Willys Jeep: Deep Dive Into This Famous Military Jeep

Willys Jeep is known as one of the most iconic cars out there, especially since it dates back to the Second World War period. With the US Army looking for a four-wheel drive, Jeep provided the perfect option for the military to use and win the war.

Willys Jeep

The Jeep Willy continued its popularity even when it became a civilian vehicle, and there were other options like the Jeep Truck and the Jeep Station Wagon. In this guide, we cover all you need to know about Willys, from the military period to the present day.

History of the Willys Jeep Vehicle

The Willys Jeep is the informal name of the Willys MB, US Army Truck, quarter-ton, 4×4, Command Reconnaissance. This was an American off-road four-wheel drive light utility vehicle offered to the military. The cars were mass produced, all having the same standardized design, and used for the Second World War.

The American Army had been looking for a lightweight four-wheel drive car since the First World War to replace the old vehicles, motorcycles, and animals that they used for transportation. There were prototypes made in the 1930s but the actual development of the car happened just before America joined the Second World War.

The Willys MB has been in service since 1941, and was used in the Second World War, Korean War, and post-1945 conflicts. There were 359,489 units produced and the top speed of the car was 65 miles per hour. During the war, it performed every transportation row including logistics, cavalry, and ambulance.

The Jeep consisted of a quarter of the non-combat cars made in the US, and was more intimidating than the 50,000 units of cars made by Nazi Germany. The US also provided the Jeep to its allies. The Jeep was known for its wide usage and reliability, and was praised for being the most significant contribution to modern wars.

You might be wondering what the word “Jeep” means. There is no agreement on what Jeep means. The most agreed-upon reason is that it comes from the letters ‘GP’, which is an abbreviation that means “General Purpose.” Another reason is the abbreviation for Jeep, which means Just Enough Essential Parts.
  • Early Designs

The design of the Jeep started with requests from the US Army infantry for a low-profile vehicle with a sturdy engine and four-wheel drive. The military asked the main commercial carmakers which were American Bantam, Willys and Ford, to deliver the design. The Army had stated that none of the companies will take credit for the original design.

Early Designs of Willy_s Jeep

It is known that Willys did not make the best design for the Jeep. If anything, the American Bantam came up with the idea of the Jeep but the development was given to Willys instead because the Army did not think that Bantam had the resources to bring the car to life.

By 1942, the final design of the Jeep was awarded to the military. It was called the Military Vehicle Body and the US Army applied for a patent, naming Colonel Bryon Q. Jones as the inventor. It’s important to note that Colonel Jones did not participate in the design of the car, but this was the military’s way to ensure that no one took credit.

Based on the patent, the Jeep was meant to be interchangeably used as a cargo truck, emergency ambulance, radio car, mobile anti-aircraft machine gun unit, personnel carrier, field bed, trench mortar kit and other purposes. On the battlefield, the Jeep was incredibly useful because it was nimble and tough on any terrain, and still light enough for soldiers to maneuver.

  • Bidding Wars

Although many people know that Willys-Overland Motor Company produced the first Jeep, which is the Willys MB, only a few know about the bidding war. Willys-Overland, Bantam and Ford were involved in a bidding war organized by the military to make the vehicle.

There were stringent laws and deadlines as the military was under pressure due to the war.
The car was to be a four-wheel drive, and the specific dimensions of the wheelbase, height, and weight were given. It also had to carry up to 660 pounds of payload with an engine of 85 pound-feet of torque. To make the car light, the military requested a weight of 1,300 pounds. Willys was the low bidder and even asked for more time to complete their design.

Due to this, American Bantam got the contract as they met the deadline. Despite this, Bantam did not have the financial capability or production resources needed to meet the number of cars that the War Department wanted. So Willys and Ford were asked to complete the design, and were even given the original design from Bantam to do so.

By November 1940, Willys and Ford built their prototypes, which were named Quad and Pygmy. The prototypes were tested along with the Bantam Pilot, and all three were declared acceptable due to the pressure on the military. They even raised the weight limit to 2,160 pounds so that the carmakers could meet it.

