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History of the Jeep - Little Known Facts, ID Charts and Model Year Changes
Various accounts of history of the Jeep and the many changes that Jeep vehicles have gone through over the years. Also little-known facts about Jeeps, including how to identify Jeeps from different years by their unique features and specs. Information for all model years, plus VIN decoding and yearly changes in the Jeep line-up.

The ever-evolving. Forever Wrangler. Jeep grills from 1945 through 2018.

Jeep grills over the years
Photo by Jeep©

Jeep Identification Chart

Visit this informative guide to various Jeep models over the years. Identify a specific Jeep and discover facts about the details etc. The following is a list of all known jeep models throughout the history of this amazing vehicle. The Bantam Pilot, Bantam BRC-60, Willys Quad, Ford Pygmy, Budd Ford, Ford GP, Willys MA, Bantam BRC-40, Willys Slat-Grille, Willys MB, Ford GPW, Ford GPA, Willys CJ-2, CJ-2A, CJ-3A, M-38, CJ-4, CJ-4M, M38A1, BC Bobcat, CJ-3B, M606, CJ-5, M170, CJ-6, DJ-3A, CJ-3B Long, DJ-3B, M422 Mighty Mite, M151 Mutt, Tuxedo Park, DJ-5, Commando, CJ-7, Jeep II, CJ-8, YJ Wrangler, Wrangler Long, YJ Renegade, TJ Wrangler, Dakar and Icon.

Chart of Jeep History

Jeep Logos
Large collection of many classic Willys Overland logos and Jeep.

History of the Jeep
In 1908, John North Willys purchased the Overland Automotive Company, which by then was located in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Universal Jeep Time-line
This interesting time-line displays the sequence and the years of production for "Universal Jeep" 1/4-ton utility models made between 1942 and 1986.

Historic photo of old Jeeps
Photo by Jeep©

Here are three major prototypes of Jeeps built in 1941 for the entire line of Jeeps on the road today.

Jeep Bantam

A 45 HP Continental engine, weight 2045 pounds, wheelbase 79 inches, 3 speed syncromesh Warner T84 gearbox with a floor mounted gear shift lever. A total of 2675 units were built in 1941.

Ford GP Jeep

A 45 HP Ford 9N tractor motor, weight 2150 pounds, wheelbase 80 inches, 3 speed unsyncronised Ford A gearbox with floor mounted shift lever. A total of 4,458 units was built in 1941.

Willys MA Jeep

A more powerful 60 HP "Go Devil" engine, weight 2450 pounds, wheelbase 80 inches, 3 speed syncromesh Warner T84 gearbox with shift lever on the steering post. A total of 1500 units was built in 1941.

At the Early Jeeps pages
Nov 1, 2005
Jeep at Off-Road

This page gives a brief account of a long history which starts in February 1940, with a meeting between Charles Payne of Bantam and the Army Chief on Infantry of the Quartermaster Corps, and ends in 1941 with the first orders of Ford GPWs and WILLYS Mbs. The follow-up of the history can be found on specific pages.

I am indebted to several readers who made comments on the first version of this page but especially to Todd Paisley who gave me the benefit of his deep knowledge on the Jeep and also to Jim Gilmore for useful discussions on Fords. The need for a go anywhere reconnaissance vehicle was being felt by the U.S. Army since World War I and the appearance of several proposals over the years. After a few tentative versions the specifications laid down by the Quartermaster Corps, on July 7, 1940, called for:

1. A driving front axle with 2-speed transfer case w/provisions for disengaging the front axle drive.
2. A body of rectangular design with afolding windshield and 3 bucket seats.
3. Increased engine power (presumably in respect to the Belly-flopper prototype).
4. Means for towing.
5. 30-caliber machine gun mount.
6. Blackout lighting.
7. Oil-bath air cleaner.
8. Hydraulic brakes.
9. Full floating axles.
10. Wheelbase of 80".
11. Maximum height of 40".
12. Maximum weight of 1275 lbs.
13. Approach and departure angles of 45 and 40 degrees, respectively.
14. Must reach 50 mph on hard surface.
15. Special bracing for a pintle hook setup.
16. No aluminum to be used for cylinder head.
17. At least 4 cylinders.
18. 8 of the 70 vehicles to made had to be four-wheel-steer.

Historic photo of old Jeeps

The invitation to submit bids was sent to 135 U.S. automobile manufacturers to produce 70 vehicles; the small Bantam company managed to meet the deadline delivering the pilot model in September 23 1940. Although it was 730 lbs. overweight it was judged good. Willys-Overland submitted crude sketches of their vehicle and underbid Bantam, although they could not meet the 75 day delivery period; after adding penalties for this the Bantam proposal was lower and this company received an order to produce 70 Model 60 or MKII.

Willys Overland submitted two units of its pilot model, the Quad, in November 11; this had many of the features from the Bantam as did another prototype from Ford, who delivered two of its Pigmy in November 23. Both Willys-Overland and Ford were given free access to Bantam's prototype and blueprints, which goes a long way to explain the similarities.

With all three prototypes satisfactory, the Army decided to order 1500 of each for field evaluation, with deliveries to begin in early 1941; each of the prototypes should suffer alterations to remedy deficiencies brought out by the testing. The modified versions were the Bantam 40 BRC, the Willys MA and the Ford GP (G for Government, P for 80" wheelbase).
The prototypes

Jim Dunn's Bantam photo album 45 hp. Continental engine, weight 2050 lbs., wheelbase 79 in., 3 speed syncromesh Warner T84 gearbox with floor mounted shift lever. A total of 2675 units was built in 1941.

Ford GP 45 hp Ford 9N tractor motor, weight 2150 lbs., wheelbase 80 in., 3 speed unsyncronised Ford A gearbox with floor mounted shift lever. A total of 4,458 units was built in 1941.

Willys MA 60 hp. "Go Devil" engine, weight 2450 lbs., wheel base of 80 in., 3 speed syncromesh Warner T84 gearbox with shift lever on the steering post. A total of 1500 units were built in 1941.
In July 1941 the War Department decided to adopt one single model; Willys was selected because it bid lower than the others but the MA had to be redesigned in view of the experience gained with the tests. The redesigned model was named MB by Willys but the contracts to manufacture the vehicle went both to Willys and Ford, where it was named GPW (the W was added to refer to the Willys motor). Meanwhile, about 1000 Bantam 40 BRCs were built for the Russian Army.


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