1. On July 15, 1941, Willys-Overland signed a contract with the U.S. Army to make vehicles. The Army needed a four-wheel, small truck that could handle rough terrain and carry personnel. The vehicle became known as the “jeep.” It became very popular with soldiers and in 1945, a civilian version became available to the American public.
2. On June 27, 1940, the Army Ordnance Technical Committee issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a 4×4 light vehicle to carry soldiers. They sent invitations to 135 companies. Only two responded – Willys-Overland Company and the American Bantam Car Company.
3. Willys-Overland ultimately won a contract to make 16,000 jeeps based on the design of its motor. In total, about 600,000 jeeps were made during the war. To meet demand, Ford Motor Company made thousands of jeeps using the Willys-Overland design.
4. The jeep was a favorite of Russian president Joseph Stalin. Russia was an ally with the United States and Great Britain during World War II.

July 15, 2021 – On this day 80 years ago, Willys-Overland signed a contract with the U.S. Army to produce a 4×4 vehicle to carry personnel. More than 600,000 would eventually be made on the Home Front during World War II. The vehicle came to be known as the “jeep” and the rest is history. Drive anywhere in the United States and around the world today and it will not be long before a Jeep is seen cruising down the road looking as cool as it did in the 1940s!

The vehicle became so popular with soldiers serving during World War II that in 1945, the same year the war ended, a consumer (civilian) version was produced and sold. More than 16 million men served during the war so the Jeep consumer base was vast.

Jeep History (Information from The Miracle of World War II by Francis Walton: p. 238-240)

On June 27, 1940, the Army Ordnance Technical Committee issued an invitation to 135 car manufacturers to submit proposals to design and build a small, 4-wheel, rough terrain personnel carrier. The companies had 75 days to build a model according to the following specifications:

1. Weight: 1,300 pounds

2. Payload (how much weight it can carry): 600 pounds

3. quarter-ton 4×4 truck

4. Wheel-base not more than 80 inches

Only two companies responded: Willys-Overland Company in Toledo, Ohio and the American Bantam Car Company in Butler, Pennsylvania. The American Bantam Company had the lowest bid but the specs could not be met. Ford Motor Company had been invited to make a sample. Once specs were changed to increase the weight, field tests were held in Baltimore. Willys-Overland won those tests based on the performance of its motor and was awarded a contract to make 16,000 vehicles.

During WWII, Willys-Overland made about 360,000 jeeps. And Ford made more than 250,000 using the Willys-Overland design. The vehicle started by pushing a button. No keys were needed so no keys were lost. Thousands of jeeps were sold through the Lend-Lease Act to foreign countries. The jeep was especially popular with Joseph Stalin, Russia’s leader. During a meeting with the United States government, he asked to purchase more jeeps because it was so practical and useful. His request was denied.

History of the Jeep name

There is still debate about how the jeep came to be called the jeep. Amercain Bantam said they thought of the name. Willys-Overland disputed that claim. During the time the jeep was being developed, the vehicle was called various names, such as “blitz-buggies” or “puddle-jumpers.” The Army said the name was derived from simply referring to “General Purpose” that was shortened to “jeep.”


1. What was the main purpose of the jeep? Why was it needed by the U.S. Army?

2. In what year was the contract awarded for jeeps to be made?

3. What company won the contract to make the first jeeps?

4. About how many jeeps were made during World War II?

5. What happened in 1945 because the jeep was so popular with soldiers?


1. Why do you think the jeep became very popular with soldiers during WWII?

2. Look at the main picture of the jeep on Omaha Beach. How can you tell the jeep was used by the U.S. Army?

3. Brand identity is very important to companies. How would you describe the Jeep brand?

4. How does the Jeep brand today reflect its history?