units were produced before the project was scrapped. Thankfully the amphibious Jeeps were still put to good use by the Soviet Union who adopted them for river crossings. The Soviets would go on to develop their own amphibious vehicles.