Facts About Jeep You May Not Know
The fact is that the world cannot get enough of Jeep. As a brand, it’s on fire all over the place. People love the rugged nature, the symbolic freedom and even just the good looks of Jeeps.
While so many like to wear shirts or put stickers on their rig that say “it’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand,” those same people probably know next to nothing about the legendary brand or the culture that has built up around it.
No matter if you’re a Jeep owner, want to be one, have a good grasp on the brand’s history or know absolutely nothing about it, you’re about to learn a thing or two. How many of the following facts did you already know?
The Wartime Limousine
Most people know that Jeeps were born to be driven on battlefields and through warn-torn areas. What they might not know is that during World War II, when the off-roaders were first developed, soldiers started calling them wartime limousines.
There was a good reason for this, because when a general, dignitary, celebrity or anyone else visited the warfront, they would always be transported in a Jeep. Known to be fairly quick and agile, the vehicles became popular with nobility in England as American forces show how practical the vehicles were.
Winning the War
Many people call jeep the vehicle that won the war, which is of course a reference to World War II. Before then, jeeps didn’t even exist and were literally created as a way to get military personnel around battlefields quickly and effectively.
General George C. Marshall praised the jeep quite a bit, saying it was “America’s greatest contribution to modern warfare.” The innovative nature of the off-roader involved not only its excellent ground clearance and approach/departure angles, but also the fact it was so lightweight that it could easily be picked up by the riders and moved out of an area where it was hopelessly stuck.
The Original Manufacturers
When jeeps were first used in World War II, all of them were made by Willys and Ford. Originally a third manufacturer was in the mix, but it couldn’t make the jeeps lightweight and cheap enough for the government’s taste.
Both automakers had to work overtime to supply a constant stream of jeeps to both war fronts. To this day, you can easily tell which vehicles and even individual parts were made by Ford, because the company was sure to stamp its famous oval logo on each and every one. The company then refused to honor any warranties for Willys parts.
Even though the military was pretty specific about the specs for jeeps, Ford’s designers decided to get a little creative in their contribution to the war effort. Instead of regular fixed headlights, they added hinges to them.
While that might sound weird, the design was incredibly practical. Soldiers could flip the headlights backward. It was an invaluable feature for when the vehicle needed field repairs in the night, because soldiers didn’t have to mess with flashlights to see what they were doing.
You might have heard the term CJ when people are talking about older jeeps. The acronym actually stands for Civilian Jeeps.
Basically, the company’s engineers first started using the term so there wasn’t any confusion about which vehicles were outfitted for military service instead of civilian duties. Military personnel and eventually citizens adopted the term as well.
Land Rover Connection
If you think that the original Land Rover Defenders look suspiciously like older jeeps, there’s a good reason for that. The British were seriously impressed by the off-road capabilities of the American vehicle. Many wished they could have that kind of capability at their disposal all the time.
It was Rover’s chief engineer, Maurice Wilks, who went forward with a design that closely mimicked the jeep. He had personally become fascinated with the concept after he spent the summer one year driving a jeep around his estate. He recognized that such a vehicle was marketable, and the rest is history.
Origin of the Name
Believe it or not, the name “jeep” actually came from a cartoon, of all things.
Before the nickname was created, the vehicles were actually called GPs or general purpose military vehicles. Thanks to a Popeye feature that was popular back in the day, the little sailor’s derogatory term for a GP became a term of endearment soldiers started using. After a while it stuck, and nobody called them GPs anymore.
German and Japanese Copies
The British weren’t the only ones smitten with the Jeep. The Japanese and Germans were both so impressed with the vehicle and its capabilities that they wanted to replicate it. Automakers from both countries tried to create their own jeeps off what little information they had gathered from the field, but they were grossly inadequate in a number of ways.
After the failed attempts, German brass ordered commandos to attempt the capture of a jeep so they could study it and understand the genius of the vehicle. This was another testament to the usefulness of the vehicle and the war effort.
Gas Tank Location
In the original jeeps, the gas tank was actually located under the driver’s seat. In fact, you can see the gas cap on the seat. It was placed there so snipers only had one place they could hit to disable the vehicle, whether by hitting the gas tank or killing the driver. This made it harder for enemy forces to take jeeps down.
Most people today have forgotten that AMC bought the Jeep line from Kaiser way back. While the American Motors Corporation is no longer around, it did help introduce a number of key innovations to the legendary off-roaders.
If it wasn’t for AMC’s influence, the brand might never have developed the Wrangler, Cherokee or CJ-7. Those are the kinds of vehicles that have helped form the Jeep identity over the years.
AMC also implemented a number of components into the Jeep lineup, forever changing its makeup. The first V-8 in a Jeep was put there by AMC, as was the case with the first automatic transmission. The company also pushed for an all-denim Levis interior that would allow Jay Leno to blend into the seats.