With modifications and improvements, the Willys Quad became the MA, and later the MB. But the Army, and the world, came to know it as the Jeep®.
Some claimed that the name came from the slurring of the letters “GP,” the military abbreviation for “General Purpose.” Others say the vehicle was named for a popular character named “Eugene the Jeep” in the Popeye cartoon strip. Whatever its origin, the name entered into the American lexicon and, for a while, served almost as a generic title for off-road vehicles, while the Jeep itself became an icon of the war.
The Willys MA featured a gearshift on the steering column, low side body cutouts, two circular instrument clusters on the dashboard and a hand brake on the left side. Willys struggled to reduce the weight to the new Army specification of 2,160 lbs. Items removed in order for the MA to reach that goal were reinstalled on the next-generation MB resulting in a final weight of approximately just 400 lbs. above the specifications.
Willys-Overland would build more than 368,000 vehicles, and Ford, under license, some 277,000, for the U.S. Army. The rugged, reliable olive-drab vehicle would forever be known for helping win a world war.
Willys trademarked the “Jeep” name after the war and planned to turn the vehicle into an off-road utility vehicle for the farm – the civilian Universal Jeep. One of Willys’ slogans at the time was “The Sun Never Sets on the Mighty Jeep,” and the company set about making sure the world recognized Willys as the creator of the vehicle.
OVERVIEW OF KEY HISTORICAL JEEP CIVILIAN VEHICLES
Jeep CJ-2A: 1945-49
The first civilian Jeep vehicle, the CJ-2A, was produced in 1945. It came with a tailgate, side-mounted spare tire, larger headlights, an external fuel cap and many more items that its military predecessors did not include. Several CJ-2A features – such as a 134-cubic-inch I-4 engine, a T-90A transmission, Spicer 18 transfer case and a full-floating Dana 25 front and Dana 23-2 rear axle – were found on numerous Jeep vehicles in future years. The CJ-2A was produced for four years.
Jeep Jeepster: 1948-51
The Jeepster was the last phaeton-style open-bodied vehicle made by a U.S. automaker, using side curtains for weather protection instead of roll-down windows. Originally offered with the “Go-Devil” engine, it was eventually fitted with the 161 cubic-inch six-cylinder “Hurricane” engine, but never offered in four-wheel drive.