What is a Jeep to you? 

A legendary brand? An adventure machine? Whatever it is, with the colourful history of Jeep and its line up of sought-after models, it’s certainly more than just a car!

Let these Jeep facts take you from its origins to its glorious present. 

1. Jeep has its roots traced back to World War II 

Let’s start at the very beginning. Whereas nowadays, Jeep caters to adventure-loving drivers, back then it was a military vehicle used to shuttle troops across rough terrains. They were also used to rescue the wounded, with a backseat that doubles up as a stretcher. 

Even more interestingly, those Jeeps could be converted to rail use, hauling supplies along the railway tracks. 

But more on the features of the earliest Jeeps later! 

For now, let’s look at how the Jeep came to existence. The story is slightly complicated with multiple players. This brings us to the next point… 

2. It took two days to design the original Jeep

Imagine if you could take just two days of your life to create an icon. Well, this happened to Karl Probst, an American engineer who was working for the American Bantam Car Company in 1940. 

His company wanted to be awarded a contract by the U.S. Army for a lightweight reconnaissance vehicle. With a tight deadline of 75 days to produce a test model, Karl got to work. In just two days, on 17 June 1940, he completed the design. 

With such efficiency, Bantam managed to deliver the hand-built prototype to the Army Quartermaster Corps on time. This vehicle was named the “Blitz Buggy”. 

3. The original blueprints were developed by Bantam, Ford and Willys

Jeep facts: Ford’s prototype, known as the Pygmy.
Ford’s prototype, known as the Pygmy. Image credit: Hichary

While Bantan delivered the prototype, more players were brought into the mix as Bantam didn’t have the production capabilities required by the military. The blueprints were shared with Willys-Overland and Ford Motor Company. Both companies observed the vehicle during the military testing, and went along to produce their own prototypes with unique tweaks. 

These were called Willy’s Quad and Ford Pygmy respectively.  

4. Willys-Overland was awarded the contract

Ultimately, Willys won the government contract to produce the vehicle. However, as they, too, couldn’t meet the production target on their own, Willys shared the specifications with Ford in order to supply an abundance of Jeep to the U.S. Army.

Their vehicles were eventually renamed: Bantan’s version was named  “BRC 40,” Willys’ was named “Willy’s MA” (Model A), and Ford’s was named “Ford GP”. 

5. Back then, the most popular Jeep was Willy’s MB

Jeep facts: The early models of Jeep were known as the U.S. Army Truck.
The early models of Jeep were known as the U.S. Army Truck. Image credit: BrokenSphere

During World War II, a staggering 640,000 Jeeps with eleven different variations were produced collectively by the three companies. Willys produced over 360,000 of Willy’s MB (Model B), while Ford produced 270,000 of their Jeep version. 

Willys MB was known to have the most powerful engine. This model was subsequently awarded “International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark" by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. 

6. The initial Jeeps were simple in design

Unlike the Jeeps of today that are integrated with the most advanced technology and fitted with innovative features, the Jeeps back then were very simple. 

For example, you simply had to push a button on the Willys MB to get it running. On top of that, these Jeeps had no doors and its roof was enclosed by a tarp. 

7. Originally, Jeeps were very light

While the U.S. Army specifically highlighted their need for a lightweight vehicle, the initial Jeeps may be too light, at 1,300 pounds (590 kilograms). Weight was added to meet 2,160 pounds (980 kilograms), which is still roughly half the weight of a Jeep Wrangler these days. 

8. There’s no consensus on how Jeep got its name

It’s still a mystery how Jeep came to be called “Jeep”. The idea that the name is a truncation of the General Purpose vehicle, or GP, has been widely dismissed. There’s even a theory that it’s linked to a cartoon character in the Popeye comic strip, Eugene the Jeep! 

9. Jeep has been widely imitated around the world

What do Land Rovers, Land Cruisers, Broncos and Scouts all have in common? 

They were all inspired by Jeep. Did you know that Land Rovers are the second-oldest four wheel drive vehicles (after Jeep, of course) and that it was modelled after WWII-era Jeeps? 

Jeep may in fact be the most copied brand of American vehicles

10. Jeep has changed hands multiple times

Here’s a summary of the history of Jeep ownership in a jiffy: 

In 1953, Willys-Overland was bought by Kaiser Motors, which was then bought by American Motors Company, which was then bought by Renault, which was then bought by Chrysler. Since 2014, Jeep has been under the portfolio of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, an Italian-American multinational corporation which was established by the merger of Fiat and Chrysler.

11. Jeep has taken people on incredible adventures

View from a Jeep Wrangler

Jeep is a real adventure machine. Back in 1978, a group of explorers, led by Mark Smith, set off from Chile to Alaska across more than 30,000 kilometres on the trusty Jeep CJs. To conquer such distances, much of which includes harsh terrains, was no small feat! 

You can watch the documentary here.

More recently, there have been Singaporeans who embarked on overland journeys from their home to as far as the depths of Tibet. How inspiring! 

12. Jeep is a well-loved brand

No matter which company owns the Jeep brand, it’s clear that Jeep is well-loved with loyal fans around the globe. In fact, Jeep has even been recognised as a “cult brand”, one that brings out customer engagement like no other. The Jeep community in Singapore is a testament to how Jeep can draw passionate people together. They colour the roads with a line of stand-out Jeeps en-route to their next outing, be it a meal or a trip across the country.  

13. Jeep Wrangler has removable components

A topless Jeep Wrangler in Singapore

Highlighting the cool features of Jeep vehicles would need a dedicated article, but here’s one of the coolest Jeep Wrangler facts: it has removable body components, such as its doors and top. 

If you’re familiar with Jeep, you’d know that Jeep Wrangler is quite possibly the most well-known model within the Jeep line. This iconic vehicle is highly versatile and it boasts a convertible aspect that converts it to a rugged off-road machine. 

You can trust that driving doorless or topless is just as fun as it looks! 

14. Jeep Grand Cherokee has an incredible towing capability

The 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee

The grand champion of SUVs, the 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee can tow up to 7,200 pounds (3,265 kilograms). Special features, such as its Trailer Sway Control and Hill Descent Control support the Grand Cherokee’s towing capabilities. 

Even if you’re not planning to tow anything with your vehicle, the Grand Cherokee could still interest you with its everyday comfort and premium performance. 

15. “The Jeep Life” is currently a thing

Now, let’s move away from the fascinating history of Jeeps to the world of present-day Jeep, or Jeepdom. Not just a vehicle, Jeep encompasses the notions of adventure, community, and living a wholesome life. Owners of Jeep weave themselves into what’s known as the Jeep Life, which is really about their connection with Jeep and how it adds value to their lives by bringing them out of their comfort zones and encouraging an active lifestyle.

Now that you’re knowledgeable in these Jeep facts, it’s time to have a taste of originality and adventure, all while being part of the history of Jeep in motion.

Schedule your first test drive on a Jeep today.