Have you ever wondered just how different today’s Jeep is from the original Army Jeep from World War 2? The original Jeep was officially designated the Willy’s MB. It was small, crude, lightweight but rugged vehicle. Today’s Jeep Wrangler has grown quite a bit, has more power, and has more creature comforts. But, today’s Jeep is still focused first and foremost on off-road utility.
Size. According to Weapons of World War II, the original Willy’s Jeep was 132.7 inches long, 61.8 inches wide, and 51.3 inches tall. According to Jeep.com, today’s 2014 Jeep Wranger is 152.8 inches long, 73.7 inches wide, and 71.9 inches tall with the soft top. While the original Jeep weighed in at 2,438 pounds, the current Jeep weighs in at a far heftier 3760 pounds with a manual transmission. The original could carry 1213 pounds on the road or 794 pounds across country. The current Jeep has an official payload of 1,000 pounds. Of course, I suspect that in a pinch, the current vehicle could easily carry more.
Power. The original Jeep was powered by a Willy’s 442, 4-cylinder, 2.2 liter, gasoline engine which produced a whopping 60 horsepower. The current Jeep has a 3.6 liter, Pentastar V-6, engine with variable valve timing (VVT) and 285-horsepower. Not surprisingly, according to a Car and Driver road test, the World War II Jeep was most comfortable at speeds between 45 and 50 miles per hour with a top speed of 65 miles per hour on the road. Today’s Jeep doesn’t handle well when compared to modern cars, but is perfectly capable of highway speeds.
Range. According to my favorite reference book, Weapons of World War II, the original Jeep had a range of 280 miles. However, the current Jeep is more economical with a 16 miles per gallon city and 21 miles per gallon highway. Jeep boasts that you can go 391 miles on a tank of gas in a Jeep.
Safety. The original Jeep had rudimentary safety equipment. It didn’t have seatbelts and the gas tank was right under the driver’s seat. However, some early Jeeps did have decapitation protection. After the D-Day invasion in Normandy, the Germans strung wires across roads in order to decapitate people speeding down the road in Jeeps. The Army countered this by welding a sharpened pole to the front bumper that would catch and cut any such wire. Today’s Jeep has seatbelts, doors, airbags, and anti-lock brakes to keep driver’s safe. Yesterday’s Jeep had a fire extinguisher and sometimes an optional .50-caliber machine gun.
Commonalities. Like the Jeep of old, today’s Jeep has a fold-down windshield. Although one Jeep dealer notes that today’s windshield is “curved to for optimized aerodynamics and reduced wind noise.” In wartime, it folded down so that soldiers could shoot at targets ahead. Today, it simple lets offroaders enjoy the trail even more. The World War II Jeep grill had 9 vertical slots in the grill. Civilian Jeeps have 7 vertical slots for trademark purposes. The original Jeep had Dana axles. Today’s Jeep has Dana axles. Both Jeeps are extremely capable off-road. Both Jeeps are made in America.
Today’s civilian Jeeps are far different, far safer, and far more capable creatures than the original World War II Jeeps. However, the DNA is still the same. Both vehicles have an uncompromising emphasis on off-road utility. You can see that both Jeeps are from the same family tree. If you have a modern Jeep, you are still driving a little bit of history…even if your new Jeep has an Alpine premium stereo, GPS Navigation, and Bluetooth compatibility.
Ludeke, Alexander, Weapons of World War II, Parragon Press, 2007
Jeep.com “2014 Jeep Wrangler”
Robinson, Aaron, “Storming Normandy in a World War II Jeep”, Car and Driver
“2014 Jeep Wrangler” DavidEllisChrysler.com
“Jeep Wrangler” Edmunds.com