An all-American tale: 75 years of Jeep, CAR+ May 2016 | CAR Magazine

An all-American tale: 75 years of Jeep, CAR+ May 2016

Published: 01 April 2016 Updated: 20 April 2016

► Celebrating the 75th birthday of Jeep
► A timeline of Jeep’s rich history
► Topped off by concept-craze 2016 

1940: Willys Quad

War – what is it good for? Well, Willys-Overland Co. for starters, who won the contract to build the US Army a new breed of all-terrain runabout.

1941: Willys MB

Where the Jeep name came from is a mystery; most likely it was military jargon derivation of ‘GP’, for ‘general purpose’.

1945: Willys Jeep CJ-2A

Peacetime and civvie street beckons. CJ stands for just that: ‘Civilian Jeep’. Designed for farming, so fewer guns.

1946: Willys Wagon

Jeep branches out from its military roots for the first time with wood cladding

1953: Willys-Overland merges with Kaiser-Frazer – at the time the largest merging of two automotive firms.

1970: American Motors Corporation – AMC – takes ownership (until 1987).

1975: Cherokee

The Cherokee name makes its first appearance, initially on a two-door ‘sports’ development of the long-running Wagoneer.

Wrangler replaces the CJ series

1986: Wrangler

The CJ series finally dies; the Wrangler is its replacement, inheriting its ‘great off-road, rubbish on it‘ DNA. The series is still going  strong today.

1987: Chrysler becomes Jeep’s new owner.

1987: In a masterstroke of product placement, a pink Jeep Renegade becomes Barbie’s sports utility vehicle of choice for the next two and a bit decades.

1990: Freedom concept 

Ahead-of-the curve design for a luxury two-door ragtop SUV, with power-folding roof and picnic basket rollover bar.

1992: Grand Cherokee

Chrysler pushes Jeep into the posh 4×4 ring with the likes of Range Rover. Grand Cherokee the most upmarket Jeep yet.

2014 : Another change at the top: Chrysler is now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Time heals: 75 years ago Jeeps fought the Italians; now they're in cahoots

2014: Renegade 

The platform-sharing Fiat 500X’s more macho alter-ego takes the Jeep brand into a whole new, potentially lucrative market.

2016: Happy birthday to us!

Why celebrate with one wild concept car when you can punt out an army of them?


A mutated Wrangler, stretched by 12in to accommodate the Dodge Hellcat’s 707bhp V8. Rally raid suspension and 40in boots.

Crew Chief 715 - a salute to Jeep's military history

Crew Chief 715

A steely eyed salute to Jeep’s military history, inspired by the ’60s Kaiser M715. ‘Tactical green’ paint, aircraft control switches and Ride of the Valkyries looped on the stereo. Possibly.


A stomach-stapled Wrangler with 26 inches cut from its length, 35in tyres and low-back leather buckets for that ’50s beach buggy vibe. Like Barbie’s ride made macho.


Retro done right. Original battle-scarred body from a 1960 Jeep Forward Control with 2005 Wrangler running gear beneath. Analogue compass, CB radio and vinyl seats. 


A super-stretched Renegade-based pickup with a 2in lift kit, 5ft loadbed, low-range transmission and possibly the greatest paint name ever: ‘Beige Against the Machine‘.

Comanche sporting the 'Beige Against the Machine' paint. Yes, that is the real paint name

Read more from the May 2016 issue of CAR magazine

By James Taylor

Former features editor for CAR, occasional racer