While the original purpose of the Jeep was one of pure function and utility, this legendary American off-roader has taken on a personality of its own. In its 75-plus years, soldiers, tradespeople, and off-road enthusiasts the world over have relied on the Jeep’s ability and versatility. Few vehicles are as ingrained in American popular culture quite as profoundly as the Jeep. While the carefree Mustang and Corvette certainly enjoy status as archetypal American cars, the Jeep’s ascent from quarter-ton utility truck to a cultural icon is more profound, as it earned its reputation in the grim reality of war.
For such a simple machine, the Jeep’s development was complex and multifaceted. In the late 1930s, the American military desperately needed a light, multi-purpose utility vehicle. They contacted more than 130 companies in a call for bids, yet only American Bantam and Willys-Overland responded. American Bantam was a tiny company, yet they impressed military officials with their brilliantly simple, enormously capable four-wheel drive vehicle. However, the small Pennsylvania-based company lacked the manufacturing capacity to meet requirements, particularly as the war in Europe loomed. The Bantam design was handed to both Willys-Overland and Ford, who were asked to suggest improvements. The government ultimately selected the Willys design as the final blueprint for the new vehicle, and production began in earnest. As with Bantam, Willys could not meet the massive demand required, so the might of Ford Motor Company was again called upon to construct the new “GPW.” Ford and Willys built nearly 650,000 military Jeeps, and this humble little utility truck became recognized around the world as a symbol of American ingenuity.
In 1946, Willys wisely cashed in on the Jeep’s wartime notoriety and adapted it for the civilian market. They trademarked the name “Agri-Jeep,” but at the last minute, it was officially changed to “Universal Jeep” to appeal to a broader audience and better reflect the truly diverse capabilities. The first examples of the Civilian Jeep (CJ), hit showrooms in 1945. In a testament to its legacy, the Jeep has outlived its parent companies several times over, and it remains one of the most popular and uniquely American vehicles of all time.
This delightful Willys-Overland CJ-2A is a prized early production model, fresh from a comprehensive two-year restoration. Produced after mid-1946, this truck is among the first batch of purely civilian production models, as earlier examples relied heavily on military surplus parts. Before receiving its excellent restoration, this was a complete and running truck. As is typical with hard-working utility vehicles, the original body was fatigued beyond reasonable repair, so the restorer fitted a correct, high-quality steel replacement. It now presents in better-than-new condition with exceptional paintwork inside and out, finished in an attractive combination of medium green with pale yellow wheels, black vinyl interior trim and a brand-new black vinyl top by Bestop. The pop-out, folding windscreen and side-mount spare wheel are period-correct features unique to the early CJs. It sits properly on the road, with the unadorned steel wheels fitted with era-appropriate Firestone off-road tires. The restoration appears new and presents in fabulous condition showing only shakedown mileage on the odometer.
True to the Jeep ethos, the interior is basic and purposeful – with just a pair of seats, a heater, and basic controls laid out on a flat dash panel. Paint finishes display the same quality as the rest of the body, with high levels of fit and finish found throughout the interior. The individual front seats are trimmed in hard-wearing black vinyl upholstery, with simple black carpet mats added to protect the freshly painted floors. Beneath the passenger seat is a handy built-in toolbox, and the cargo area features a correct drop-down tailgate. Seatbelts are a thoughtful addition, while the remainder of the interior is otherwise stock and factory correct.
The utilitarian appeal continues under the hood with the correct “Go Devil” flathead four-cylinder finished in basic black as original. Detailing is impressive, with period correct oil-filter, correct type wiring, and good quality finishes. During the restoration, the rear axle, and gearbox were rebuilt, and the undercarriage remains virtually spotless, finished in a uniform coat of semi-gloss black. With only a handful of miles since the comprehensive restoration, this charming and exquisitely finished Jeep CJ-2A is an outstanding example of the breed. Like any proper Jeep, this handsome little CJ-2A is eager for duty in the field, out exploring trails, or for merely cruising into town on a Sunday morning. However it sees duty, this Jeep is sure to delight its next owner.