Jeep is a division of Chrysler Group LLC as a brand of American automobiles that was acquired by the former Chrysler Corporation in 1987. The first Jeeps were produced as an off-road brand in 1941, the Willys MB used by the United State Army and its Allies during WWII. The first civilian model was produced in 1945.

The origin of the word jeep has not been verified, but the best theory is the design was designated as a General Purpose vehicle (GP) and may have been coined into Jeep. Other jeep names have been used over the years. In 1914 US Army mechanics used the name to test new vehicles. In 1937, tractors supplied to the Army by Minneapolis Moline were called jeeps. The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was also nicknamed the jeep.

A Military slang dictionary defined jeep as: “A four-wheel drive vehicle of one-half to one-and-one-half-ton capacity for reconnaissance or other army duty. A term applied to the bantam-cars, and occasionally to other motor vehicles (U.S.A.) in the Air Corps, the Link Trainer; in the armored forces, the one-half-ton command vehicle. Also referred to as “any small plane, helicopter, or gadget.”

Willys-Overland demonstrated an off-road vehicle early in 1941 by driving it up the United States Capitol building. The driver, Irving “Red” Haussman was asked by columnist Katharine Hillyer for the Washington Daily News what it was, he answered, “It’s a jeep.” He had recently heard soldiers calling it a jeep.

The application for the Jeep name was filed in February 1943 by Willys-Overland and in June 1950, they were granted the name “Jeep” as a registered trademark.

Initially, the Bantam Car Company was given the contract to build a prototype off-road vehicle for the Army. However, the Army decided that Bantam could not handle the demands of the vehicles needed, so Willys and Ford were given the design and encouraged to make whatever changes were needed.

Two prototypes were made the Ford “Pygmy” and Willys “Quad”. There 1500 of each built and field tested. Changes were made and the final version Jeep by Willys-Overland was the Model MB.

An average of 145 Jeeps were supplied to each infantry. Their uses were for cable laying, saw milling, fire fighting, ambulances, tractors and modified to run on railroad tracks.

Kaiser Motors bought Willys in 1953 and was renamed Kaiser-Jeep in 1963. American Motors acquired the company in 1970. Renault began to invest in the company in 1979, but it began to experience financial problems and in 1987 Chrysler bought AMC. Chrysler merged with Daimler-Benz in 1998 and formed Daimler-Chrysler. In 2007, Daimler-Chrysler sold most of their interest and now Chrysler and Jeep are a division of Chrysler Group LLC.

The Jeep brand headquarters have been based in Toledo, Ohio since its inception. The Jeep Wrangler has solid front and rear axles known for durability. Only a few other brands offer this drivetrain.

Image Caption: 1943 Jeep. Credit: Joost J. Bakker/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)