This article is about the compact, open body, Jeep Universal four wheel drive vehicle. Information about the complete range of civilian Jeep vehicles including full size wagons and pickups can be found at Wikipedia.
Willys wasted no time following the end of the war, introducing the first civilian Jeep vehicle, the CJ-2A, in 1945. Willys advertisements marketed the Jeep as work vehicle for farmers and construction workers. It came with a tailgate, side-mounted spare tyre, larger headlights than the Willys MB, an external fuel cap and many more items that its military predecessor did not include. The CJ-2A was produced for three years, until the introduction of the CJ-3A in 1948. It was very similar to CJ-2A but featured a one piece windshield, and retained the original L-head 4 cylinder engine used in the military MB model.
The first civilian Jeep, a CJ-2A
The CJ Model was updated in 1953, becoming the CJ-3B. It had a taller front grille and hood than its military predecessor, to accommodate the new Hurricane F-Head four-cylinder engine. The CJ-3B remained in production until 1968 and a total of 155,494 were manufactured in the U.S. In 1953 Willys-Overland was sold to the Henry J. Kaiser interests for $60 million. The Kaiser company began an extensive research and development program that would greatly broaden the Jeep product range.
The M-38A1 was introduced in 1952 and manufactured until 1957 for the U.S. Military and from 1958 until 1971 for export to foreign governments. The M-38A1, with its rounded-front-fender design, was slightly larger than the CJ-3B as it had an increased wheelbase, overall length and width. It had a two piece windshield, recessed headlights and a heavy duty chassis and suspension. 101,000 were built.
In 1955, Kaiser Jeep introduced the CJ-5, a civilian version of the M-38A1. Improvements in engines, axles, transmissions and seating comfort soon made the CJ-5 the ideal vehicle for the public's growing interest in off-road vehicles. A long wheelbase model was introduced and was known as a CJ-6. Apart from the 20 inch longer wheelbase the CJ-6 was almost identical to the CJ-5. Jeep also introduced a forward control cab-over-engine variation to the CJ line, the FC-150 (4 cylinder engine) and FC-170 (6 cylinder engine) in 1957. They were made until 1964.
The Jeep CJ-5 had the longest production run of any Jeep vehicle, from 1955 to 1983. In the 16 years of Kaiser ownership, manufacturing plants were established in 30 countries, and Jeep vehicles were marketed in more than 150 countries.
Jeep introduced the first automatic transmission in a four wheel drive vehicle in 1962, in their Wagoneer line (a predecessor to the Jeep Cherokee). The 1962 Jeep Wagoneer was also the first four wheel drive with an independent front suspension.
In 1965, a new "Dauntless" V-6 engine was introduced as an option on both the 81 inch wheelbase CJ-5 and 101 inch wheelbase CJ-6. The 155 horsepower engine almost doubled the power of the standard four-cylinder engine. It was the first time a Jeep CJ could be purchased with a V-6 engine.
Early model Jeep CJ-5
In 1970 Kaiser Jeep was purchased by American Motors Corporation. Four wheel drive vehicles had become more popular than ever, and by 1978, total Jeep vehicle production was up to 600 vehicles a day, over three times what it had been at the start of the decade. After 1970, all Jeep CJ's came equipped with AMC-built engines, and all were available with 304 cubic inch V-8 engines. AMC equipped both the CJ-5 and CJ-6 with heavier axles, bigger brakes and a wider track. Another first introduced by Jeep in 1973 was Quadra-Trac®, the first automatic full-time 4WD system. Quadra-Trac® was available in full size Jeep trucks and wagons as well as the CJ-7.
Late model Jeep CJ-5 (Renegade)
In 1976, AMC introduced the CJ-7, the first major change in Jeep design in nearly three decades. The CJ-7 had a ten inch longer wheelbase than a CJ-5 to allow an automatic transmission to be fitted. For the first time, the CJ-7 offered an optional moulded plastic top and steel doors with roll-down windows. Quadra-Trac®, the automatic 4-wheel drive system was available as an option in the CJ-7.
