The History Of The Jeep Wrangler
The year is 1940, Germany have already invaded Poland setting in motion the largest war in human history with over 100 million military personnel mobilized. By this time France and the British Empire has already declared war on Hitler’s Nazi Germany. America foresaw its possible involvement in this European conflict and realized its need for a light weight, all terrain vehicle that could meet all the obstacles the military throws at it. The military put out a challenge in 1940 to 135 automobile companies to have a prototype of this type of vehicle up and running in just 49 days, a goal that to most car companies seemed unrealistic. The military also had specs they wanted the companies to follow:
Vehicle weight: approximately 1,300 pounds (This proved to be totally unrealistic and later was raised to 2,160 pounds.)
Engine (power): 85 pound-feet of torque
Wheelbase: Not more than 80 inches
Tread: Not more than 47 inches
Ground Clearance: Minimum ground clearance of 6.25 inches
Payload: 600 pounds
Cooling System: Good enough to allow a sustained low speed without overheating the engine (1)
Only three companies responded to the challenge; Ford, Bantam, and Willies. Bantam had previously manufactured vehicles for the army but none like this before. Willies overland was having trouble meeting the deadline and asked for an extension but was not granted more time. Bantam, a car company on its way to bankruptcy, no longer had any engineers on their payroll and had to turn to other options. Karl Probst, a freelancer from Detroit who previously worked for several other car companies was offered the job and initially refused, but when re-approached by the military he accepted the task without pay. Probst had the final plans for his Bantam military vehicle completed in only 2 days. Bantam’s prototype was constructed within the 49 day deadline in Butler, Pennsylvania and driven down to Maryland for military testing. The vehicle met all the military parameters except the torque requirement. Using the same design as the Bantam prototype, Ford and Willies provided their own version of the all terrain vehicle. Willies vehicle was heavier than the other two designs mainly because of the much bigger engine used in their prototype that produced a staggering 22 feet-pound of torque more than the original Bantam design and 20 more than the Ford. 1,500 of each company’s prototypes were built and field tested. After approving the vehicle for use by the military they decided the Bantam car company’s previous reputation and small size of the company was too much of a liability, and didn’t have the manufacturing power to adequately meet the militaries needs. Willies more powerful engine and good economic standing made them the obvious choice. Because the military demanded such a large amount of cars in such a short time Willies and Ford teamed up to meet the military’s needs. The end product was a little bit of Bantam, Willies, and Ford engineering all combined in one to create the ultimate all terrain vehicle to aid the military in WW2.
No one is quite sure where the name Jeep originally came from. One theory is that it was originally referred to as the General Purpose Vehicle or for short just GP and that eventually evolved into Jeep. Another theory is that it was named after Eugene the Jeep, a popular character in the Popeye cartoon strips. The last theory is that it came from military slang. In world war 1 a “Jeep” was an unproven piece of military hardware and in the 30’s it evolved into something extraordinary that could do anything like Eugene the Jeep. Although no one is certain there is a good chance that all three theories played a part in the naming of the Jeep.
Willies quickly realized that the Jeeps production didn’t have to be limited to the militaries need. Near the end of World War II, Willies started advertising the Jeep as a civilian delivery, work, and recreational vehicle. They advertised with slogans like “when I get back I’ll get a Jeep. It’ll make a swell delivery car” and “a Jeep can beat a team of horses all hollow.” Willies first civilian production Jeep was the CJ-2A in 1945. The CJ-2A was very similar to the Willies MB with minor differences like the spare wheel was located on the side of the vehicle rather than on the rear. No big changes happened until the CJ-3B, in 1953, which featured the new Hurricane engine that upgraded from the old Go Devil. The CJ-3B also had a higher body than its earlier relatives. In 1953 Kaiser bought Willies and came out with their first Jeep called the CJ-5. The CJ-5 was larger, more comfortable and the longest production of any Jeep to this date (1954-1983). The CJ-5 was the first to offer the larger more powerful V6. A common complaint about the CJ’s was the lack of room so in 1955 Kaiser introduced the CJ-6. The CJ-6 was very similar to the TJ Unlimited that most of us are more familiar with today. It added 20 inches to the wheel base to add much needed room. Although one would think this would be popular especially because the lack of room was a common complaint, only slightly over 50 thousand were produced because of lack of demand. In 1970 American Motors Corporation bought Kaiser and upgraded the engines in the CJ’s to a V8 until 1983. AMC added larger breaks and axels to the CJ-5 and CJ-6. In 1976 AMC introduced their first Jeep, the CJ-7. The CJ-7 was the first major changes to the CJ’s in 20 years. It had a longer base than that of the CJ-5 but shorter than the CJ-6 and could be equipped with an automatic transmission. It also was the first to have