Like its Army counterpart, the civilian jeep was a bare bones vehicle; but a number of desirable options were available at very reasonable prices:
By far the most expensive "extra" was a hydraulic lift, priced at $225. Perhaps the most critical accessory was the belt-driven governor. Controlled from the instrument panel, this device permitted the regulation of engine speeds from 1,000 to 2,600 rpm in increments of 200 revolutions.
These improvements and additions made the jeep all the more suitable to civilian uses. According to Popular Science, "tests with the new model indicate a sustained drawbar pull of 1,200 pounds may be achieved, with reserve for grades and irregular soil conditions. On the highway the jeep will pull a trailed load of 5,500 pounds with adequate reserve power for steep grades."
Power still came from Barney Roos's durable L-head "Go-Devil" engine. The wheelbase was 80 inches, and the CJ-2A was as simple to service and repair as the wartime MB had been. Best of all, for those lucky enough to be able to buy one in 1945, the jeep was a bargain at $1,090 -- plus $46.53 federal excise tax.
The civilian edition was an unqualified success, incorporating all of the modifications outlined by George Ritter to Congressman Manasco's committee -- and more. A. Wade Wells described it as "The first vehicle to combine the basic functions of the tractor, light truck, passenger conveyance, and independent power unit," adding that "the new jeep not only operated all sorts of agricultural implements but performed innumerable farm tasks in which stationary power was required.
"As a utility car, it sped across cow pastures, up hills and down gullies with the same effortless ease its military prototype had displayed on the battlefield. It plowed, hauled grain, pulled the disk and harrow, filled a silo, threshed wheat, and, in general, performed virtually every farm task requiring either mobility or power.
"It was no test model of the peacetime jeep which was presented in New Hudson in the demonstration before the press," Wells continued. "The vehicles which observers watched and operated represented patient and diligent research, the end product of countless experiments not only with the military jeep but with the car improved for agricultural and industrial use.
"For example, in Florida, models of the peacetime jeep had been used to harvest oranges and grapefruit. In this case, its convenient size enabled it to pass between two tows of trees with low-hanging limbs under which larger trucks could not go.
"In Arkansas, the improved jeep proved highly effective in the rice fields, taking in its stride the dikes and levees which cross the fields in irrigated lanes.
"In Washington and Oregon, forest rangers found the civilian jeep ideal for rough terrain otherwise inaccessible, and an ideal conveyance for crews of men, tools, and other supplies.
"On a New York farm, the peacetime jeep maintained equilibrium in difficult hillside plowing. Here, the 4-wheel drive with the front wheels pulling resulted in the necessary increased surface traction."
At the Doughoregan Manor farm in Maryland, a prime location for factory-sponsored tests, Wells observed a jeep attached to a three-section, heavy-duty, spring-tooth harrow. A team of two heavy draft horses would have been required to pull the implement.
Yet the jeep was able to do the job, operating at a speed of four miles per hour, 10 hours a day, without overheating the engine. Indeed, the farm manager found that the ability of the jeep engine to provide high torque at low rpm's actually exceeded that of the tractor, especially in driving slow-motion machinery such as water pumps.
One of the better features of the postwar jeep was an optional governor fitted to the engine, so that sudden changes in the load, such as might result from wheel spin, could not cause the engine revolutions to go beyond an acceptable limit.
Keep reading to learn how the jeep fared outside the agricultural sector.
For more information on Jeeps, see:
- History of Jeep
- Consumer Guide New Jeep Prices and Reviews
- Consumer Guide Used Jeep Prices and Reviews