Willy: The Metal Soldier

Have you ever wondered why it’s called a Jeep or why it was created? Many people believe the name comes from the military abbreviation for general purpose, GP. Which makes sense if you know how Jeeps started. The story of how the Jeep Willy came to be is a piece of world history. Jeeps have been not only our prized possessions, but our soldiers as well.

It all began in 1940, the beginning of World War 2, the Department of War needed a new combat vehicle. So, 135 messages were sent out to companies all over the country. These companies were asked to submit a design of a small four-wheel drive vehicle that can carry a crew of three. The weight of the vehicle alone had to be no more than 1,300 lbs. and it had to be able to carry at least 660 lbs. There were many more specifics for this vehicle prototype making it difficult to create. The establishments only had a small-time frame to do this since it was needed so urgently. They had 11 days to respond, 49 days to have a prototype, and 75 days to produce 70 vehicles.

Out of the 135 messages sent, only 3 companies responded, Bantam, Ford and Willys. Bantam was originally chosen as the winner. However, they had trouble being able to produce a mass number of these within a short period of time. The design was then handed over to Willys and Ford. Each company made a vehicle to meet all the specifications. The Willys Quad and the Ford GP were the outcomes. The Willys Quad had the most powerful engine, which gave it an advantage of the two models. These two vehicles were improved by incorporating features from the Bantam and Ford GP; creating the Willys MB. More than 637,000 of these were built by Willys and Ford during World War 2, helping out everywhere they could. These Jeeps helped with things such as gun towing and were used as ambulances. They made an incredible impact on the war.

Today's Jeeps

Post the war, Willys hoped to expand Jeep into the civilian market. The manufacturers made modifications to turn it from a military vehicle to an everyday used vehicle. A tailgate, mounted spare-tire, higher windshield, and larger headlights were added to the vehicle. In 1945 the CJ2A, also known as the Universal Jeep, started being produced. It retailed for about $1,090. But it didn’t end there, the Willys Jeep Wagon, the Willys Jeep Truck, and the Willys Jeepster were all produced in 1946, 1947, and 1948. The Willy Jeep is the inspiration for all the models we have today.

Who Owns Jeep Today?

In 1963 the name was changed from Willys Motor Company to the Kaiser-Jeep Corporation. Then in 1970, American Motor Company (AMC) bought Kaisers and the jeep brand name. By 1987 Chrysler took over AMC. A little over 10 years later Daimler-Benz and Chrysler merged. Daimler eventually called it quits for financial reasons and the jeep brand name became property of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in 2014. They still own Jeep today.

Jeeps Available Now

As you may realize now, a Jeep is much more than a common vehicle, it is a part of our history. Jeeps were an important key to winning the war and became a beloved vehicle for many. The Jeeps today wouldn’t be possible without the Willy. So next time you see a Jeep driving next to you on the highway, think about the amazing story of how they came to be. If you want to see the historical Jeep Willy, Gateway Classic Cars inventory has a few at https://www.gatewayclassiccars.com/quick/jeep+willy