The Jeep has a long tradition of serving America. See just how it all went down with this awesome “family tree”
(Scroll below the Jeep Family Tree for more on the history of the Jeep)
Image Source: 4WD.com
As you can see, the Jeep family tree isn’t quite as simple as you might imagine. Each family member in each generation had a different purpose… Some for war, some for fun, but all for getting off the beaten path and back home safely.
A brief history of the Jeep:
The Jeep is a testament to American engineering and ingenuity.
The Jeep’s story starts with the invention of reliable four-wheel drive components, but the meat of its history lies in the time leading up to WWII.
The U.S. military was in search of a new “scout” vehicle after versions had performed well for the military in WWI. Their requirements were, at the time, quite burdensome for any manufacturer hoping to throw their hat in the ring. It needed to be light, have 85 foot pounds of torque, and be able to carry a payload of 600 pounds. Oh, and they wanted to see a prototype in 49 days.
Only two of the 135 manufacturers invited to submit proposals actually did… Willys-Overland and The American Bantam Car Company.
Bantam, on the brink of bankruptcy, was able to field a prototype, and although it performed well in Army testing, it was just too heavy. With fears of Bantam’s ability to fulfill any order in the first place, the military extended their deadline and allowed Willys-Overland and Ford to make their own prototypes based off the Bantam design.
So while most of us associate Willys with making the earliest Jeeps, it all started with the Bantam prototype.
Willys did win the contract, shared the designs with Ford, and the companies worked to ensure the Jeep would become a major asset to the Allied Forced in WWII.
Riding the success of the Jeep on the battlefields in WWII, Willys quickly revamped and upgraded the Jeep for mass civilian production after the war. Soldiers were already sold on the reliability and durability of the Jeep, and soon the civilian Jeep became an American off-road icon.
The second half of the 20th century found the Jeep brand bouncing from Willys to AMC and eventually to Chrysler, but the Jeep managed to keep a loyal fan base no matter who owned the legendary brand.