There are a few stories floating around about how the 'Jeep' got its name. The main story is 'Jeep' came from the initials GP (general purpose) as pronounced in American English slang. Another story claims the name was influenced by Pop-eye the sailor's pet, Eugene the Jeep, in the 1936 E.C. Segar comic strips. Whatever the source, the Jeep fulfilled its purpose of being a light-weight, four-wheel-drive, general purpose vehicle.
During WW1 the American military used larger 4x4 trucks, motorcycles and light motor vehicles, including some model T Fords, but, by the late 1930s, they wanted to replace this aging fleet with a light, cross-country reconnaissance vehicle.
In July 1940, U.S automobile manufacturers were asked to submit a design for a 'general purpose, personnel, or cargo carrier especially adaptable for reconnaissance or command, and designated as ¼-ton 4x4 truck'. Because the war was underway, manufacturers were given 11 days to put in a bid, 49 days to submit their first prototype and 70 days to complete 70 test vehicles.
The technical specifications were equally demanding. The main features being, it had to be four-wheel drive, hold a crew of three on a wheelbase of no more than 75 inches, be powered by an engine capable of 85 ft-lb of torque and have a maximum empty weight of 590kg. Only two companies bid but the only company able to deliver the pilot model in 49 days was the American Bantam Car Company. However, Bantam was unable to produce the quantities demanded by the army, so the War Department forwarded the Bantam blueprints to Ford and Willys, claiming the government owned the design. In the end, Willys won the military contract due to its more powerful engine – the Go Devil – which soldiers raved about, and its lower cost. The weight, however, was raised to 980kg as the lower weight was unrealistic.
The original Jeep was manufactured from 1940 to 1945 and inspired many other light utility vehicles, including the 'CJ' civilian jeep. Our jeep was built in 1940.