Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Good Old Jeep

Origin of the term "jeep"

There are many accounts of the origin of the word "jeep," which have proven difficult to verify. Probably the most popular notion holds that the vehicle bore the designation "GP" (for "General Purpose"), which was phonetically slurred into the word jeep. However, R. Lee Ermey, on his television series Mail Call, disputes this, saying that the vehicle was designed for specific duties, was never referred to as "General Purpose", and that the name may have been derived from Ford's nomenclature referring to the vehicle as GP (G for government-use, and P to designate its 80-inch wheelbase). "General purpose" does appear in connection with the vehicle in the WW2 TM 9-803 manual, which describes the vehicle as "... a general purpose, personnel, or cargo carrier especially adaptable for reconnaissance or command, and designated as 14-ton 4x4 truck", and the vehicle is designated a "GP" in TM 9-2800, Standard Military Motor Vehicles, September 1, 1949, but whether the average jeep-driving GI would have been familiar with either of these manuals is open to debate.

This account may confuse the jeep with the nickname of another series of vehicles with the GP designation. The Electro-Motive Division of General Motors, a maker of railroad locomotives, introduced its "General Purpose" line in 1949, using the GP tag. These locomotives are commonly referred to as Geeps, pronounced the same way as "Jeep".

Many, including Ermey, claim that the more likely source of the word comes from the character Eugene the Jeep in the Thimble Theater (Popeye) comic strip. Eugene the Jeep is dog-like, can walk through walls and ceilings, climb trees, fly, and go almost anywhere it wants; it has been suggested that soldiers at the time were so impressed with the new vehicle's versatility that they informally named it after the character. The character "Eugene the Jeep" was created in 1936.[1]

The term "jeep" was first commonly used during World War I (1914–1918) by soldiers as a slang word for new recruits and for new unproven vehicles. This is according to a history of the vehicle for an issue of the U.S. Army magazine, Quartermaster Review, which was written by Maj. E. P. Hogan. He went on to say that the slang word "jeep" had these definitions as late as the start of World War II.

"Jeep" had been used as the name of a small tractor made by Modine.

The term "jeep" would eventually be used as slang to refer to an airplane, a tractor used for hauling heavy equipment, and an autogyro. When the first models of the jeep came to Camp Holabird for tests, the vehicle did not have a name yet. Therefore the soldiers on the test project called it a jeep. Civilian engineers and test drivers who were at the camp during this time were not aware of the military slang term. They most likely were familiar with the character Eugene the Jeep and thought that Eugene was the origin of the name. The vehicle had many other nicknames at this time such as Peep and Pygmy and Blitz-Buggy, although because of the Eugene association, Jeep stuck in people's minds better than any other term.

Words of the Fighting Forces by Clinton A. Sanders, a dictionary of military slang, published in 1942, in the library at The Pentagon gives this definition:

Jeep: A four-wheel drive car of one-half to one-and-one-half ton capacity for reconnaissance or other army duty. A term applied to the bantam-cars, and occasionally to other motor vehicles (U.S.A.) in the Air Corps, the Link Trainer; in the armored forces, the ½ ton command car. Also referred to as "any small plane, helicopter, or gadget."

Early in 1941, Willys-Overland demonstrated the vehicle's ability by having it drive up the U.S. Capitol steps, driven by Willy's test driver Irving "Red" Haussman, who had recently heard soldiers at Fort Holabird calling it a "jeep". When asked by syndicated columnist Katherine Hillyer for the Washington Daily News (or by a bystander, according to another account) what it was called, Irving answered, "It's a jeep."

Katherine Hillyer's article was published on February 20, 1941 around the nation and included a picture of the vehicle with the caption:

LAWMAKERS TAKE A RIDE- With Senator Meade, of New York, at the wheel, and Representative Thomas, of New Jersey, sitting beside him, one of the Army's new scout cars, known as "jeeps" or "quads", climbs up the Capitol steps in a demonstration yesterday. Soldiers in the rear seat for gunners were unperturbed.

This exposure caused all other jeep references to fade, leaving the 4x4 truck with the name.

Willys-Overland Inc. was later awarded the sole privilege of owning the name "Jeep" as registered trademark, by extension, merely because it originally had offered the most powerful engine.

(Compare "mayhem" and "commando" for words which changed their main meanings because of newspaper misunderstandings.)

