You might know Jeep today as a great brand with a solid lineup of sturdy vehicles. But do you know the backstory of how Jeep came to be what it is today? Here is why Jeep is the OG SUV. Jeeps Have Been War Tested Way back during World War II, the allied forces needed a way to reliably transport personnel. It was in June 1940 when the United States Army first saw the potential need for a 4x4 vehicle that could serve a variety of purposes. Over 100 different manufacturers were called to build a vehicle, but only three companies heeded the call. Those three companies were Bantam, Willys and Ford. As you might have noticed, Jeep wasn’t present on that list. This is because what we now know as the modern Jeep brand got its roots from the Willys prototype vehicle. Once the United States officially entered the war a bit over a year later, the Willys vehicles were ready to take to the battlefield. There’s actually some controversy still as to how the Jeep got its name. The first known public reference comes from an article in the Washington Daily News in Feb. 1941. Most people seem to believe the name is just phonetically similar to “GP,” meaning general purpose. That name stuck with the soldiers who were using it, and thus, a legend was born. While it’s easy to glamorize this looking back on the fact, the reality is this: The vehicle we now know as a Jeep forever changed how people and material were transported in battle. Before the Willys MA and MB models, soldiers had to deal with horses, motorcycles, and sidecars for personal transportation. Not only were these far less reliable, they had nowhere near the performance and off-road capability of a Willys. These vehicles could truly do it all. Following the end of the war in 1945, it was clear the Willys MB had carved out its place in automotive history. But this was only the beginning. While necessity is the mother of invention, in times of peace, the fruits of essential labor can be put to more enjoyable uses. The first civilian Jeep was introduced right after the war, originally intended for farmers. Shortly after, a Willys Wagon was introduced as the first all-steel station wagon made in the U.S. Over the next few years, the Jeep brand came into its own, with the “Jeep” truck, as well as the Jeepster—a more sporty version of the vehicle. The Jeep CJ, however, is the closest to what we today know as a Jeep SUV. Many Have Followed in Its Tracks It should be clear by now that the Willys, or Jeep, is the OG SUV. Way before people needed extra cargo space to carpool the kids to soccer practice, Jeeps were hauling machine guns across the front lines. Because Jeeps were so far ahead of their time, they have in turned spawned generations of look-alikes, as well as an entire breed of vehicle. For instance, the Toyota Land Cruiser, and original Land Rover vehicles, can trace their origins back directly to these first Jeeps. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. The big picture is that Jeeps created an entire class of vehicles that previously didn’t exist. The all-wheel drive SUV is something we take for granted today, but was really only invented during a time of great need. Still True to Its Roots Today While few people today are buying Jeeps because of their genesis as an Army vehicle, every vehicle made today still carries that seal of performance that made the original so special. It doesn’t matter if you’re buying a Wrangler, Gladiator, or Grand Cherokee, Jeeps are built with purpose. Even though Jeep is the OG SUV, it’s still innovating its way to the top of the automotive world. Opting for a Jeep is choosing a brand that has decades of deep history under its belt.
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