REVISED AND UPDATED — In 1945, Willys-Overland emerged from the Second World War with one of the greatest automotive brands ever created and a need to capitalize on it. Here’s how the Willys Jeep became the universal vehicle.
Toledo-based Willys-Overland barely survived the Great Depression, but in the trusty Jeep of World War II fame, so revered by returning military veterans, now the automaker had a desirable and useful vehicle that could be leveraged into a complete product line. That’s just what the company did, and Jeep thrives to this day as one of the world’s most valuable automotive brands and a division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Some of the models spun off in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s from the famous Willys Jeep MB of WWII:
+ The CJ series of civilian Jeeps.
+ A larger, Jeep-derived vehicle with an all-steel station wagon body, offered in both 2WD and 4WD versions.
+ An odd but charming touring phaeton designed by Brooks Stevens, built on the station wagon chassis and marketed as the Jeepster.
+ A 2WD version of the CJ, the DJ-3A Dispatcher, designed for urban commercial use including postal delivery.
+ A Dispatcher with a panel truck body, the FJ-3 Fleetvan.
+ A forward-control, cab-over-engine variant of the CJ, the FC series pickup, offered in both short and long wheelbase versions.
… to name but a few. Meanwhile, all through the postwar era, Jeep advertising focused on showing the handy vehicles adapted to every imaginable use in home, farm, and industry. Here are some fascinating old company PR photos that portray the Jeep as the Swiss Army knife of vehicles.