'51 MC (M-38)
The MC was the first full military remake of the original jeep idea. It co
Today, if you misuse the trademarked name Jeep(r) commercially, you will find an army of lawyers ready to sue you into the next dimension. In 1940, the word had many meanings, including, but not limited to, a Midwest ethnic German regional jibe akin to "jerk," a World War I-era Army term for a new unproven recruit or piece of equipment, and the name of a popular comic-strip character of the '30s named Eugene-the-Jeep. How it got applied to a World War II Army vehicle officially known as the "truck, 1/4-ton, 4x4" and later to a company is a can-of-worms story that has been subject to a lot of loose interpretation. Here's what we know.
• Willys-Overland applied for a trademark from the Federal Trade Commission for the "Jeep" name in February of 1943, and it was granted in June of 1950.
• There were a number of other vehicles that were called "jeeps" before the one we know best; some that predate the 1/4-ton, some that were concurrent, and some that came after. See the Mar. '95 issue of Four Wheeler for a story called, "Will the Real Jeep Please Stand Up" to see a few of them. (Editor's note: You can find this story posted online at www.fourwheeler.com.)
• Eugene-the-Jeep was a popular character in the Popeye comic strip in the '30s and his exceptional abilities led people of the era to use the term "jeep" for something extraordinary.
• In prewar Army parlance, a "jeep" was a new human recruit or a new, unproven motor vehicle.
• The thought that "jeep" was derived from the military acronym GP (for "General Purpose") doesn't hold much water, since the terminology was never applied to the 1/4-ton, except by Ford, for whom it was an internal model code for a government-contract 80-inch wheelbase reconnaissance car. There are some obscure government documents that list the 1/4-ton in a "General Purpose" category, but these were not seen by the majority of those who popularized the terminology-namely the troops and the general public.
• In the early days, "jeep" was commonly applied to the 1940-and-up VC-1 Dodge command cars prior to the 1/4-tons coming into general use. When the 1/4-tons appeared, they were often known as "peeps" (pint-sized-jeeps) as well as several other terms.
• The generally acknowledged point when "jeep" came to the forefront was when Washington reporter and columnist Katherine Hillyer reported an incident that occurred on the steps of the capitol in February of 1941. Willys was demonstrating the Quad's abilities by driving one up the steps of the Capitol for various politicos, suits, and the general public. Test driver Red Housman was reportedly asked by a bystander, "What is that thing?" He replied, "It's a jeep."
• Willys-Overland latched onto the term and did its level best to publicize and popularize it. From 1942 onwards, they used it relentlessly in print advertising.
• It isn't too hard to connect the dots and speculate how the name was popularized. It starts with a group of Army motorheads calling the new 1/4-ton test rigs "jeeps." Civilians, like Housman, are known to have overheard, some perhaps interpreting it according to the Eugene-the-Jeep reference. Either way, the name works: It was both a new and unproven vehicle and something pretty extraordinary. The vehicle itself was such a fascinating new thingamajig that it drew attention from all angles, and though there were many holdouts for "peep" in the service, they were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of those that knew it as "jeep." The rest, as they say, is history.
Next month: Civilian Jeeps and the birth of four-wheeling, 1946-present.
'53 MD (M-38A1)
The model MD gave the Army everything it wanted, more room, more payload
'53 MDA (M-170)
The need for a rough terrain frontline ambulance led to the M-170, which
Brad Luchsinger's '67 was fresh out of the resto room and looking much as a fa