1948 Willys Jeepster Design Features

Desiring to make the most of its new passenger car, Willys decided that all 1948 Willys Jeepsters should come with a very substantial list of standard equipment.

The $1,765 base price included many features that cost extra on most cars, such as 5.90 × 15 whitewall tires, hubcaps with bright trim rings, front bumper guards, dual horns, dual sun visors, deluxe steering wheel, wind wings, locking glovebox, cigar lighter, top boot, and a continental spare tire with a fabric cover.

1948 Willys Jeepster, front view
The 1948 Willys Jeepster's hood, fenders,
grille, and chassis were borrowed from
the Jeep wagon. T-shaped vertical trim
on the slotted grille was standard.

­Fittings and interior were also deluxe: There were chrome step plates on the rear fenders for exuberant youths who preferred vaulting over the side to get into the rear seat. Instruments included a speedometer plus gauges for monitoring amps, oil pressure, water temperature, and fuel level. Door panels and interior kick panels were finished in a leather-grain Masonite, and floors were covered with a rubber mat. Colorful piping ran around the edges of the seats.

On early Jeepsters, front-seat adjustment required loosening four wing nuts and repositioning the seat; later models got a more convenient track adjuster. In the back, the tops of the rear-wheel housings were padded and used as armrests. A small luggage area was accessible by folding the rear seat forward.

The front passenger seat of the 1948 Willy Jeepster
The front passenger seat of the 1948 Willys Jeepster
tilted to let riders into the rear, where a cargo area
was behind the seatback.

The Jeepster's front end sported a bright T-shaped grille bar plus a chrome bumper with overriders. Most Jeepsters came with two-tone paint, with the secondary color (generally black) edged by a thin chrome strip that began at the cowl, ran along the upper body and doors, and wrapped around the back. (Even Jeepsters without the two-tone paint came with this molding.)

Popular options included a radio and heater. Right-hand drive was also available.

Designer Brooks Stevens bought the first one off the assembly line. He was understandably proud of the Jeepster; after all, it was his first automobile design to go into production.

Company advertising played on the sports theme. "A distinctly personal car. . . . This dashing sports car is truly different," claimed the sales brochure. Sales literature abounded with pictures of young people in Jeepsters going to football games or taking long rides in the country.

What did the critics have to say about the new Willys Jeepster? Get the answer in the next section of this article.

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