Both the 93.5-inch wheelbase CJ-7 and 83.5-inch wheelbase CJ-5 models were built until 1983 when demand for the CJ-7 left AMC no choice but to discontinue the CJ-5, after having enjoyed a 28-year production run, and concentrate on the CJ-7. The Scrambler, a small pickup similar to the CJ-7 but with a longer wheelbase (103 inches), known internationally as the CJ-8 was also produced from 1981 to 1986.
Approximately 380,000 CJ-7s were built.
Jeep CJ-7 (Renegade)
In 1987 AMC introduced the Jeep YJ, an updated design based on the CJ-7 body but for the first time the iconic round headlights were replaced with rectangular lights.
This was the first Jeep to be branded as a Wrangler. The YJ was designed to be more comfortable on-road than a CJ-7, having a slightly wider track, lower ground clearance and anti-sway bars to improve handling. The YJ retained leaf sprung suspension.
The YJ was powered by either a 2.5 litre (150 cubic inch) 4-cylinder or an optional 4.2 litre (258 cubic inch) straight 6-cylinder engine until 1991. That year the larger engine was replaced by a fuel-injected 180 horsepower (134 kW) 4.0 litre (242 cubic inch) engine. The standard transmission was a 5-speed manual and a 3-speed automatic was offered as an option. The YJ was manufactured until 1996 and a total of 685,000 were built.
August 5, 1997, about a year after the introduction of the Wrangler, American Motors Corporation was sold to the Chrysler Corporation and the popular Jeep brand became a part of the Jeep/Eagle Division of Chrysler Corporation.
The Jeep TJ Wrangler, introduced by Chrysler in 1997, is very similar to the CJ-7 in appearance, indeed its 'retro' look was quite deliberate, but nearly 80% of the vehicles parts were newly designed. The TJ introduced 4-wheel coil suspension, similar to the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and a totally new interior, including driver and passenger SRS (Air Bags). The in-line, 6 cylinder, fuel injected, 4.0 litre (242 cubic inch) OHV engine delivered 130 kw (180 horsepower) and used the same engine as the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee models. The Wrangler retained several 'classic' Jeep features such as round headlights, seven slot grill, a fold-down windscreen (first seen in 1940) and removable doors as well as a choice of a soft top or removable hard top. A roll bar was also standard.
The standard Wrangler was an unmatched off-road performer but In 2003, in response to the growing demand for aftermarket upgrades, Chrysler introduced the Wrangler Rubicon model, a special version of the TJ. It came with heavy duty Dana 44 axles, locking differentials, sway bar disconnects and a 4:1 low ratio transfer case, all of which to enabled the most difficult trails to be driven with ease.
Jeep TJ Wrangler
In 2007, after ten years of producing the popular TJ Wrangler, an all new Wrangler was introduced. The JK Wrangler is powered by a 232 cubic inch (3.8 litre) V-6 engine providing 285 horsepower (209 kW) with either a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission. Outside the US a 170 cubic inch (2.8 litre) 4-cylinder, 197 horsepower (147 kW) diesel engine is available. As well as the traditional two-door universal body design, a four-door version of was introduced, the Wrangler Unlimited. A Rubicon version of the JK is also available.
In 1998 Chrysler and Daimler-Benz merged to form DaimlerChrysler, then in 2007 DaimlerChrysler de-merged, with the Chrysler Group LLC retaining ownership of the Jeep brand. Following the recession and subsequent crisis in the US automotive industry of 2008-2010 Chrysler filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009 and received bailout funding from the US Government’s TARP program, enabling Chrysler to stay in business.
The reorganised company was owned by the United Auto Workers pension fund, Italian automotive company Fiat, and the United States and Canadian governments. Fiat SpA gradually purchased the other partners shares and in 2014, formed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, to become the owner of the Chrysler Group and all of its brands, including Jeep.
Since Willys-Overland obtained the first United States Trademark Registration for the Jeep name in 1950, ownership of the brand, which is registered internationally, has passed from Willys-Overland, to Kaiser, to American Motors, to Chrysler and most recently to Fiat.
A new Wrangler model is expected to be released by Fiat Chrysler in 2017. It is likely to feature an aluminium body.
Jeep JK Wrangler
4-door Wrangler Unlimited (Rubicon)
Last updated November 2015.