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Four Wheel Drive History Willys Jeep

By: John Davison

Most early motor vehicles had a basic set up with the engine mounted in the front with a gearbox attached to it driving the rear wheels only and this became the normal design of most vehicles for many years. As design progressed engine position and transmission (gearbox) position was experimented with to help with traction and handling. Rear engine and mid-engine vehicles became available as did front and all wheel drive. Four wheel drive vehicles began life early in the twentieth century and a number of companies had their own designs for supplying off road trucks for business and commercial use. The importance of having load carrying vehicles that could transverese harsh terrain was important due to the lack of roads. Both the British and American armies during World War One had four wheel drive trucks for heavy terrain use for carrying troops and equipment. However the need for a true multi purpose on and off road vehicle became apparent.

With the onset of World War Two the need for off road vehicles that could literally drive over any terrain became a necessity of the military and with any technology war tends to drive designs forward quickly. In the early days of the war the United States Military required a light-weight four wheel drive vehicle that could transverese almost any terrain. A number of companies came forward with designs including Bantam, Ford and Willys. The result of this was the world famous Willys Jeep. The jeep proved to be both very rugged and dependable through out the war and by the close it had become well known for its on and off road ability and its durability.

After the war the potential within the civilian market for jeeps was clearly apparent and Willys filed for the trademark registration of the name Jeep and began production for the public sector. The first models named Civillian Jeeps (CJ) began production in 1945 and the name Jeep became an icon of tough go anywhere vehicles soon to become a legend to future four wheel drive owners. The history of the Jeep and production models are as follows:

1945 - 1949 CJ-2A
1946 - 1953 CJ-3A
1947 - 1965 Willys Jeep Truck
1948 - 1950 Willys Jeepster
1952 - 1968 CJ-3B
1954 - 1983 CJ-5
1955 - 1981 CJ-6
1976 - 1986 CJ-7
1981 - 1986 CJ-8
1953 Kaiser buys Willys Overland.
1970 American Motors Corporation AMC takes over Kaiser-Jeep.
1987 Chrysler Corporation buys American Motors Corporation.
1998 Daimler-Benz merges with Chrysler Corporation.

The modern day Chrysler Jeep has many models and incorporates all the benefits of modern technology and comfort but it has tried to retain some of the old willys features as the front grill shows.

Back in the United Kingdom the Land Rover project was first born and the legend began.


           
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