Our Four Favorite Jeep Fun Facts
Jeep is one of the most popular automotive brands in the world, and the company understandably has quite the large following. These enthusiasts understand the workings of their Jeeps, and they could also probably entertain you with a number of Jeep facts. However, we’d reckon there are some parts of the brand’s history that are lesser known to these fans.
We’ve compiled some of our favorite Jeep fun facts below. You could use this information to impressive your friends, a fellow Jeep enthusiast, or even a Jeep dealer in Miami…
The Real “Founder of Jeep”
John Willys is one of, if not the, most significant person in the brand’s history. The pioneer helped develop Jeep, and if it wasn’t for his innovative vision, we may have never got to experience one of our favorite car companies.
However, the founder died in August of 1935, and the brand didn’t release their first prototype until five years later. So who was the person responsible for the company’s popular vehicles?
It actually wasn’t any one particular person, and the idea didn’t come from any automotive executives. Instead, the idea for the Jeep came from the United States Department of Defense, who were seeking a vehicle that would serve multiple functions during World War II. The DoD provided blueprints for what they were seeking, and after several companies (including Ford) sent in their imaginings, the “Willys Quad” was chosen as the vehicle of choice.
While we’re discussing Willys, it’s also notable that his name isn’t pronounced “Willies.” No, the name is instead pronounced “Willis.” If you plan on being a Jeep know-it-all, you’ll probably want to keep this minor fun fact in mind.
Where Did the Name Come From?
There are various theories as to where the name “Jeep” originated from. The utility vehicle was originally known as a “G.P” for some time, with the abbreviation standing for General Purpose. Some believe the name “Jeep” simply comes from pronouncing the letters “GP” phonetically. Others believe the name “Jeep” was the general term used for many military vehicles, although it only stuck with the iconic brand. This theory is contradicted by a World War II poem written by Private Jesse Wolf (via a newspaper clipping from the Toledo Blade), who seems to describe the Jeep as its own entity.
When the war was at its hottest
And the going got too steep.
One pal that I could count on
Was the mighty little Jeep.
Through beachhead hell, through fire,
Our metal mounts would leap
With strictly GI courage;
I won’t forget the Jeep.
And now the war is over.
The one thing I will keep
For farm and field and hunting –
That’s my buddy, Willy Jeep.
However, it’s generally believed that the Jeep name first popped in 1936… and the source wasn’t necessarily what you’d think.
There was an old Popeye cartoon called “Eugene the Jeep.” The featured animal/creature was capable of performing any task, much like the Jeep we know today. Some clever executive picked up on the similarities, assigning the unknown name to the brand’s vehicles. The name ended up sticking, and the rest if history.
Evolution of the Engine
Jeep engines are generally regarded as being powerful and dependable, and the systems have certainly become one of the brand’s main selling points. This wasn’t always the case, however. The units that were featured in the Jeeps of the 1950s and 1960s were thought to lack power and innovation, although this did cater to the company’s main demographic (farmers and builders).
Eventually, as the company’s vehicles continued to evolve, the engineers recognized that they needed to revamp their engines to compensate. The company exceeded expectations with their new product, as Kaiser Jeep became the first brand to mass produce an SOHC six-cylinder engine.
A.C. Sampietro, the engine’s chief engineer, earned much of the praise and credit for the unit (which was affectionately known as the Tornado OHC). The English import added several innovative features to the motor’s design, including a single camshaft lobe for each cylinder.
While the Tornado engine was revamped and eventually discarded in the North American market, it actually stuck around for a while in Argentina. In the mid-1960s, American Motors formed a “joint venture in Argentina,” as GearHeads.org describes it. The project was called Torino, and the Tornado was chosen to accompany the vehicle. The vehicle ended up seeing some success on the racing circuit, as it finished first at the 1969 84 Hours of the Nurburgring (although due to penalties, the vehicle ultimately placed fourth).
The Jeep Design Has Been Borrowed By Several Companies
Rival companies picked up on the increasing popularity of the Jeep, and they understandably wanted to enter into this booming market. As a result, several brands attempted to produce their own rugged off-roaders, and the results were rather mixed.
Land Rover was the most ambitious, as their Series I vehicles differed from the traditional Jeep. Other companies, meanwhile, were a bit more blatant. Toyota used the term “Jeep” in some of their advertisements, but the company eventually recognized that that wasn’t a good idea and switched the name to Land Cruiser. Mitsubishi and Ford (who actually helped develop the initial Jeep) also attempted to recreate the iconic vehicles.
Most interestingly, there’s a growing belief that Jeep had a role in the development of the Hummer. As Aaron Miller of Thrillist.com writes, the brand produced specialized vehicles for the United States Postal Service for three decades, and the company dedicated an entire facility to producing vehicles for the government. However, when AMC took control of the company, that facility branched out into its own company, AM General. This was the brand that ended up producing the Hummer.
The company has a long and fascinating history, especially considering their relationship with World War II. It’s fascinating that there are still several question marks regarding the development of the brand and the brand’s vehicles, but this only helps add to the mystique of the legendary automotive company.