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Q: What is a Jeep?

December 17, 2013 12:53 PM

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In the public's mind, a Jeep is a type of durable, small, general-purpose vehicle that features 4-wheel drive. The vehicle and the name first arrived on the automotive scene during World War II when the U.S. Army used it. Today, the Jeep name is commonly associated with a brand of American automobiles produced by the Chrysler Group LLC, which is owned by Italian automaker, Fiat. The Jeep line of vehicles is mainly comprised of SUVs or sport utility vehicles.

Jeeps were first produced in 1941. The first civilian model was not produced until 1945. As a result, the Jeep is one of the oldest surviving off-road vehicles. The Jeep inspired a number of other types of light utility vehicles. The original Jeep was released as the Bantam BRC prototype vehicle. This vehicle became the main 4-wheel-drive vehicle to be used by the U.S. Army and later by the Allies during World War II. Since that time, other countries have similarly used a number of varieties.

Although there are many potential explanations regarding the origin of the vehicle's name, it is widely thought that the word is derived from the military description of GP for General Purpose or Government Purpose. When the designation was slurred phonetically into the word "Jeep," the name stuck. This is similar to the same way in which the contemporary vehicle designation HMMWV for the High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle eventually became known simply as a Humvee or Hummer. Despite the fact that the term was a type of military slang that was used for vehicles that had not been tested, eventually all other references faded, and the 4x4 vehicle was left with the name. In 1943, a trademark brand name application was filed by Willys-Overland, which became the only company that continued to produce the vehicle following World War II. The company was subsequently granted permission to own the name as a registered trademark. Today, the generic term "jeep" has also come be associated with vehicles that are designed to be used on rough terrain, even though the registered trademark for the name is currently owned by Chrysler.

Advertising for Fiat's Jeep brand has consistently emphasized its hardcore off-road abilities. In fact, the Jeep Wrangler model is a rare bird among 4-wheel-drive vehicles as it features solid front and rear axles. The axles provide the vehicle with ample amounts of articulation, strength, and durability, and help make it the king of the hill when it comes to off-roading. Other beneficial features of the Jeep Wrangler -- which even looks a bit like the original Jeep -- include a narrow frame and short wheelbase, plus generous breakover, approach and departure angles. As a result, this vehicle is able to fit into (and get out of) places where many 4-wheel drive vehicles would have difficulty going.

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