  • Production of the Willys Jeep

For the early production of the Willys Jeep, it was called the Willys MA, which stood for Military Model A. Willys-Overland started its early production after Bantam and Ford, and only 1,555 MAs were built. Only about 27 units of the early Willys Jeep are still around.

Production of Willys Jeep

As for Ford, the released the GP, about 4,458 units, while the Bantam BRC-40 was released first. Although Bantam met the needs of the Army, they could not meet the demand and so contracts were also given to Ford and Willys. Most of the cars were given to Britain and the USSR, especially the Willys MA.

By 1941, the Army decided that they wanted a single manufacturer to make their vehicles, and Willys won the contract due to its sturdy L134 Go Devil engine with 60 horsepower and the affordable cost. Willys also improved the designs from Ford and Bantam, naming the Jeep the MB. The Army first requested for 16,000 vehicles.

When the Jeep Willys Edition entered mass production, the company added different features. The four-wheel drive came with a transfer case, and Willys used a constant velocity joint on the front wheels and axles. After a while, the Willys MB came with a deep mud exhaust system, a parking brake, and vacuum windshield wipers.

  • Civilian Jeeps After the War

The elements of the Willys MB Jeep can be found in the modern-day Jeep Wrangler Willys. The Jeep Wrangler Willys was designed based on the MB. As the Second World War was coming to an end, Willys-Overland executives started to consider a plan for Civilian Jeeps.
Willys modified the MB, enhancing the headlights and seats and adding a tailgate.

It was named the Jeep CJ-2A. There was also the Willys Station Wagon and the Willys Truck, both popular Jeeps in the United States. Willys already had free advertisement from the Army with the Jeeps left around the world after the war. This caused it to gain a loyal civilian following, along with the Jeep military vehicles. Jeep was also changing ownership, which affected the growth.

  • Willys Jeep Used in War

The Willys Jeep is known for its strong military history, as the car was first initially made for the War Department. It is a highly capable vehicle on the battlefield, light enough to be lifted up by soldiers when it got stuck but also strong enough to drive through the roughest terrain.

The military truck could handle any terrain from Europe to Southeast Asia and North Africa. You could find the Jeep in France on the beaches of Normandy, the mainland of Japan, and other places where the war was going on. The Jeep could lift anti-tank weapons and even mount a machine gun for fighting.

But after the war, military Jeep has dealt with different failures in its civilian use, especially with what is called the Keep Curse. This is because most companies that have owned Jeep, including Bantam, Willys-Overland, Kaiser and AMC, failed for different reasons. Despite this, Jeep retained its significance in the Army.

Willys Jeep Models

Here are the different models under the Willys Jeep line.

  • Sea Jeep

While the Willys Jeep is the Willys MB, the Ford GPA is called the Sea Jeep. Although Willys-Overland won the contract with the War Department, it was clear that the carmaker could not keep up with their needs. Ford was offered a government contract to build 30,000 units, based on the Willys blueprint and engine.

Details of Sea Jeep

The Army was tending towards Willys rather than Ford, so much so that when Ford offered to improve the engine provided to them by Willys, the government declined. Instead, Ford and Willys were required to use similar components so they will be common and can be interchanged, but Willys didn’t get license fees for this.

During the Second World War, there were 363,000 Willys Jeeps produced, while the Ford GPWs were 280,000. About 50,000 were also exported to the USSR, but Bantam only made two-wheel Jeep trailers for the military after a while.

Although the Willys Jeep and Sea Jeep were interchangeable, Ford started to replace its parts. It came with nine vertical open slots on the radiator, a welded grate front grille, and circular openings in front of the lights to reduce costs and speed up production. Willys later adopted this design method too.

  • Station Wagon

The Wills Jeep Station Wagon, also associated with a Jeep Utility Wagon and Jeep Panel Delivery, are cars that were produced by Willys and Kaiser Jeep from 1946 to 1963. It is known as the first all-steel station wagon that was mass-produced, designed and constructed as a passenger vehicle.

