The history of Jeep vehicles is full of stories like being the first vehicle to climb to the top of the Ojos del Salado Volcano in the Andes Mountains and setting world records for the longest Jeep parade.
While Jeep is a big part of popular culture, its origins reach back to World War II. Let’s see when did Jeep start and what got them to where they are today.
The Beginning of the History of Jeep Vehicles
With World War II looming, the U.S. Army asked for bids from 135 car makers for a “light reconnaissance vehicle” in 1940. Only three of those companies responded — Ford, Bantam, and Willys.
Within a year, the companies came up with the design of the vehicle that became known as the “jeep”. It’s never been confirmed but legend has it the name was an abbreviation for “Just Enough Essential Parts”.
Willys delivered the original prototype “Quad” which has a strong resemblance to modern Jeeps over 80 years later.
Jeep’s Growth After the War
Willys and Ford built over 630,000 Keeps during World War II but as the war was winding down, Willys started to think about what it could do to keep the vehicle alive. It improved the headlights and added a tailgate to make the vehicle more civilian-friendly and started selling them to consumers.
While a lot of the vehicles continued to go to the military, Willys had a huge advantage that helped Jeeps become famous. After the war, there were Jeeps left all over the world so they were a familiar sight almost everywhere.
When Was Jeep Founded?
Between the late 1940s and the 1960s, the company gradually added more Jeep products to its stable. Models like the Wagoneer SUV and Gladiator pickup expanded its reach beyond the traditional military-style Jeep.
This led to the company dropping the Willys name and becoming the Kaiser-Jeep Corporation. In 1969, American Motors bought the company — that’s when Jeep truly started as a brand.
The Modernization of Jeep
Jeep vehicles were one of the strongest sellers in AMC’s stable of vehicles throughout the 1970s. This is when the iconic Jeep CJ models hit the market.
In 1984, the Jeep Cherokee debuted. The SUV used a unibody, which no other car manufacturer had done up to that point. The simple, boxy shape still looked like a Jeep but was much more elegant and upscale. Even so, it lived up to Jeep’s reputation for excellent off-road capabilities.
The original Cherokee design saw many modifications over its life but it ran for 18 years, including through an ownership change when Chrysler bought AMC in 1987.
What’s Next for Jeep?
It won’t be long before the history of Jeep will span a century but the brand keeps improving the existing models and coming up with new, exciting ideas. It’s good at keeping traditions alive though. You could look at modern models and still wonder, “Just how old are those Jeep cars?”
Be sure to check out the rest of our site for more interesting articles about Jeeps and other favorite brands of vehicles.