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The History of the Jeep Brand


The History of the Jeep Brand

2016 Jeep Renegade

Jeep is a brand that really stands out - whether you're driving the most recent addition to the lineup - the Renegade - or you're taking to the trails with the always well-respected Wrangler - there's nothing but praise for these highly-effective additions to the Jeep family.

Jeep's presence today isn't a random occurrence or the product of design chances - there is a long history of excellence that draws on the climate of world politics, wars, and a need for a vehicle that could handle harsh conditions without giving up - at least that much hasn't changed!

Step back with us to a time over 70 years into the past - to the Second World War - innovation in those days were born from a necessity and manufacturing, pushed to the limits and it is here that we find the birthplace of the vehicle that would years into the future become the Jeep. Requested by the U.S. Army, there were two companies out of a staggering one-hundred and thirty-five contacted that accepted the task and went into the process of designing, development, and creation of the first proto-Jeeps.

American Bantam Car Company and Willys-Overland tasked themselves with a deadline of just 49 days from concept to creation of a prototype.

It was a tense period that saw American Bantam Car Company hire on Karl Probst, a freelance designer from Detroit, to work, without salary, from July 17th, 1940 and in just two days come up with a full plan for a Bantam prototype known as the Bantam Reconnaissance Car (BRC).

The plans were submitted on July 22nd, 1940, with a development plan that took into account assembly from off-the-shelf automotive parts along with custom-built four-wheel drivetrain pieces.

A hand-built prototype was constructed in Butler, Pennsylvania and had its inaugural drive to Camp Holabird in Maryland for military testing on September 21st, 1940. All criteria requested by the Army were met save for the engine torque output.

Early Jeep

Despite the accomplishment, the Army held onto reservations that the Bantam company was too small to handle the output they required and presented the designs to Willys-Overland and the Ford Company with approval to make their own modifications.

Two new vehicles were born in this way - the Ford Pygmy and the Willys' Quad. In short-order, fifteen hundred of each of the three models were created, tested, and further refined.

Willys-Overland's model would eventually come to be the base of the standard "Jeep" design shortly after.

Where the name comes from is somewhat contested. There are certainly those who hold to the theory that because of the military designation, "GP" - for either Government Purposes or General Purposes - was eventually made into the colloquial "Jeep". This would follow the way the word Humvee originated from the lengthy HMMWV (High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle).

Among those who believe this to be the case is Joe Frazer, the acting president of Willys-Overland from 1939 until 1944.

This does however leave us with a bit of a problem, as the word "Jeep" was present in 1914 and used by the US Army mechanics who were tasked with testing new vehicles. The term, then, was more general and could be applied as widely as to encompass tractors, gadgets, and even aircraft.

Many other theories exist on where, precisely, the name originated.

Early Jeep WWII

All the same, early representatives of the Jeep brand entered the scene and continued to be produced throughout the end of the Second World War and were used by ever service in the US Military. After the war, numerous imitator manufacturers took on the idea of creating civilian-versions of the hardened vehicle design.

From France to Japan, automakers saw the merit and the potential of these revolutionary vehicles. All the same, the official Jeep name is one that has been owned and appropriated by a number of companies over the years.

We can trace back the first owners to Willys-Overland, who produced the first civilian Jeep as early as 1945, and would be the only official company to continue production of the vehicle line. July 1950 was a special time for the company when, after years of debate, they were granted the official ownership of the Jeep registered trademark.

Three years later, in 1953, Willys-Overland sold the brand to Kaiser Motors, leading to the eventual naming convention and subsequent Kaiser-Jeep brand in 1963.

American Motors Corporation (AMC) purchased the company in 1970, and for almost two decades. In a buy-out move, Chrysler took over the operations started by AMC in 1987, replacing a number of designs and through a number of shuffles has continued to operate the Jeep brand in one form or another since that period. Stop by Coquitlam Chrysler today and learn more about our Jeeps!

The History of the Jeep Brand

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