In the years immediately after WWII, Willys-Overland was riding high on the wartime success of the Jeep. The plucky little 4wd utility vehicle served our soldiers well and had earned itself iconic status. But Willys-Overland was struggling to transition back to regular production and they found themselves in desperate need of a civilian passenger vehicle that would appeal to a broader audience than the highly functional, but very utilitarian Jeep vehicles. The CJ (Civilian Jeep) had the benefit of a war-proven heritage and were popular with farmers and outdoorsmen, but not so much with the general car buying public. Industrial designer Brooks Stevens was commissioned to design Willys-Overland’s new postwar lineup and hopefully add some flair along the way, in spite of the limited development budget. Alongside the traditional Jeep CJ, Willys-Overland added a pickup and a station wagon. Stevens also drew up a vaguely Jeep-looking crossover car that he envisioned as a sports car to appeal to returning servicemen. The Jeepster, as it became known, was distinguished by quirky open styling that drew heavily on Jeep tradition. Willys-Overland lacked the ability to tool up curvaceous bodywork, so for practical purposes the Jeepster relied on the sharp angles and slab sides of its stable mates, but thanks to the well-judged styling, gained a unique charm of its own. The Jeepster was produced for just three years, with a total of 19,132 finding buyers.
This lovely Jeepster hails from 1949, when only 2,960 Jeepsters were produced, by far the lowest of all three years. It has been professionally restored to a pleasingly high standard, and appears much better than the typical amateur-level Jeepster restoration. It is finished in an attractive two-tone color scheme of brick red with a black belt line and windscreen frame. The interior mirrors the exterior, with black seats piped in red. The whole treatment is highly attractive and lends this Jeepster with a fun and sporty appearance. Other classic touches include wide-whitewall tires, chrome steps for rear seat access (it is a Jeep after all!), pretty dog-dish hubcaps with beauty rings, rear mounted spare and a black canvas top piped in red. The whole package is fun, attractive, and best of all, very well executed.
Under the hood lies a 134 cubic inch GoDevil L-head inline four, mated to a three speed manual transmission with the desirable overdrive option. Engine bay detailing is very nice with correct finishes done to a very high standard. The black and red interior is extremely well done and looks wonderful against the paintwork. Fit and finish on the upholstery is also of very high quality. The only concession to modernity is an aftermarket Panasonic stereo fitted to the driver’s side dash – a perfect accessory for the occasional impromptu beach party.
This is a very nicely restored and cherished Jeepster that someone has enjoyed since the restoration was completed, but still shows exceptionally well. Charming and stylish, it is sure to please its next keeper.