Some automakers come with an iconic history that’s helped them become the brands they are today. Jeep, for instance, may produce some of the greatest adventuring vehicles today, but its history is deeply rooted in the U.S. military. Transporting the most important soldiers and cargo, Jeep has been a symbol of American strength, fortitude, ingenuity, and freedom since World War II.
But with all that Jeep has become, does the U.S. military still use Jeep vehicles? And how have the first military vehicles influenced the Jeeps we drive today?
Are military Jeeps still used by the U.S.?
The current military vehicle lineup no longer includes Jeep-made designs. According to Fox News, however, the U.S. military currently has a stronger-than-ever need for smaller, lighter, tactical vehicles.
As a “people mover that can go anywhere,” it may be possible that the military will be taking “another look at the Jeep” in the near future. So while Jeep may be working on its future of military vehicles, where did Jeep get its combat beginnings?
A rich history of collaboration
Jeep’s military history is deep and iconic, beginning back before World War II. According to Jeep, the American government asked “135 automakers for a 1/4 ton ‘light reconnaissance’ vehicle tailored to Army specifications,” in 1940.
Out of those 135 automakers, only three responded to the massive request, Ford, Bantam, and Willys. The Willys-Overland company delivered the U.S. Army its “Quad” prototype in November of the same year. In just 75 days, Willys-Overland created the first design for what would become the “Jeep.”
With that prototype as its foundation, Willys created the Willys MA military vehicle. But with a too-heavy body, Willys-Overland had to revise the MA even further. In July of 1941, Willys finally won that military contract, but with the revised MB. Improvements made to the MB helped Willys land the contract, which called for a production of 16,000 MBs. The MB would also be the start of the great, Jeep military vehicle. Through the years, the MB would become the foundation for every Jeep military vehicle.
Through the years, Jeep would continue to develop its vehicles even further. With a station wagon, trucks, and more, Jeep did it all. In 1954, the first civilian Jeep recreation vehicle (CJ-5) was produced to take advantage of the public’s seemingly-growing interest in off-roading vehicles.
But, the Willys-Overland (and later Jeep) brand would continue producing military Jeeps through the Vietnam War. It wasn’t until the late ’80s, when the Army opted for the larger Humvee, that a Jeep vehicle would perform its last military mission.
How the U.S. military Jeep has influenced the Jeeps of today
According to Jeep, the “Jeep Brand 4×4 emerged a hero to thousands of Allied soldiers around the world” and won the hearts of military personnel and civilians alike. The Willys-Overland/Jeep brand saw quickly that the love for its 4×4 vehicles could be extended into the civilian world.
So the company started turning its Jeeps into farming trucks, off-roaders, station wagons, and more. The first civilian Jeep vehicle was produced between 1945-1949, but the Jeeps of today still share the same, basic, design.
In the ’70s, Jeep would make the world’s first full-time 4×4 system in a newly-designed Cherokee, Wrangler, and more. These newest civilian vehicles took the design and ruggedness of its very first military-made vehicles and used it to create an off-road capable, family vehicle.
Though today’s Jeep vehicles feature improved technology and engineering, its civilian vehicles are still based on the same basic structure, design, and purpose of its warhorse ancestors.