Skip to main content

Jeep has a long history of serving the United States Armed Forces and cruising American landscapes. However, nothing sums up the marque’s history quite like the Willys MB Jeep. From the off-road military workhorse to the latest homage trims on the Wrangler, Willys has a special place in the book of Jeep. However, there’s a good chance you’ve been saying it wrong for years.

The Willys MB Jeep isn’t pronounced the way you think

A classic Willys MB Jeep shows off its kit.
A Willys Jeep in New Zealand | Wirestock via iStock

The majority of Jeep fans pronounce the “Willys” in Willys MB like Willie Nelson. While the pronunciation has permeated car culture, it’s simply not correct. No, it’s pronounced “Willis.” Think Bruce fighting off terrorists at Nakatomi Plaza, not “Steamboat.”

Still, good luck getting the masses of Jeep fandom to re-learn the way to say the iconic model’s name. You might have better luck teaching the Mustang haters a second joke beyond the crowd-eater reputation or getting Supra haters to stop calling the GR model a BMW. Nope, Jeep fans are likely to continue pronouncing it the way they want, and we credit them for that.

Still, “Willis” or “Will-ees,” the modern trims are a nod to the historic off-road models of yesteryear.  

Willys comes from John North Willys of Willys-Overland

Of course, the Willys Jeep doesn’t have its name just to be difficult. Instead, the historic workhorse derives its moniker from John North Willys. Willys added his name to the Willys-Overland brand after acquiring Overland Automotive from the Standard Wheel Company in 1908.

Today, Willys-Overland Motors produces replacement bodies for classic Jeeps. What’s more, the outfit produces parts for everything from the M38A1 and MB to the CJ7 and YJ. Of course, contemporary Jeep fanatics will be more accustomed to seeing “Willys” emblazoned on the latest JK and JL models.

Keep up with MotorBiscuit for the latest car content!


Land Rover 130: Better Than a Humvee?