Jeep Stories - The Birth, The Evolution
Jeep has a legendary heritage spanning back decades. This iconic brand has evolved over the years to allow you to “go anywhere and do anything” to your heart’s content. It doesn’t matter whether you drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee, the classic Jeep Wrangler, or a Jeep Gladiator: being a part of the Jeep family means embarking on an adventure of a lifetime.
So when compiling the best Jeep stories, we had a difficult task. Not every compelling story made the cut. There were stories we’ve covered in past articles, like the Jeep Wave and Jeep Ducking, and stories like the famous Camp Jeep, which we’ll save for another day.
What follows are the best Jeep stories we could find, from the creation of the Jeep to a spectacular Jeep around-the-world journey. Check out the incredible stories below to find out which one is your favorite.
From WWII To Household Name
In 1940, soon to be mired in World War II, the US Army solicited bids for a light reconnaissance vehicle, meant to replace the mule and the motorcycle for battlefield transport. Three companies responded—Bantam, Willys-Overland, and Ford. Although each company would contribute to the ultimate design of the first Jeep, Willys-Overland was eventually awarded the contract. The Toledo, Ohio, company produced a vehicle that was later described by General George C. Marshall as “America’s greatest contribution to modern warfare.” There is some debate as to where the Jeep name came from: Some say it’s from a popular character of the Popeye cartoon series, Eugene the Jeep. Others say it is the phonetic combination of G and P, the government’s term for General Purpose vehicle. What isn’t up for debate is what the Jeep could do. That first model, the Willys MB, was a solid and versatile 4x4 with the ability to tackle nearly any terrain and task. It stormed the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima, fought in the deserts of North Africa, and traversed the mountains of Italy. It served as a troops and supplies transporter, a machine-gun mounted infantry vehicle, an ambulance, a tractor, a fire truck, a river-forder, and a snow-plow. All told, the US produced over 600,000 Jeeps towards the war effort. As World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle said, “It did everything. It went everywhere.”
After the war, Willys-Overland retained the Jeep trademark and shifted to civilian production, modifying the Willys MB into the Jeep Willys CJ-2A while also producing the Jeep Willys Station Wagon and the Jeep Pickup, which would later serve as the inspiration for the Jeep Gladiator.
Jeep went on to properly become a brand of its own, and year after year, the Jeep brand continued to evolve. While never forgetting its roots in WWII, Jeep is now more known for fun-in-the-sun cruisers, dependable daily drivers, or rugged off-roaders. Now, Jeeps have a removable roof, an engine block, content departments, and many more unique features. Jeep will continue to morph and improve in the coming years, and the stories will practically write themselves.
Eugene The Jeep
We previously mentioned how general-purpose or GP could be the origin of the Jeep name. However, there is an interesting theory that the origin of the iconic vehicle stems from a cat-dog hybrid from the Popeye comic strip. Eugene the Jeep first appeared in 1936. Jeep’s first vehicle, the Willys MB, made its debut on the battlefields of WWII in 1941. Eugene was a rather peculiar pet to have, not only aesthetically but ability-wise as well. It was a loveable and magical pet that could only utter the word “jeep”, making it even more adorable.
One theory goes that WWII soldiers were so impressed by the Willys MB’s ability to solve seemingly impossible problems and go nearly anywhere that they named the utility vehicle after the popular Popeye character, who could also “go anywhere and do anything.”
Displaying Willys MB
The Willys MB was the beginning of everything Jeep and helped the Allies win WWII. When owners of King Chrysler in Ontario, Canada, got their hands on this historic vehicle in mint condition, they couldn’t help but put the beauty on display.
The dealership owners installed the Jeep into the floor of their dealership. Using a towing company, they lowered the Jeep onto heavy rocks and rubble in the building’s foundation. Then they covered it in triple-paned glass on top for their customers to admire as they walked in. People come from all over to observe this incredible piece of Jeep history. Road trip, anyone?
The World's Longest Jeep Parade
In 2011, the first Bantam Jeep Festival in Pennsylvania became the biggest gathering of Jeeps in the world. They intended to break the Guinness World Record, and they did just that. With a total of 1,106 Jeeps, the world’s longest Jeep parade commenced.
The organizers of the Bantam Jeep Fest did not want to end there, however. They continued to up the ante with the fifth annual Bantam Jeep Festival in 2015. That year, 2,420 Jeeps participated in the parade, shattering the world record once again. In addition, the 2015 festival commemorated the 75th birthday of the Jeep, making the moment that much more special.
