Jeep Willikers!
Jeep

17 Things You Didn't Know About Jeeps

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Jeep Willikers!
Jeep

Jeep Willikers!

The Jeep brand is enjoying success few automakers could hope to rival. In 2014, Jeep sold 1 million units; just four years later, that nearly doubled to around 1.9 million. Part of that success can be credited to branding — the name Jeep has long been synonymous with fun, cool, and capable off-road vehicles that are as awesome on the trail as they are comfortable on the highway. The versatile Jeep is an American original that's steeped in history, and after nearly 80 years since the Army examined the world's first Jeep prototype, the brand is surrounded by folklore, legend, myth, and mystery. And for a trip down memory lane with some classic models, be sure to check out 24 Timeless Jeeps Everybody Still Loves.

The Jeep Was Built for War — Literally
US Army Signal Corps/National Archives USA

The Jeep Was Built for War — Literally

America was not yet at war in 1940, but it was making preparations to enter a global conflict that had engulfed much of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Army needed a tough and capable but nimble multipurpose reconnaissance vehicle that could handle the rigors of war and turn America's Armed Forces into the fastest and most mobile fighting force in the world. It solicited bids from 135 automakers, but only three — Bantam, Willy's-Overland, and Ford — could build prototypes within the Army's exact standards and tight timeline. It was the Willy's-Overland Quad that impressed the generals the most, and by the time the prototype Quad was modified to become the Willy's MB in 1941, Pearl Harbor had forced America into World War II and the Jeep was on its way to becoming the darling of G.I.s everywhere.

Related: 15 Awe-Inspiring Memorials and Other Places to Honor Our Vets

The 'Jeep' Name is a Mystery
Scott Olson/Getty Images

The 'Jeep' Name Is a Mystery

The three original prototypes submitted to the Army collectively became known as lowercase-j "jeeps," but the true genesis of the name has been lost to the ages. There are countless urban legends, none of which are credible or confirmable. The most likely story is that the Army's shorthand for vehicles classified as "general purposes" or "government purposes" is "GP," which might have been pronounced colloquially as "jeep."

Related: 75 Brands That Are Still Made in America

A Jeep Won a Purple Heart
Jeep

A Jeep Won a Purple Heart

A Jeep nicknamed "Old Faithful" served four Marine Corps generals through the Battle of Guadalcanal campaign and the Bougainville invasion during World War II. The first vehicle ever to be decorated, Old Faithful was awarded the Purple Heart for "wounds" received in battle — two shrapnel holes in its windshield. It reportedly disappeared from the Marine Corps Museum and has been lost to history.

The CJ Was Designed for Farmers
Jeep

The CJ Was Designed for Farmers

In the postwar period during the second half of the 1940s, the mighty Willys MB underwent a metamorphosis that would prepare it for life as a civilian. It was converted into what might be the most famous Jeep in history, the CJ. Designed as a mechanical workhorse for use on farms — 4 million of America's 5.5 million farmers at that time had neither a tractor nor a truck — the rugged little CJ could go for 10 hours a day at 4 mph. Created to put farm horses out to pasture, CJ stands for Civilian Jeep.

Related: Why People Are Crazy About Jeeps and Why You'd Be Crazy to Buy One

Jeeps Were the Original Mail Trucks
Jeep

Jeeps Were the Original Mail Trucks

In 1984, the U.S. Postal Service commissioned the Grumman Long Life Vehicle as its standard mail delivery truck. The now-familiar LLV remains only the second vehicle the USPS ever commissioned in 65 years. The mail truck that the LLV replaced was the Jeep DJ (Dispatcher Jeep), a right-hand drive purpose-built Jeep that the USPS commissioned as its very first mail truck in the 1950s.

Related: 17 Historic and Unusual Post Offices Across America

The Grand Wagoneer Was the First Luxury SUV
Jeep

The Grand Wagoneer Was the First Luxury SUV

Pre-dating the Range Rover by almost a decade, the Jeep Grand Wagoneer was the original luxury SUV. Arriving in 1963, the Grand Wagoneer changed very little over its nearly 30-year run — so little, in fact, that when it halted production in 1991, it was one of the last remaining carbureted vehicles sold new in the U.S.

Related: 14 Most Iconic SUVs of All Time

Jeeps Were Enshrined in TV and Toy Fame
Ebay

Jeeps Were Enshrined in TV and Toy Fame

"Mork and Mindy" and "The Dukes of Hazzard" were two of the biggest shows on television in the late 1970s and early '80s. The former was about a space alien trying to blend in on Earth and the latter about a pair of country brothers and their sultry cousin who spent their days frustrating local law enforcement. Other than their wild popularity, the shows didn't have much in common — except their Jeeps. Daisy Duke's CJ-7 Golden Eagle was named Dixie, and the Jeep from "Mork and Mindy" was nameless, but always blue. Both cars were featured in model toy kits based on the shows that made them famous.

Related: 32 Legendary Vehicles From '70s and '80s TV Shows

The Humvee Replaced the Jeep
The Humvee Replaced the Jeep by Brian Snelson (CC BY)

The Humvee Replaced the Jeep

Jeeps were standard military vehicles from the start of World War II through Korea and Vietnam. In the 1980s, however, the Army began developing a bigger, heavier, more durable machine as part of its Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy. The result was the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle. The Humvee was born and the vaunted Jeep was retired to civilian life.

Related: 43 Most Over-the-Top Trucks You Can Buy

Bad Press Doomed the CJ and Gave Birth to the Wrangler
Bad Press Doomed the CJ and Gave Birth to the Wrangler by Sfoskett~commonswiki (CC BY)

Bad Press Doomed the CJ and Gave Birth to the Wrangler

The Civilian Jeep endured for 40 years from 1945 all the way through 1986, when the world's first Wrangler — the YJ — debuted at the Chicago Auto Show. The CJ was doomed when "60 Minutes" aired a segment showing that the CJ could roll over in some situations. Although rollovers were incredibly rare and unlikely, the video spelled the end for the trusty CJ, but gave rise to an icon. The ultimate weekend warrior's off-road ride, the Wrangler is most likely what comes to mind when somebody mentions the name "Jeep" today.

Wranglers Had Square Headlights For Nearly a Decade
Jeep

Wranglers Had Square Headlights For Nearly a Decade

Along with their iconic seven-slot grilles, round headlights are one of those things that make Jeeps instantly identifiable. Between 1987-95, however, Wranglers had square eyes. To distinguish from the CJs of old, Jeep boxed the lights on the Wrangler and kept them that way until 1995.

Related: 25 of the Biggest Product Launch Disasters Ever

There's No Such Thing as a 1996 Jeep Wrangler
Jeep

There's No Such Thing as a 1996 Jeep Wrangler

In 1997, the second-generation Wrangler TJ replaced the first-gen YJ. But Jeep had canceled the YJ, square headlights and all, in 1995. Although the TJ debuted — with round headlights, once again, much to the delight of Jeep World — at an auto show in 1996, the first model year was '97. There is no such thing as a 1996 Jeep Wrangler.

The Curse of the Jeep
Jeep

The Curse of the Jeep

The Jeep brand has thrived over the decades, but the same cannot be said for the companies that have owned it. Willys-Overland created the Jeep, but Kaiser-Frazer bought Willys in 1953 and the last Willys passenger car rolled off the lines two years later. Kaiser became Kaiser Jeep International in 1963 but by 1970, the America Motors Corp. gobbled it up. The Jeep brand was selling brilliantly the entire time, but AMC was dying a slow and painful death by the mid-1980s. In 1987, Chrysler bought AMC for $1.5 billion, with the Jeep brand as the crown jewel, and AMC became Jeep Eagle. Although that venture died around 10 years later, Jeep kept right on thriving. In 1998, Daimler bought Chrysler, but less than a decade later in 2007, it was so eager to offload the Chrysler division that it turned it over to a private equity firm called Cerberus Capital Management. That relationship ended two years later when Jeep's current owner, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, took over — and the Jeep brand continues to thrive.

Related: Why People Are Crazy About Jeeps and Why You'd Be Crazy to Buy One

Jeeps Can Climb Stairs
AACA Library

Jeeps Can Climb Stairs

In February 1941, the Washington Daily News printed a photo of a Jeep climbing the Capitol steps in Washington, D.C. Willys-Overland organized the stunt to prove the Jeep's off-road capabilities and a Willys test driver performed the feat — with a U.S. senator and military personnel went along for the ride. When a Daily News columnist asked what this peculiar new machine was called, the test driver reportedly replied "It's a Jeep," a term he had overheard soldiers at Fort Holabird using for the vehicle even he knew previously only as the Quad.

The Original Jeep Was Designed in Two Days
Jeep

The Original Jeep Was Designed in Two Days

The military demanded a working prototype in just 49 days. The Bantam company enlisted engineer Karl Probst, who spent two furious days and nights designing what would become the first jeep prototype. The next day he delivered estimated manufacturing costs. On day four, he handed the Army a finalized bid complete with blueprints.

Jeepers Have Their Own Wave
RDC Tarantula/youtube

Jeepers Have Their Own Wave

Boaters aren't the only people who wave to each other affectionately. Jeepers, as they're called, have a special members-only wave all their own — several versions of a wave, actually. The Jeep wave can include one vigorously waving hand or two, two or four fingers raised off the steering wheel, or one raised waving hand. It can also be modified to adhere to local Jeep etiquette.

Jeepers Have Their Own Annual Safari
genrightoffroad/facebook

Jeepers Have Their Own Annual Safari

The Chamber of Commerce in Moab, Utah, launched the first of what would become an annual tradition among Jeepers In 1967 — the Jeep Safari. It attracts Jeepers from all over the world. A unique kind of event, the safari has been the scene of fun and wacky oddities, such as airplanes airdropping ice cream during lunchtime. It has evolved and grown over time into an annual Easter tradition.

Jeep Lost a Trademark Battle to Hummer
Unique Imports

Jeep Lost a Trademark Battle to Hummer

Just as the Jeep CJ was a civilian model of a military vehicle born for battle, the Hummer was AM General's civilian version of the M998 Humvee. Also like the Jeep, the Hummer featured a distinctive seven-slot grille. Long a hallmark of Jeep design, the styling compelled the Chrysler group to file a lawsuit against GM, which owned Hummer. In 2002, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Chrysler, and Hummer was allowed to keep its Jeep-esque grille.