Jeep History and Information
Jeep is an automobile marquee (and registered trademark) of
DaimlerChrysler. The marquee, like all other Chrysler subsidiaries, became
part of DaimlerChrysler when Daimler-Benz merged with the Chrysler
Corporation in 1998. Jeep, like Band-Aid and Xerox, is rapidly becoming
a genericized trademark. Unlike Band-Aid and Xerox, however, jeep did
not start out as a trademark. The term was first applied to a military
vehicle, the Bantam BRC, Willys-Overland, Ford Motor Company for the
United States Army during World War II. The term is also sometimes used
to refer generically to what are now known as SUVs, whether the vehicle
in question bears the Jeep nameplate or not. The army jeep was one of
the vehicles that led to the SUV era of the 1980s.
A road that is only suitable for off-road vehicles is often called a
jeep trail. The most famous is perhaps Black Bear Road (you don't have
to be crazy to drive this road but it helps), made famous in
the song of the same name by C.W. McCall, author of the 1976 hit Convoy
(2 years later released as a movie). C.W. McCall (aka, William Dale Fries)
also wrote and sung a song called Four Wheel Drive, which details a high-speed
cat and mouse chase involving his Jeep CJ-5 and a "smokey" through the mud and the
crud and the corn fields.
The origin of the term jeep
There are many stories about where the name "jeep" came from. The
following two reasons for the name "jeep", although they make
interesting and memorable stories, aren't quite accurate.
- Probably the most popular notion has it that the vehicle bore the
designation "GP" (for "General Purpose"), which was phonetically
slurred into the word jeep. R. Lee Ermey, on his television series
Mail Call, disputes this, saying that the vehicle was designed for
specific duties, was never referred to as "General Purpose," and that
the name may have been derived from Ford's nomenclature referring to
the vehicle as GP (G for government-use, and P to designate its
80-inch-wheelbase). "General purpose" does appear in connection with
the vehicle in the WW2 TM 9-803 manual, which describes the vehicle as
"... a general purpose, personnel, or cargo carrier especially
adaptable for reconnaissance or command, and designated as 1/4-ton 4x4
Truck", and the vehicle is also designated a "GP" in TM 9-2800,
Standard Military Motor Vehicles, 1 September, 1943, but whether the
average jeep-driving GI would have been familiar with either of these
manuals is open to debate.
Many, including Ermey, claim that the more likely origin is a
reference to a character from the Thimble Theater (Popeye) comic strip
known as Eugene the Jeep. Eugene the Jeep was a dog-like character who
could walk through walls and ceilings, climb trees, fly, and just
about go anywhere it wanted; it is thought that soldiers at the time
were so impressed with the new vehicle's versatility that they
informally named it after the character.
|Eugene the Jeep is a small, yellow, magical animal.
In the original Popeye cartoons, he didn't live with Popeye because Eugene is usually busy ruling Jeep
Island. But because of his ability to foretell the future, the little
animal always appeared when Popeye or Swee'pea needs his special talents.
The manuals quoted were published in 1943. The character of "Eugene
the Jeep" was created in 1936. The first common use of the term "jeep"
predates both of these by roughly 20 years. It was during World War I
that soldiers used "jeep" as a slang word for new recruits as well as
new, unproven vehicles. This is according to a history of the vehicle
for an issue of the U.S. Army magazine, Quartermaster Review, which was
written by Maj. E. P. Hogan. He went on to say that the slang word had
these definitions as late as the start of World War II.
The term would eventually be used as slang to refer to an airplane, a
tractor used for hauling heavy equipment, and an autogyro. When the
first models of the jeep came to Camp Holabird for tests, the vehicle
didn't have a name yet. Therefore the soldiers on the test project
called it a jeep. Civilian engineers and test drivers who were at the
camp during this time were not aware of the military slang term. They
most likely were familiar with the character of Eugene the Jeep and
therefore began to credit Eugene with the name. The vehicle had many
other nicknames at this time such as Peep, Pygmy, and Blitz-Buggy
although because of the Eugene association, Jeep stuck in people's minds
better than any other term.
Words of the Fighting Forces by Clinton A. Sanders, a dictionary of
military slang, published in 1942, in the library at The Pentagon gives
the following definition:
Jeep: A four-wheel drive car 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 1/2 ton command car. Also referred to as 'any small plane,
helicopter, or gadget.
The term went into widespread public use because of a syndicated news
column written by Kathryn Hillyer who was working for the Washington
Daily News. Hillyer had been assigned to cover a publicity stunt and
Senate photo op where the jeep was presented to the public. The Army
brought a jeep to the Capitol in order for it to climb the front steps
of the building and show off the vehicle's power. When test driver
Irving "Red" Housman was asked by a bystander "What is this thing?" he
responded simply with "It's a jeep." Hillyer heard this and used the
name in her column which was printed around the country.
|In September 1940 a team headed
by Karl Probst delivered to the U.S. Army a prototype for the World
War II Jeep. This small four-wheel drive vehicle was produced by the
American Bandam Car Co., located one block east. Here, Bantam
manufactured 2,675 Jeeps. Although larger companies ultimately
received the chief wartime orders, it was Bantam-in cooperation with
the Army-that originally created the jeep.
