Jeep is probably the most famous SUV manufacturer in the world. In fact, in many places word jeep became synonymous with SUV. The original Jeep was a hero of the Second World War and gave the initial push for the brand. There are thousands of hardcore Jeep fans around the globe, but are you one of them? We collected 7 facts about Jeep cars that you probably did not know.

What does Jeep mean? No one really knows. The original Jeep, which entered military service in 1941 was officially called 1/4ton truck 4×4, while for manufacturers it was just Ford GPW and Willys MB. However, soldiers and test drivers quickly began calling this vehicle Jeep. Why? Well, there are different answers to this question. For starters, this word has been used before to describe a military SUV. However, others say that a new character in famous Popeye comics Eugene the Jeep was the actual reason. After war ended both Willys-Overland and Ford wanted the name, but Willys was the one who took it.

During WW2 name Jeep was not official. You can see that the original had 9 slots in its grille. BrokenSphere, Wikimedia

How many slots are in Jeep’s iconic grille? Seven now, but in the original wartime Jeep there were nine. The design of stamped steal grille is authored by Ford, but when the rights to Jeep were awarded to Willys-Overland grille had to be changed for two reasons. Firstly, because the manufacturer wanted to avoid the conflict with Ford. Secondly, because Civilian Jeep had to have larger headlights, which ate into the grille space.

Jeep made the first real luxury SUV. Jeep Super Wagoneer, which came out in 1966, is the original luxury SUV, although Series 1 Range Rover is more often attributed with this achievement. Not only did it debut a year later, but it also was not that luxurious. In fact, while Super Wagoneer had air conditioning, modern audio system, electric tailgate, power steering and brakes, Range Rover still had a plastic interior, which you could wash with a hose.

Toyota Land Cruiser took inspiration from the Jeep. Land Cruiser is one of the biggest competitors of the rugged  off-road Jeep. But do you know that Land Cruiser originally was called Toyota Jeep? It was during WW2 that Japanese captured one Bantam made Jeep and sent it to Toyota, which had to disassemble it and reverse-engineer a new SUV for Japanese military. However, it didn’t happen as planned – you basically can’t even find pictures of Toyota Jeep in Japanese military in WW2.

Looks familiar? It is Toyota Land Cruiser from the 1970’s. Motohide Miwa, Wikimedia

But then WW2 was over and soon Korean War started. US Army needed many SUV so ordered them from Toyota – Toyota Jeep entered production in 1951. In 1953 it was already mass produced and in 1954 name had to be changed. Land Cruiser was chosen, but it wasn’t that original either – it was basically created looking at Land Rover. Obviously, Toyota Jeep never really looked like the original Jeep so you can’t really say it was created by copying Jeep from bumper to bumper.

Jeep brand had many owners. If you follow automotive industry news, you know that brands change their owners from time to time. Usually, independent ones reach a point when they can’t sustain their operations financially and are bought out by big corporations. However, Jeep really liked changing owners throughout its lifetime. Here is the timeline:

  • 1944–1953 – Willys-Overland
  • 1953–1970 – Kaiser-Jeep
  • 1970–1987 – American Motors Company (from  1986 controlled by Renault)
  • 1987–1998 – Chrysler
  • 1998–2007 – Daimler-Chrysler
  • 2007–2009 – Chrysler LLC
  • 2009–2013 – Chrysler Group LLC (beloning to Fiat Group)
  • 2014–dabar – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Jeep Renegade – probably the most hated Jeep yet. Jeep owners and enthusiasts are quite a conservative bunch. When a subcompact SUV Jeep Renegade came debuted in 2014 they were furious – it was too small, not powerful enough, meant to live in a city and just too stylish. However, that was not really true. Although Renegade is built on Fiat 500X platform, it is much different from its sister car. It is rugged and tough, if you choose the right options. As for small – it is much bigger in all dimensions than the original Jeep. And engine size doesn’t really matter as long as it can provide the power necessary to cross difficult terrain. Jeep Renegade has the best off-road ability in its class.

Jeep Wrangler is still the king of off-road. Sure, Renegade is city-oriented, but Jeep is still making the Wrangler – a utilitarian SUV. It can trace its roots right to the original Jeep. After the Second World War, Willys started producing Civilian Jeeps (Jeep CJ), which was based on the military version. Later, in 1986 it was renamed to Wrangler. You can still see some features in the Wrangler, reminding of the legendary original Jeep. By the way, Wrangler is the only car currently on the market designed to be driven with doors completely off.

Jeep Wrangler is a direct descendant of the original Jeep. (JEEP pic.)

Jeep is probably the toughest name in the automotive world. Jeep’s SUV’s are still one of the most off-road capable machines and not so long ago they started moving towards luxurious vehicles too. It makes us wonder, what Jeep line-up will look like when in the next decade or so.


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