1946-1986 Jeep CJ

1946-1948 Jeep CJ

The end of World War II saw thousands of soldiers returning to the U.S. needing vehicles and enamored with the Jeep. Filling this need was the Jeep CJ.

1946 jeep cj-2a
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The first civilian Jeep CJ, the 1946 CJ-2A, was much like its military forebear.

By the end of World War II, Ford and Willys had built some 586,000 Jeeps: 227,000 and 359,489, respectively. All were designated MB and essentially the same, though there were detail differences.

For example, early examples actually bore each maker's name until the Army ordered an end to this "advertising," and Ford put its signature "F" on bolts. Also, look underneath on later models: Ford used inverted channel-beam stock, Willys tubular stock -- hence the expression among Jeep aficionados, "Willys round, Ford square."

Regardless, all the wartime MB Jeeps were identical to the Willys MA except for being two inches longer, weighing 2,450 pounds, and having grille-mounted headlamps in the now-familiar style and a fold-down windshield.

The last wartime Jeep was completed on August 20, 1945. Military production would continue, of course, but Willys wasted no time putting the concept in "civvies." By the end of the year the firm was turning out its first civilian model, designated Jeep CJ-2A, a mildly modified MB.

An all-steel station wagon loosely based on the original design bowed in 1946, followed two years later by the novel Jeepster, a four-passenger phaeton convertible styled by Brooks Stevens. The latter are beyond our scope, but they're interesting offshoots that have become minor collector's items today.

1946 jeep cj-2a
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The basic MB design found its way into the civilian world as the CJ-2A.

Unhappily for Willys, neither was a big success. The Jeepster (Models VJ-2/VJ-3) lasted only through 1951, and though the wagon (Model 463, later Model 685) survived into the early 1960s, it sold in diminishing numbers with each passing year.

1946 jeep cj-2a engine
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The Go-Devil engine on the Jeep CJ-2A was almost identical to the wartime Jeep.

Not so the Jeep CJ-2A, which saw 214,202 copies through 1949. Little different from the wartime MB, it rode the same 80-inch wheelbase and had a 48.25-inch track, 8.63-inch ground clearance, 800-pound payload capacity, and maximum gross vehicle weight of 3,420 pounds. About the only changes were larger headlights and a standard tailgate.

Motor Age magazine said it combined "the characteristics of a light truck, a tractor, mobile power unit, and passenger car with the provision of suitable attachments and accessories."

And indeed, both the factory and the aftermarket were only too happy to supply loads of bolt-on goodies for the growing number of recreational 4WD users -- everything from hardtops to power-takeoffs, even doors -- for the vehicle, making the Jeep CJ one of the most popular automotive buys of the 1946-1948 post-war era.

The Jeep CJ only continued to gain in popularity over the next two decades. Keep reading to learn more.

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