steel doors, optional fiberglass hardtops and air conditioning. The CJ-7 is the most like today’s Wranglers than any other CJ. By 1978 AMC was producing 600 vehicles a day and was marketed in over 150 countries. The CJ-8 and CJ-10 were pick-up truck versions of the CJ’s that were mostly purchased and used by the Air Force and the Alaskan postal service. In 1986 AMC discontinued the CJ series and began producing a more commuter friendly version of the vehicle called the Wrangler. The first Wranglers were called YJ’s. The YJ had a lower center of gravity, better handling, and greater comfort. The YJ was the first to be produced with square headlights. They were very adaptable and had seemingly endless options for aftermarket options that made this vehicle a must have for off-roading enthusiasts. About a year after the Wrangler came out AMC was bought by Chrysler. In 1996 Chrysler reveled the Jeep Wrangler TJ. The TJ had round headlights and looked more like the CJ-7 trying to appeal to fans of the old CJ’s. Although the TJ looked similar to the CJ-7, mechanically it was almost completely different. Nearly 80 percent of its parts were newly designed. The TJ retained the classic parts like the removable doors, fold down windshield, the classic round headlights, and the AMC 4.0 L straight 6 but features a whole new suspension system (Quadra-Coil™) that replaced the standard leaf springs and greatly improved the on-road ride. From 1996- 2006 they made improvements to the TJ like a larger fuel tank in 1999, sound system improvements in 2000, and an optional locking compartment in 2001. In 2003 Jeep added a new vehicle to the already legendary CJ line. The Rubicon was the most off-road equipped Wrangler produced with two Dana 44 axels (front and back) that came standard and many other options that were new to the Rubicon. This off-roading machine is more expensive than the TJ and is sought out by hard core off-road enthusiast. One year later the TJ Unlimited was released. The Unlimited was similar to the CJ-6 in that it added length to the wheel base (10 in) which gave it more room and also increased its towing capacity by 1,500 hundred lbs. The Wrangler Unlimited was only produced for 2 years and was soon replaced by JK Unlimited 4 door. In 2007 the new JK model was introduced. The JK had a 3.5 in wider track and a 2 in longer wheel base than the TJs and included more features for the everyday driver and the off-roader as well. The JKs featured a new 3.8 liter V6 that produced 205 horse power and 240 lb-ft of torque. The JK had many new options never before seen in a Jeep like power locks/windows and optional navigation, and more room inside for a more comfortable ride. The off-roading capabilities were improved in the new Wrangler with many added features like increased ground clearance, larger wheels and tires, enhanced front and rear axles, new transfer cases, electronic locking axles and an electronic disconnecting front sway bar. The new JK is also available in a 4 door Unlimited addition. The JK Unlimited 20.6 inches to the JK and had the most space ever offered in a Wrangler. The Unlimited shared most of the same advances that the JK did. Even with the sized increace the JK Unlimited still leads all SUV’s in it class in off-roading capabilities.(2)
The Jeep Wrangler is by far the most beloved off-roading vehicle available today. It is important to know the history behind this great machine and how it has evolved to become the incredible machine that it is today.
(1)- "Jeep History." Heritage Region Jeep Alliance. Web. May 2011. <http://www.hrja.org/Jeep.htm>
(2)- "Jeep Heritage." Jeep. Web. May 2011. <http://www.Jeep.com/Jeep_life/legends/heritage/>.
3. "Jeep History." Hemet Jeep Club. Web. May 2011. http://www.hemetjeepclub.com/Jeephis...eephistory.htm
4. "Jeep." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. May 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeep
5. Willson, Quentin. Classic American Cars. New York, NY: DK Pub., 1997. Print
6. Coffey, Frank, and Joseph Layden. America On Wheels. Los Angeles: GPG, 1996. Print.
Figure 1: "The Original Jeep | Jeeppedia.org." Jeeppedia.org - Jeep News, Reviews, Video & Pictures. Web. May 2011. <http://www.Jeeppedia.org/the-original-Jeep>.
Figure 2: "Jeep Willys Quad Wallpaper." Cars - All Makes. All Models. - NetCarShow.com. Web. May 2011. http://www.netcarshow.com/jeep/1940-...llpaper_01.htm
Figure 3: Skvat, Lille. "March 2009." Cute Cartoon Characters. Web. May 2011. http://cutecartooncharacters.blogspo...1_archive.html
Figure 4: "Jeep CJ2A." Http://www.auto-voiture.org/. Web. May 2011. <http://www.auto-voiture.org/Jeep/Jeep-cj-2a,4837.html>.
Figure 5: "Jeep History - Page 2." RENO4X4.COM - Northern Nevada's Offroad Forum. Web. 09 May 2011. <http://www.reno4x4.com/forum/showthread.php/22675-Jeep-History/page2>.
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Figure 6: "6.4L HEMI on Jeep JK Wrangler." 4x4 & SUVs Off Road - 4x4OffRoads.com! Web. May 2011. http://www.4x4offroads.com/6-4l-hemi...-wrangler.html
Image 1- CJ-2A
Image 2- Ford Pygmy
Image 3- Willies Quad
Image 4- Bantam Prototype
Image 5- CJ-8
Image 1: Willies MB with gun mount
Image 2: Rubicon
Image 4: TJ
Image 5: YJ
Great Stuff! It's nice to gain some insight into where these great vehicles
Does anyone by chance know what the TJ and YJ stand for. My wife asked me that when I told her that CJ stands for civilian jeep.
Nice but why are the JK Unlimited listed as the same choice as the TJ Unlimiteds?'
And LJs were made for 3 years not 2. (04-06)
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