Willys Civilian Jeep (1945-1953)
Prior to World-War Two, Willys-Overland was one of many struggling independent car companies. Their fortune changed after winning the bid to manufacture Jeeps for the U.S. Military, producing over 650 thousand from 1941 to 1945. At War's end, Willys saw no need to resume production of its pre-war passenger car models. Instead, they continued to do what they did best, and soon became a world leader in four-wheel-drive vehicle production.
By early 1944, Willys-Overland had designed a prototype civilian jeep. Called the CJ-1, it was basically the Army Jeep with military features removed. The addition of a tailgate moved the spare tire to the right side of the truck. A draw-bar and civilian-style canvas top were also added. Between late 1944 and early 1945, 45 examples called the CJ-2 were built for testing purposes.
Willy's first full-production civilian Jeep began in July of 1945. The CJ-2A had a seven-slot grille with large, flush-mounted headlamps, the Army Jeep had a nine-slot grille with smaller, recessed lamps. Early models were column-shifted, later changed to floor-mount. The windshield wiper was vacuum-powered on the driver's side, and manually operated on the passenger side. Dual vacuum-powered wipers were optional.
The Jeep CJ-2A was offered in several exterior colors, and the fuel cap was now external. The CJ came with a driver's seat only; front passenger seat and rear seat were optional. Other options included a radiator brush guard, driveshaft guards, side steps, a heater, and dual tail-lamps.
Fitted with an upgraded transmission, the CJ-2A used the four-cylinder Go-Devil engine from the Army Jeep. The durable L-Head engine produced 65-bhp at 4000 rpm and 105 pound-feet of torque at 2000 rpm. Although first year sales were just 1,823, a total of over 214,000 CJ-2A Jeeps were produced from 1945 to 1949.
In April of 1948, U.S. President Harry Truman signed the Economic Cooperation Act (Marshall Plan) which helped Europe get back on their feet after the War. One of the countries aided by the Marshall program was Austria, who minted several commemorative coins in 2003. Of interest to Jeep Lovers is the "Post-War Period" silver coin: the head of coin depicts broken chains on the eagle's claws, and the tail-side shows a European Recovery Program poster, an inscription which translates as "Reconstruction in Austria", and four soldiers in a Jeep.
Introduced in the Fall of 1948, the Jeep CJ-3A had a larger, one-piece windshield with wipers mounted at the bottom. Heavier leaf springs and stronger axles gave it a higher payload and better draw-bar torque. This helped drive the various agricultural implements that were being built for the vehicle. Over 130,00 CJ-3A Jeeps were produced before the series ended in 1953.
When World-War Two ended, devastation of agriculture in several parts of Europe led to conditions of near starvation. United States was exporting as much food as it possibly could, and with this came an unprecedented increase in demand for farm tractors and equipment. There was never a greater demand for farm-grown products in American history. Because of their short supply (having been out of production for most of the war), many manufacturers went from building tanks and other military vehicles to making tractors. Willys-Overland saw this as an opportunity to market the Jeep as an alternative.
Offered by Willys from 1951 to 1953, the Farm Jeep was fitted with a low-range transfer case, 5.38 rear axle gears, an engine governor and an engine-driven hydraulic pump. Optional front and rear power take-off (PTO) shafts could power a wide variety of farm implements, including compressors, generators, winches, post-hole diggers, mowers, and welding machines. There were also fire-fighting versions, which could pump water from hydrants, ponds or streams, or provide its own water supply from a trailer-mounted tank. Although the Jeep never really competed with a real farm tractor, mainly due to its light weight, it proved to be very useful for other off-road endeavors. Soon the little four-wheel drive truck was finding favor with ranchers and hunters, around farms, and on and off trails.
Overlapping production for several months in 1953, the CJ-3B replaced the CJ-3A. Under the hood was the "Hurricane" F-Head motor, which had been in use by other Willys models since 1950. Whereas the "Go-Devil" L-Head engine had both intake and exhaust valves in the block, the F-Head motor had exhaust valves in the block, and its intake valves in the cylinder head, allowing them to be larger. The cast-iron block had three main bearings, and the valvetrain used mechanical lifters. Displacement remained at 134-cid, but compression was higher at 6.9:1. Power output was raised to 72-horsepower. To accommodate the larger motor, the CJ-3B had a taller hood and grille.
Willys started using the term 'Universal Jeep' with the CJ-3B model, selling over 30,000 units in its first year. The CJ series had now been in production for nine years, but was only the beginning for the little Jeep.