Willys-Overland built 368,000 vehicles for the U.S. Army, starting with the Quad in 1941, with the vehicles acquiring the nickname Jeep during their stint in World War II. Willys trademarked the name after the war ended, and went on to build a wide range of civilian utility vehicles.
The brand has changed owners several times:
- In 1953, Willys-Overland was sold to Henry J. Kaiser for $60 million.
- American Motors Corporation (AMC) bought Kaiser's Jeep brand in 1970.
- Chrysler acquired Jeep in 1987.
- DaimlerChrysler gained control in 1998.
- Jeep was part of Chrysler LLC's 2007 purchase.
- Chrysler Group LLC (which includes Fiat) owns the brand now.
This civilian Jeep timeline offers a quick look back at a portion of Jeep's history.
The Jeep CJ-2A was built from 1945 to 1949, and was the first civilian Jeep to come off of the assembly line. The CJ-2A has several features that weren't found on military Jeeps, including a tailgate, a side-mounted spare tire, larger headlights and an external fuel cap. The vehicle's 134-cubic inch 4-cylinder engine, T-90A transmission, Spicer 18 transfer case and Dana front and rear axles were used on future Jeeps.
The Jeep CJ-3A was introduced in 1948 and available until 1953. It was similar to the CJ-2A, but had a one-piece windshield and beefier rear axle.
The CJ-3A was updated in 1953 and marketed as the CJ-3B. Its front grille and hood were made taller to accommodate the new Hurricane F-head 4-cylinder engine. The CJ-3B was produced until 1968, and 155,494 of the vehicles were manufactured in the United States.
Kaiser introduced the CJ-5 in 1955, modeling it after the M-38A1 used in the Korean War. The CJ-5 had slightly rounded front fenders and was larger than the CJ-3B (with an 81-inch wheelbase and overall longer length). The CJ-5 offered more comfortable seating than its predecessors, and over 600,000 were built before production ended in in 1983.
The Jeep CJ-6 had more cargo space and a longer wheelbase (+20 inches), but otherwise was nearly identical to the CJ-5.
The entire CJ line received a forward-control cab-over-engine variation in 1956. A new "Dauntless" V-6 engine became an option on both the 81-inch wheelbase CJ-5 and 101-inch wheelbase CJ-6 in 1965 -- the 155-horsepower engine nearly doubled the hp of the standard four-cylinder engine, and was the first time a CJ was available with a V-6.
When AMC came along in 1970, it outfitted the CJ-5 and the CJ-6 with heavier axles, bigger brakes and a wider track. Starting in 1973, all Jeep CJs were equipped with AMC's 304- or 360-cubic-inch V-8 engines.
The Jeepster was the company's last open-body vehicle (using side curtains instead of roll-down windows).
The Willys Wagon was a 104.5-inch wheelbase vehicle that was produced for nearly two decades, from 1946 to 1965. Starting in 1949, buyers could opt for a four-wheel drive option.
Beginning in 1946, Jeep built a 118-inch wheelbase pickup that didn't see many changes before production ended in 1965. The company describes it as Willys-Overland's "first attempt to diversify the Jeep brand from the CJ."
Jeep FC 150/170 Pickup: 1957 - 1965
Both of these Forward-Control series Jeeps were work trucks (an 81-inch wheelbase for the FC 150 and a 103.5 inch wheelbase for the FC 170). They remained basically the same throughout the years, with just a few exceptions. Some 1959 and 1960 trucks had full-floating front and rear axles and some 1959 trucks were equipped with dual rear wheels and a 4-speed manual transmission.