Nellybelle the Jeep - Old WWII CJ-2A Jeep that
was constantly conking out on Pat Brady, the bumbling cook and sidekick
of Roy Rogers "King of the Cowboys" and Dale Evans "Queen of the West (&
Cowgirls)" on the western adventure THE ROY ROGERS SHOW/NBC/1951-57. As
Pat Brady drove around Mineral City, the setting of the series, he had
the odd habit of talking sweetly to his Jeep as if his verbal
compliments could convince Nellybelle to get up and go. Roy Rogers chose
to include a Jeep into the program because he noticed that after WWII,
the Jeeps were real popular, especially with children. Rogers himself
owned a Jeep which he used for hunting, off road cruising and travel to
and from his studio. Nellybelle's license number was 3P5-388.
Nelly belle was a 1946 Willys CJ-2A Jeep, which had some unusual
bodywork. It was in fact owned by Roy, but was driven in the show by his
comic sidekick, Pat Brady. The name apparently developed out of Pat
riding an ornery mule in the earlier movies, and addressing it with
phrases like "Whoa, Nelly!" In most episodes of the show,
Nellybelle's name is painted on her doors. You can see Nellybelle
II and many wonderful memories of Roy and Dale's life, at their museum
in Branson, MO.
The origins of the vehicle: the first jeep
The first prototype was built for the Department of the Army by
American Bantam, followed by two other competing prototypes produced by
Ford and Willys-Overland. The American Bantam Car Company actually built
and designed the vehicle that first met the Army's criteria, but the
Army felt that the company was too small to supply the number needed and
it allowed Willys and Ford to make second attempts on their designs
after seeing Bantam's vehicle in action. Some people believe that Ford
and Willys also had access to Bantam's technical paperwork. Quantities
(1500) of each of the three models were then extensively field tested.
During the bidding process for 16,000 "jeeps", Willys-Overland offered
the lowest bid and won the initial contract. Willys thus designed what
would become the standardized jeep, designating it a model MB military
vehicle and building it at their plant in Toledo, Ohio.
Willys was a small company and the military was concerned about their
ability to produce large quantities of the vehicle. They were also
concerned about only having one manufacturing facility for producing the
vehicle and being susceptible to sabotauge. Based on these two concerns
the U.S. government allowed jeeps to be built by the Ford Motor Company,
who designated the vehicle as model GPW (G indicated a governmental
vehicle, P indicated the wheelbase, and W referred to the Willys design).
Combined production by Willys and Ford under the direction of Charles E
Sorensen, Vice-President of Ford during World War II, produced more than
The jeep was widely copied in countries other than the United States,
such as in France by Hotchkiss and in the Netherlands by Nekaf. There
were several different versions created such as a railway jeep and an
amphibious jeep. As part of the war effort, Jeeps were supplied to the
Soviet Red Army during World War II.
In the United States military, the jeep has been supplanted by a
number of vehicles (e.g., Ford's M151, nicknamed the Mutt) of which the
latest is the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle ("Humvee")
The Jeep Marquee
A division of DaimlerChrysler, the most recent successor company to
Willys, now holds trademark status on the word "Jeep" and the
distinctive 7 slot front grille design. The original 9 slot grill
associated with all WW2 jeeps was designed by Ford for their GPW, and
because it weighed less than the original "Slat Grill" of Willys, (an
arrangement of flat bars) was incorporated into the "Standardized jeep"
The marquee has gone through many owners, starting in 1941 with Willys,
which produced the first Civilian Jeep (CJ). Willys was sold to Kaiser
in 1953, which became Kaiser-Jeep in 1963. American Motors bought the
company in 1970. The Chrysler Corporation bought out AMC in 1987,
shortly after the Jeep CJ was replaced with the AMC-designed Jeep
Wrangler or YJ. Finally, Chrysler merged with Daimler-Benz in 1998 to
Jeep vehicles are also produced in Beijing, China, by Beijing Jeep
Corporation, Ltd., a joint venture between Beijing Automobile Industry
Corporation, DaimlerChrysler and DaimlerChrysler China Invest
Corporation, established on January 15, 1984.
Jeep vehicles have "model designations" in addition to their common
names. Nearly every civilian Jeep has a '-J' designation, though not all
are as well-known as the classic CJ.
|Kaiser bought Willys in 1953, AMC
bought Kaiser in 1970, and Chrysler bought AMC in 1987. Then
Chrysler merged with Daimler in 1998. The Germans who lost the war
to the Jeep eventually owned it!
Historical Jeep Models
The Jeep brand currently produces these models:
TJD - The Unlimited Wrangler, with a 10" longer wheelbase
and 15" longer overall (includes Unlimited Rubicon models).
JK - The
latest version of the Wrangler, released as
a 2007 model.
JKL - The long wheelbase, 4-door version of the 2007
Jeep Grand Cherokee - large family-oriented
WK - The newest Grand Cherokee, 2006-present ("WK" is the
designator for the new Grand Cherokee, it is one of the few
Jeep Liberty -
KJ - A small
Jeep Commander -
Newest model in the Jeep line, it is a seven passenger
- Jeep Compass
(2007) - A small
crossover SUV based on the
Dodge Caliber architecture.
- Jeep Patriot (2007) - A small
Dodge Caliber architecture.
Jeep Experimental, Prototype Models
and Jeep Concept Vehicles photo gallery
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