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Jeep is the oldest trusted name in off-road and sports utility vehicle. At present, everything Jeep, including the trademark "Jeep", as well as the Jeep parts and Jeep accessories are fully owned by Chrysler Group LLC. Worldwide, the name Jeep is synonymous to freedom, capability, and adventure-and is truly on a class of its own. Jeep's beginnings can be traced back to the pre-World War II Era when the United States Army was looking for a speedy, lightweight, all-terrain, heavy-duty, and reconnaissance vehicle. At that time, a vehicle for huge army needs wasn't yet in existence and so the U.S. Army sent out its specifications to car manufacturers nationwide, asking for working prototypes that are to be delivered in 49 days. The requirements must have sounded too steep for all 135 companies and so none responded, but two. One was the American Bantam Car Company or The American Austin Car Company and the other was Willys-Overland. But at that time, the Bantam Company, which was hit badly by the depression, was already going down, and so it asked for help from an engineer in Detroit named Karl Probst. On the other side, Willys-Overland was having a tough time beating the 49-day deadline and so had asked for more time. Bantam submitted a prototype that met the army's requirements, and supplied its design to Willys-Overland, which then submitted an improved version, and was awarded the final mass production contract.
Born from the US Army's need for a light, four-wheel-drive reconnaissance vehicle during the Second World War, Jeep has built a solid reputation for building vehicles with serious off-road abilities. An early demonstration in 1941 involved a Jeep being driven up the steps of the United States Capitol. Jeeps have only gotten better since then. We give you a look at some of the innovations that have made Jeep the vehicle-of-choice for adventure.
The Wrangler is one of the few 4WD vehicles that have solid front and rear axles. With a Dana 44 rear differential and a Dana 30 front differential, the axles are extremely tough and geared for intense applications. Because of its use of solid axles, the Wrangler is easier to upgrade with aftermarket lifting suspension kits that will increase ground clearance. The higher clearance allows it to be driven over difficult obstacles like large rocks while the improved suspension gives it superior handling by keeping all four wheels in contact with the ground. The underside of the vehicle is also protected by 3-mm. thick steel skid plates.
The Wrangler's Rubicon model also uses Rock-Trac 4WD, which has a 4:1 low gear ratio, Brake Lock differential, electronically-activated locking differentials and electronic front sway bar disconnect. What all that translates to is a powerful 4WD application that can be activated electronically from inside the vehicle.
Jeep's Selec-Terrain system fine-tunes the vehicle's off-roading ability by adjusting to specific road conditions. The driver simply turns a control dial to indicate the right surface setting. With the Off-Road Group II package, the terrain settings are:
This groundbreaking innovation also includes electronic limited slip differential for better control and air suspension for better ride comfort.
Whether it's on the battlefield, the streets, or on the adventure trail, the world's oldest off-road vehicle brand shows no signs of slowing down.
The Jeep, the Dakota, and the Landing Craft were the three tools that won the war. - Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower
General George C. Marshall, the US Army Chief of Staff during World War II, described the jeep as "America's greatest contribution to modern warfare." By the end of the war, 647,343 jeeps had been produced by American Bantam Car Company, Willys-Overland Motors, and Ford. The Willys MB US Army Jeep, forerunner of the civilian jeeps and sport utility vehicles we use today, was involved in virtually every theater of WWII. It was so prevalent that German troops started to believe that every American soldier was issued his own jeep. In different places it has served as a troop transport, an ambulance, and even as a train.
In the North African theater, a British SAS officer named David Stirling improvised a daring plan to harass the Germans. He stripped down Willys MB Jeeps (including the windshield and the radiator grille) and loaded them with heavy machineguns salvaged from Allied aircraft. Taking full advantage of the Jeeps' off-road abilities, he led his group across the desert to German positions and executed hit-and-run attacks. By November 1942, they had destroyed over 400 aircraft. Stirling was eventually captured by Germans in 1943 but the bold tactics he introduced using the Willy jeeps continued to destroy vehicles and inflict German casualties until the end of the war.
In the months preceding the Second Battle of El Alamein, the Allies needed to come up with ways to deceive the Axis command. The operation was called "Operation Bertram." Other than creating dummy pipelines and disguising their supply lines as waste, the ploy also involved making Willys MB Jeeps look like tanks by placing plywood frames over them. The deception was one of the factors that lead to a decisive Allied victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein.
Although it's not a fighting vehicle in itself, the Jeep's versatility, reliability, and serious off-road capacities, made it an unquestionably driving force in WWII.