Within the Nineteen Nineties, you couldn’t throw a Frisbee in suburbia with out hitting a Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Blazer or Jeep Cherokee sport utility automobile. A few of the credit score for that’s owed to the Willys-Overland Motor Firm and its Jeep.
On the finish of the Second World Battle, most automakers returned their factories to their unique perform of creating automobiles and vehicles for most people as a substitute of creating weapons. That course of offered each a problem and a chance for Willys-Overland.
The Ohio-based firm had assembled greater than 361,000 go-anywhere four-wheel-drive personnel carriers between 1941 and 1945, and plans had been made to provide a civilian model with a couple of modifications, equivalent to a flip-down tailgate and greater headlights.
Whereas manufacturing of the C2A Jeep (“C” for civilian) ramped up, Willys determined to additional introduce a variety of automobiles that would instantly compete with Common Motors, Ford and Chrysler.
The primary such creation was the Jeep Station Wagon, penned by famed industrial designer and inventor Brooks Stevens, that featured a stylized grille that fronted a boxy all-steel enclosed physique.
Actually, it was the primary station wagon to be constructed with out the standard wood-ribbed panels that had been a fixture on competing fashions (though a pretend wood-style paint scheme was accessible as an possibility).
The Jeep Station Wagon, initially accessible in rear-wheel-drive solely, was launched in 1946 and was rapidly adopted by a panel supply and two- and four-wheel-drive pickup variations a 12 months later.
All fashions had been finally provided with a four-cylinder or elective six-cylinder powerplant with as much as 72 horsepower on faucet.
Creature comforts had been few and much between within the wagon. The first promoting options for this Jeep had been its simply detachable rear and entrance passenger seats (to extend load area) plus the truth that homeowners may hose out the painted metallic flooring when the necessity arose.
Lastly, with two to a few toes much less general size than that of a typical sedan, the wagon was a nimble and easy-to-park hauler.
The automobile remained in steady manufacturing till 1965, lengthy after Willys-Overland had surrendered possession of the corporate to Kaiser Industries, with solely modest energy will increase and minor trim adjustments to report. Their replacements, the Cherokee and Wagoneer, additionally designed by Stevens, would final one other 30 years.
The Jeep Station Wagon’s sensible nature ran counter to the launch of the Jeepster in 1948, simply one of many extra controversial (some would declare outlandish) automobiles to ever make it into manufacturing.
The Jeepster additionally flowed from Stevens’ fertile thoughts and his flamboyant gross sales abilities had been doubtless used to persuade Willys administration that the automobile can be a surefire hit.
As with the wagon, the Jeepster had a traditional-looking grille set between two massive, spherical headlights, however from there on again, all of the physique panels had been distinctive.
The inside was additionally downright luxurious by Jeep requirements and, from behind the wheel, it may have simply be mistaken for a extra mainstream car.
There have been ground mats, leather-based seats, a big chrome-ringed steering wheel and a tonneau cowl that hid the mechanically folding high.
On the minus sheet, roll-up home windows weren’t accessible, and patrons wanted to put in a set of facet curtains when the climate turned nasty.
First-year Jeepsters got here with decidedly non-sporting 63-horsepower four-cylinder engines, however the six-cylinder engine developed for the Station Wagon was elective the next 12 months.
Sadly for Willys, the Jeepster proved to be lengthy on whimsy and brief on practicality. Following a fairly profitable preliminary 12 months, gross sales fell properly wanting expectations because the Huge Three’s new postwar fashions started to reach.
As properly, improvement of each the Station Wagon and the Jeepster appeared to delay the beginning of Willys-Overland’s new passenger-car line that didn’t seem till 1952, lengthy after the Jeepster experiment was shut down.
Surprisingly, Kaiser noticed match to carry again a restyled Jeepster (known as the Jeepster Commando) for 1966 and American Motors stored the marque going for what can be its last three years after buying the Jeep model in 1970.
For Jeep’s foray into the mainstream, sensible clearly received out over fanciful, a hard-won lesson that continues to be as true at the moment because it proved to be greater than seven a long time in the past.