The origins of the vehicle: the first jeeps

Bantam BRC 40
Bantam BRC 40
Dashboard of WWII jeep
Dashboard of WWII jeep

The first jeep prototype (the Bantam BRC) was built for the Department of the Army by American Bantam in Butler, Pennsylvania, followed by two other competing prototypes produced by Ford and Willys-Overland. The American Bantam Car Company actually built and designed the vehicle that first met the Army's criteria, but its engine did not meet the Army's torque requirements. Plus, the Army felt that the company was too small to supply the number needed and it allowed Willys and Ford to make second attempts on their designs after seeing Bantam's vehicle in action. Some people believe that Ford and Willys also had access to Bantam's technical paperwork.

Quantities (1,500) of each of the three models were then extensively field tested. During the bidding process for 16,000 "jeeps", Willys-Overland offered the lowest bid and won the initial contract. Willys thus designed what would become the standardized jeep, designating it a model MB military vehicle and building it at their plant in Toledo, Ohio.

Like American Bantam, Willys-Overland was a small company and, likewise, the military was concerned about their ability to produce large quantities of jeeps. The military was also concerned that Willys-Overland had only one manufacturing facility: something that would make the supply of jeeps more susceptible to sabotage or production stoppages.

Based on these two concerns, the U.S. government required that jeeps also be built by the Ford Motor Company, who designated the vehicle as model GPW (G = governmental vehicle, P showed the wheelbase, and W = the Willys design). Willys and Ford, under the direction of Charles E. Sorensen (Vice-President of Ford during World War II), produced more than 600,000 jeeps. Besides just being a "truck" the jeep was used for many other purposes.

The jeep was widely copied around the world, including in France by Hotchkiss et Cie (after 1954, Hotchkiss manufactured Jeeps under licence from Willys), and by Nekaf in the Netherlands. There were several versions created, including a railway jeep and an amphibious jeep. As part of the war effort, Jeeps were also supplied to the Soviet Red Army during World War II.

In the United States military, the jeep has been supplanted by a number of vehicles (e.g. Ford's M151 MUTT) of which the latest is the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or "Humvee").

My Jeep is a 1991 YJ Wrangler Renegade

From 1991 until 1994, Jeep produced an options package on the YJ Wrangler listed as the "Renegade Decor Group". Initially, all Renegades were White, Black or Red. In 1992, Blue was added, in 1993, Bronze. The Renegade Decor Group was a $4,266.00 option over a base Wrangler in 1991 and included special alloy wheels, exclusive body flares, along with many other features.

Contents of the Renegade Decor Package

  • 4.0 Litre I-6 Engine
  • 29x9.5R15 LT OWL Wrangler A/T Tires
  • 5-Hole Aluminum Wheels, 8 inch wide.
  • Full size spare tire.
  • Highback seats with Trailcloth Fabric
  • Off-Road Gas Shocks
  • Power Steering
  • Fog Lamps (integrated into the front fenders)
  • Leather wrapped steering wheel
  • Renegade striping (door letters)
  • Floor carpeting (full width, and on insides of body tub)
  • Floor mats, front
  • Extra capacity fuel tank (20 gal.)
  • Color Keyed Fender Flares with integrated bodyside steps
  • Front and rear bumperettes (plastic)
  • Center console with cup holders
  • Courtesy and engine compartment lights
  • Interval Wipers
  • Glove box lock

Additionally, hardtops received a mandatory rear window defroster at a $164.00 premium. Hardtops themselves were a $923.00 option.

All Renegades typically had the Tilt Steering wheel ($130.00) and an AM/FM/Cassette Stereo Radio ($264.00).

A column shift automatic was also an available option (this option was rare).

While a base Wrangler with the inline 6 went for $12,356.00, the Renegade package pushed that price up to $18,588.00 in 1991. Dealer mark-up moved the price to $19,273.00.

These vehicles were sent as optioned Wranglers to Auto Style Cars in Detroit, where the Renegade Decor Package was installed, then shipped back to Jeep for delivery to dealers. Renegades all have a small sticker on the driver's side door, right above the latch denoting the visit to ASC.

At the price premium over a standard Wrangler, sales were fairly limited, so finding one today is a semi-rare occurrence. The price, plus what hardcore Jeepers felt were "funny looking plastic fenders" limited the sales. Although having nearly identical off-road capabilities, these Jeep were typically used as "beach cruisers" because of both their price and rarity, as well as the fact that their over sized flares and body cladding were not designed for the abuse that tree branches and over sized tires can deal out.

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