In 2007, another Guinness World Record was broken when two Jeep Wrangler Unlimiteds climbed the second-highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere. They reached the rim of Chile’s Ojos del Salado, which is also the world’s highest volcano. The Jeep Wrangler became the first four-wheeled vehicle to reach an altitude of over 6,600 meters, besting the Volkswagen Touareg. In only five days, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited accomplished this feat by climbing through extreme conditions and potentially the most rugged terrain on the planet.
George Murphy, the Vice President of Marketing for Chrysler, used this event to praise the durability of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. He proclaimed how this was a “testament to the performance of the vehicle’s powertrain, suspension, and overall quality.” Good call, George.
A Miracle on a Mountain
Here is another mountain story. This one might not be as lighthearted as the story above but a miracle did occur. Ken McCoy went on an expedition to climb a mountain with two other Jeeps. With only half a mile left in his journey and a storm brewing in the distance, Ken’s ride went on the decline and fell off the trail.
As the Jeep tumbled to its demise, Ken miraculously fell out of the vehicle just in time to spare his life. The other two riders helped Ken get up and gather his belongings–what was left of them at least. Ken lived to tell the tale and probably doesn’t have many more mountain journeys in his future. But who’s to say?
The Around-The-World Jeep Trip
Back in 1984, husband-wife team Loren and Patricia Upton were on a mission to drive one American-made vehicle around the world. Of course they chose to complete this journey with a Jeep: a 1966 CJ-5 Kaiser Corporation Jeep. This journey wasn’t intended to last 30 years, but it did. The south-north journey did not officially begin until 1987 when the couple made it to the southernmost road in Africa.
Two years later, the couple would face the most challenging part of their journey, the Darién Gap between Panama and Columbia. Traversing this roadless jungle took a total of 741 days. Afterward, the expedition had to end due to political unrest engulfing the area, leaving only one mile left of the journey. Thirty years later, after even more complications, the journey finally ended as the Uptons completed the final mile.
As you can see, many unbelievable Jeep stories have taken place over the past 70 plus years. Whether it’s helping to win WWII, conquering mountains for the record books, or driving around the world, the Jeep brand will always have an amazing story to tell. And there are more stories to discover. Back in 2016, to celebrate their 75th anniversary, Jeep created a digital compilation of 75 stories. With this iconic brand, you, too, will be able to create your own Jeep story as you embark on your own special journey. Ensure you have a story to tell with your Jeep. Get in your Jeep and chase your adventure.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the story of Jeep?
Jeep originated as a WWII general-purpose vehicle and then became a beloved vehicle for civilian consumers. In the 1960s, it took off as a rugged off-roading vehicle. For more information on changes in Jeep ownership over time, click here,
What is the Jeep slogan?
Jeep’s current slogan is this: “Legends aren’t born, they’re made.”
First launched in 2019, this Jeep slogan comes out of a 360-degree marketing campaign, which was designed to promote the brand as the greatest SUV manufacturer in an increasingly crowded market. As Olivier Francois, FCA’s Chief Marketing Officer said at the time, “It is a reminder that the Jeep brand, through its legendary DNA, continues to fulfill its promise of capability, durability, and craftsmanship.” Go here for more Jeep slogans.
What does 1941 mean on a Jeep?
This represents the birth year of the Jeep.
Why do Jeep drivers wave?
The Jeep wave is a friendly greeting between Jeep owners as they drive past each other. The Jeep wave is simply a way to show respect from one fellow Jeeper to another.
What is Jeep known for?
Off-road capabilities are what Jeep is most well-known for. The Wrangler is the iconic off-roading model, although the new Jeep Gladiator is giving it a run for its money as the perfect mid-size vehicle to begin your adventure of a lifetime. While off-roading prowess has been Jeep’s calling card, the Grand Wagoneer is putting Jeep on the map as a luxury brand as well.
What was unique about the Jeep?
If you are talking about the iconic Jeep Wrangler, what isn’t unique? Pick a feature: everything from having removable doors to top-down capability to being a highly dependable ride. It’s also one of the most modifiable vehicles on the road today.
What is the most iconic Jeep?
The most iconic Jeep has to be the 1941 Willy MB, the beginning of it all. The Willys MB was a solid and versatile 4x4 with the ability to tackle nearly any terrain and task. It stormed the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima, fought in the deserts of North Africa, and traversed the mountains of Italy. It served as a troops and supplies transporter, a machine-gun mounted infantry vehicle, an ambulance, a tractor, a fire truck, a river-forder, and a snow-plow. All told, the US produced over 600,000 Jeeps towards the war effort. As World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle said, “It did everything. It went everywhere.”
Which is the most popular Jeep quote?
The most popular Jeep quote is: “Go Anywhere. Do Anything.” But for more fantastic and inspirational quotes, click here.
What is the best Jeep of all time?
That is a difficult question but for our money, we’ll go with the 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon.