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It’s one of the quirks that Jeep owners either enjoy or overlook altogether: the folding windshield. Well, it’s not just a silly design feature. Instead, the folding windshield goes way back into Jeep history and includes a chapter in WWII.

The folding windshield is steeped in Jeep history and wartime necessity

If you’ve ever dropped the windshield on your Jeep Wrangler YJ or TJ, you’ve engaged in a tradition that goes back to the first iterations of the timeless utility vehicle. However, unless you’re in the know, you probably think it’s a needless feature. That couldn’t be further from the truth.  

The Jeep folding windshield is a direct descendant of the very first “General Purpose” (GP) Willys, Ford, and MBs to see service in the Second World War, per Extreme Terrain. Incidentally, that “General Purpose” designation is the origin of the company’s moniker. Marines, soldiers, and sailors would use the initials as an acronym, not unlike the HMMWV sounding like “Humvee.” 

A Jeep Wrangler TJ with its windshield folded in keeping with the model's history.
A Wrangler TJ with its windshield folded | MousePotato via iStock

Still, it’s up for interpretation, as some fans claim the vehicle’s etymology stems from Eugene the Jeep in the “Popeye” comic. Yes, that Popeye. I can hear you doing the Popeye laugh right now. Either way, the first Jeep military vehicles featured a folding windshield servicemembers used for logistical and tactical reasons.

WWII had U.S. Army soldiers and U.S. Marines fighting in two major theaters of operations: Europe and the Pacific. As such, shipping military vehicles became a logistical necessity. 

Consequently, the folding windshield became part of Jeep history allowing the vehicles to be stacked and shipped. What’s more, warfighting infantry forces could drop the glass-pane windshield on their GP vehicles to avoid casting glare over distance.  

A Willys MB, part of Jeep history, shows off its dropped windshield and .30 caliber machine gun.
A WWII-era Willys MB shows off its dropped windshield and .30 caliber machine gun | Arterra, Universal Images Group via Getty Images

However, even though the Jeep has left its role as the GP vehicle with the U.S. Military, the Wrangler retains the folding windshield. Even the comparably modern JK and JL Wranglers keep the folding windshield from Jeep history, albeit as more of a continuation of tradition. 

Still, the modern Wranglers aren’t alone. The GP tactical vehicle’s latest spiritual successor, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), doesn’t include a folding windshield for operational purposes. However, the M1161 Growler ITV I used as part of a Helicopter Raid Company would stow its windshield to fit into the back of a helicopter. Sounds like an evolution of Jeep history to me.