1948-1949 Willys Jeep Station Sedan
A luxury version of the Jeep was added for 1948. Known as the Station Sedan, it was finished better than the Wagon both inside and out, though the same body shell was used. Solid body colors were featured in lieu of the Wagon two-tone paneled effect, and basket-weave trim was added along the sides. One British writer suggested that the Station Sedan "looked rather like a country hearse." However, most observers found its unique trim attractive.
Perhaps the year's best news was the introduction, in the Station Sedan, of Barney Roos's brand new six-cylinder engine. A conventionally-designed L-head, displacing 148.5 cubic inches, this powerplant was rated at 72 horsepower, an 11 percent advantage over the four-banger. Torque was similarly increased, from 105 pounds-feet in the four to 117 in the new six. Obviously, performance was enhanced considerably.
Driving one of these older Willys wagons was a unique experience. One sat up high -- seats were placed a foot and a half off the floor. Visibility in all directions was excellent. Seat cushions were a little mushy in the earlier models, but zig-zag springs, introduced in 1949, overcame that problem, and the later seats gave excellent support. At the same time, the seating was rearranged for better posture and increased leg room. And the ride, though hardly equal to that of a sedan, was more comfortable than one might expect.
Even in the four-cylinder wagons, acceleration was adequate up to about 40 miles per hour; beyond that, it flattened out. The six, of course, did much better in that respect. In hilly country, the six-cylinder car acquitted itself very well, while the four-banger lagged behind.
Clutch action was smooth and light, and the remote shift linkage was better than most. Steering was quick, light, and reasonably precise. However, the Willys heeled over dreadfully in hard cornering. Yet, there was little loss of control. The little wagon was really rather fun to drive, though to deal with it daily in heavy commuter traffic would doubtless be exhausting for the average driver.
As well, crosswinds were terrifying to the driver of the Jeep Station Wagon. At times, the vehicle favored abrupt lane changes, with or without the driver's permission. In addition, the brakes -- not the strongest point on the wartime jeep -- were not all that competent on the wagons, either.
Stopping distances were far from comfortable, and a lot of pedal pressure was required to get the job done. On the other hand, the wagon did seem to hold in a straight line, even in a panic stop; and Barney Roos's unusual front suspension acted to discourage "nosedive."
There was good news again in 1949 -- especially for people who had to slog their way through mud and snow. Four-wheel drive became available in the Jeep Station Wagon that July. It was reported in Automotive Industries that the four-wheel-drive version had first been built the previous year, on special order from the U.S. Army. Now, it was available to the general public. As with other four-wheel-drive Jeep products, it used a live front axle and longitudinal leaf springs in lieu of the Planadyne mechanism.
Power for the 4 x 4 wagon came from the little flathead four, which -- since the six was by then available -- appears in retrospect to have been a mistake in judgment. But the new model filled an important need for many people. A 4 x 2 six-cylinder Station Wagon was also produced, offering the power of the Station Sedan, minus some of the amenities, at a slightly lower price. Sales, which had faltered during 1948, climbed back to within reach of their 1947 level.
Meanwhile, commencing in 1947 a panel delivery was offered. Sometimes misleadingly called a "sedan delivery," it used the same body stamping as the Station Wagon but minus the windows. Doors were fitted at the rear in lieu of the wagon's tailgate, and seating was provided only for the driver.
Follow the development of the Jeep Station Wagon and Station Sedan on the next page.