Jeep is an automobile marque (and registered trademark) of Chrysler. It is the oldest off-road vehicle (also sport utility vehicle - SUV) brand, with Land Rover coming in a close second. The original vehicle which first appeared as the prototype Bantam BRC became the primary light 4 wheel drive car of the US Army and allies during the World War II and postwar period. Many vehicles serving similar military and civilian roles have since been created by many nations.
This account may confuse the jeep with the nickname of another series of vehicles with the GP designation. The Electro-Motive Division of General Motors, a maker of railroad locomotives, introduced its "General Purpose" line in 1949, using the GP tag. These locomotives are commonly referred to as Geeps, pronounced the same way as "Jeep."
Many, including Ermey, suggest that soldiers at the time were so impressed with the new vehicles that they informally named it after Eugene the Jeep, a cartoon character that "could go anywhere".
The term "jeep" was first commonly used during World War I (1914–1918) by soldiers as a slang word for new recruits and for 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 "jeep" had these definitions as late as the start of World War II.
"Jeep" had been used as the name of a small tractor made by Moline.
The term "jeep" 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 did not 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 Eugene the Jeep and thought that Eugene was the origin of the name. The vehicle had many other nicknames at this time such as Peep (the term originally used in the Armored Force), 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 this definition:
Early in 1941, Willys-Overland demonstrated the vehicle's ability by having it drive up the U.S. Capitol steps, driven by Willy's test driver Irving "Red" Haussman, who had recently heard soldiers at Fort Holabird calling it a "jeep." When asked by syndicated columnist Katherine Hillyer for the Washington Daily News (or by a bystander, according to another account) what it was called, Irving answered, "It's a jeep."
Katherine Hillyer's article was published on February 20, 1941 around the nation and included a picture of the vehicle with the caption:
This exposure caused all other jeep references to fade, leaving the 4x4 truck with the name.
The first jeep prototype (the Bantam BRC) was built for the Department of the Army by American Bantam in Butler, Pennsylvania, 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 its engine did not meet the Army's torque requirements. Plus, 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 (1,500) 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.
Like American Bantam, Willys-Overland was a small company and, likewise, the military was concerned about their ability to produce large quantities of jeeps. The military was also concerned that Willys-Overland had only one manufacturing facility: something that would make the supply of jeeps more susceptible to sabotage or production stoppages.
Based on these two concerns, the U.S. government required that jeeps also be built by the Ford Motor Company, who designated the vehicle as model GPW (G = governmental vehicle, P showed the wheelbase, and W = the Willys design). Willys and Ford, under the direction of Charles E. Sorensen (Vice-President of Ford during World War II), produced more than 600,000 jeeps containing their cost slightly above 300 dollars per unit, due to its mass-production system economy. Besides just being a "truck" the jeep was used for many other purposes.
The jeep was widely copied around the world, including in France by Hotchkiss et Cie (after 1954, Hotchkiss manufactured Jeeps under license from Willys), and in Japan by Mitsubishi Motors. There were several versions created, including a railway jeep and an amphibious jeep. As part of the war effort, Jeeps were also supplied to the Soviet Red Army during World War II.During the jeep's service in Korea the name was referred to as "Just Enough Essential Parts" by the troops due to the very basic design.
The utilitarian good looks of the original Jeep have been hailed by industrial designers and museum curators alike. The Museum of Modern Art described the Jeep as a masterpiece of functionalist design, and has periodically exhibited the Jeep as part of its collection.
The French automaker Renault began investing in AMC in 1979. However, by 1987, the automobile markets had changed and even Renault itself was experiencing financial troubles. At the same time, Chrysler Corporation wanted to capture the Jeep brand, as well as other assets of AMC. Chrysler bought out AMC in 1987, shortly after the Jeep CJ was replaced with the AMC-designed Jeep Wrangler or YJ. Chrysler merged with Daimler-Benz in 1998 to form DaimlerChrysler. DaimlerChrysler eventually sold most of their interest in Chrysler to a private equity company in 2007. Chrysler and the Jeep division now operate under the name Chrysler Holding LLC.
Toledo, Ohio has been the headquarters of the Jeep marque since its inception, and the city has always been proud of this heritage. Although no longer produced in the same factory as the World War II originals, two streets in the vicinity of the old plant are named Willys Parkway and Jeep Parkway.
American Motors set up the first automobile-manufacturing joint venture in the People's Republic of China on January 15, 1984 . The result was Beijing Jeep Corporation, Ltd., in partnership with Beijing Automobile Industry Corporation, to produce the Jeep Cherokee (XJ) in Beijing. Manufacture continued after Chrysler's buyout of AMC. This joint venture is now part of DaimlerChrysler and DaimlerChrysler China Invest Corporation. The original 1984 XJ model was updated and called the "Jeep 2500" toward the end of its production that ended after 2005.
Jeep vehicles have "model designations" in addition to their common names. Nearly every civilian Jeep until the mid-2000s has an 'xJ' designation, though not all are as well-known as the classic CJ. Chrysler has now changed to an "xK" designation.
A division of Chrysler Holdings, the most recent successor company to Willys, now holds trademark status on the name "Jeep" and the distinctive 7-slot front grille design. The original 9-slot grille associated with all WW2 jeeps was designed by Ford for their GPW, and because it weighed less than the original "Slat Grille" of Willys, (an arrangement of flat bars) was incorporated into the "standardized jeep" design.
The General Motors Hummer and Chrysler Jeep have been waging battle in US courts over the right to use seven slots in their respective radiator grills. Chrysler Jeep claims it has the exclusive rights to use the seven vertical slits since it is the sole remaining assignee of the various companies since Willys gave their post-war jeeps seven slots instead of Ford's nine-slot design for the Jeep. So far, GM has won in both US federal trial and appellate courts such that the Hummer continues having the seven slit grille.
Jeeps have always been known for their abilities off-road, and their popularity endures. Today, the Wrangler is the only light-duty vehicle offered in North America with solid axles front and rear. These axles are known for their durability due to their overall strength and lack of rubber boots to get torn on twigs and rocks. Solid-axled vehicles also generally articulate better, especially when traversing ruts. Even the two wheel drive models are equipped with "solid" axles in the front.
Another plus of solid axle vehicles is they tend to be easier and cheaper to "lift." This "lifting" increases the distance between the center of the axle hub and chassis of the vehicle. By increasing this distance, larger tires can be installed, which will increase the ground clearance of the Jeep, allowing it to traverse even larger and more difficult obstacles. Jeep is also known as a symbol of freedom because of the capacity of going almost everywhere. Many people equip theirs with roll-bars, extra lights, and maybe a winch to pull the vehicle out from the mud or sand when stuck.
Useful features of the smaller Jeeps are their short wheelbases, narrow frames, and great approach, breakover, and departure angles, allowing them to fit places where full - sized trucks could never go.