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1945-1952 Jeep: Willys Postwar Jeep

1949 CJ-3A
The Jeep CJ-2A had many civilian uses. One of the most popular was its conversion to a light fire truck.
The Jeep CJ-2A had many civilian uses. One of the most popular was its conversion to a light fire truck.
©Thomas Glatch

The jeep's usefulness was not restricted to the farm. On the golf course, it pulled gang mowers at a brisk speed, resulting in a substantial savings in man hours. Its pumping ability made it a favorite with rural firefighters. An air compressor fitted at the back made it suitable for spraying paint. Like its wartime counterpart, it could tow aircraft into position and perform other airport tasks. And an optional winch extended its usefulness even further.

By November 1945, Austria's Steyr autoplant was turning out "winterized" jeeps -- military jobs fitted with a Steyr-devised enclosure to protect their occupants from the weather. Production was 25 per day.

Meanwhile, Willys-Overland was occupied pulling off what Motor Trend has described as "the commercial coup of the decade and perhaps the century by simply registering the name as a trademark of the Willys-Overland Corporation."

The CJ-2A remained in production until 1949, by which time the base price had risen to $1,270 -- about the same as a Chevrolet half-ton pickup. But early that year the second postwar Jeep appeared: the CJ-3A. (By this time, the name "Jeep" had become a registered trademark of Willys-Overland, so henceforth the name will be capitalized.)

Virtually identical in appearance to the CJ-2A and offered at the same price, the 3A may be distinguished by its one-piece windshield. More important, however, were revisions which strengthened the transmission and transfer case.

Passenger accommodations were altered slightly, providing more leg and knee room in front at the expense of the back seat passengers; and the overall height of the vehicle (windshield up) was increased from 64 to 66 3/8 inches.

A sales slump occurred in 1949, and once again -- as in prewar days -- Willys was losing money: $900,000, to be specific, between October 1949 and March 1950. Evidently, the primary cause of the problem was a drop in farm income, for sales of both CJs and trucks fell sharply during this period while those of the Station Wagon increased by nearly one-third.

By this time, many of the Jeeps being used by the U. S. military were showing their age, and the Army asked Willys-Overland to design a new vehicle to meet its current needs. The result, the replacement for the wartime MB, was the Model MC. Basically, it was a military version of the then-current civilian CJ-3A.

Known in the Army as the M38, the MC was identical in size to the civilian unit, but it incorporated a number of changes for military purposes. Body and chassis parts were heavier, for instance, and waterproofed 24-volt electrics replaced the CJ-3A's 6-volt system. A unique vent tube arrangement connected the engine, transmission, transfer case, and fuel tank to the air cleaner, permitting these components to be vented even if the Jeep were completely submerged.

More than 60,000 MCs were built for the armed forces between 1949 and 1952. It was during this time -- on June 25, 1950 -- that North Korean Communist forces invaded South Korea, presumably on the mistaken assumption that the United States and its allies had no particular interest in that part of the world.

American reaction, however, was one of outrage. President Truman ordered General Douglas MacArthur's Eighth Army, then stationed in Japan as an occupying force, to the port of Pusan, on the southern tip of the Korean peninsula. Action was authorized by the United Nations Security Council, and once again the United States found itself at war.

Read on to learn how Jeeps were used in the Korean War.

For more information on Jeeps, see:

  • History of Jeep
  • Consumer Guide New Jeep Prices and Reviews
  • Consumer Guide Used Jeep Prices and Reviews