The Willys Wagon is known as the most successful Jeep after the Second World War. By 1949, Jeep introduced a four-wheel drive option to the car. Then, there was a 2WD sold as the Station Wagon while the 4WD is called the Utility Wagon. If anything, the 4WD Jeep Wagon is the first production of an SUV. It was succeeded by the Jeep Wagoneer.

  • Truck

The Willys Jeep Truck is a truck based on the existing vehicles from Willys, especially the CJ-2A and the Willys Jeep Station Wagon. It was made by Willys Overland between 1947 and 1965. It consisted of a 2-door pickup truck, 2-door stake bed and 2-door cab chassis, with front engine, rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive.

Willy_s Truck Review

The trucks were powered by different engines, starting with the 2.2-liter L4-134 Go Devil I4. Other engines included a 2.2-liter F4-134 Hurricane I4, 3.7-liter 6-226 Super Hurricane I6 and 3.8-liter 6230 Tornado I6. This is coupled with a 3-speed Borg Warner T-90 manual.
Some optional accessories on the truck included the power takeoff, engine governor, and pully drive. There were over 200,000 of the Jeep Trucks manufactured. By 1949, it was also offered as a ¾ ton two-wheel drive version.

  • Jeepster

The Willys Overland Jeepster was another popular Willys Jeep after the partnership with the military. It was a 2-door convertible with an FR layout that was released between 1948 and 1950. The car was manufactured to fill a gap in the product line, and was moving their releases from the standard SUVs.

The Jeepster was powered by different engines, first with a 134.1 cubic-inch 2.2-liter I4. Then, there was the 148.5 cubic-inch 2.4-liter I6 and 161 cubic-inch 2.6-liter I6. It also came with 3-speedmanual transmission and overdrive. It also came with different interior fittings and luxury features, making it a more expensive option.

There was a total of 19,132 Jeepsters produced throughout the years. The poor sales were because the price was really high, the lack of roll-up door windows, and low performance. The Jeepster experienced a comeback with the Jeepster Commando in 1967, which came with a V6 engine, pickup truck option, roll-up door windows and four-wheel drive.

Frequently Asked Questions

– How Much Is a Willys Jeep Vehicle?

The cost of a Willys Jeep vehicle depends on whether it was well-maintained, but it regularly sold for $30,000. You might even find an original Willys Jeep going for $130,000. The modern-day Willys is the Jeep Wrangler Willys Sport, which costs between $41,305 and $65,270.

– What Company Owns the Jeep Brand?

The company that owns the Jeep brand is an American brand called Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. FCA US LLC is one of the biggest automakers in the world. Jeep has been a part of Chrysler since 1987. Before then, Jeep has been owned by Willys-Overland, Willys Motors, Kaiser Jeep, and AMC.

What is the Difference Between the Willys Jeep and the CJ Jeep?

The CJ Jeep, a legendary vehicle in the cj jeep history generations, is a successor to the Willys Jeep. While both vehicles maintain their iconic design and off-road capabilities, the CJ Jeeps underwent continuous innovation and improvement. The main difference lies in how the CJ Jeeps evolved from the original Willys Jeep, offering more comfort, power, and modern features to cater to changing needs and preferences.


If you’re curious about the Willys Jeep, this article has provided you with all you need to know about this famous car.

Here’s a rundown of what we covered:

  • Willys Jeep is an American off-road four-wheel drive light utility vehicle that was made for the military during the Second World War.
  • The Jeep originated from the request of the military for carmakers to use a light utility vehicle with four-wheel drive.
  • The bid to make the Military Vehicle Body was between Willys, Ford, and American Bantam — Bantam won the bid.
  • Willys was later chosen to make the vehicles due to its low price and efficient engine.
  • In addition, Bantam did not have the resources to complete the project.
  • After the Second World War, the Willys Jeep started to move towards civilian vehicles like the Station Wagon, Truck and Jeepster.

You can look out for the early Jeep Willys at vintage car markets although it would be hard to find since many of them were used during war. But for a similar look, you can consider the Jeep Wagoneer.

5/5 - (19 votes)
Ran When Parked