Mar/Apr 2019 edition
Issue #4 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
There are few brands with a more iconic history than “Jeep.” For almost 80 years and through a multiple of corporate incarnations, the Jeep brand has remained synonymous with all-wheel drive ruggedness and an adventure lifestyle. From the beginning, the early sales literature has emphasized this theme through evocative illustrative artwork, while always referencing roots in the original military Jeep.
Conceived during the rumblings preceding World War II. Jeeps’ three surrogate parents: Bantam, Willys, and Ford were charged by the USA government to develop a lightweight all-wheel drive military utility vehicle. The bulk of the project development eventually fell to Willys with wartime production reaching to over 350,000 vehicles.
In mid 1945, Willys began to explore the civilian market, hoping to leverage the reputation for extreme utility and durability, which the Jeep had earned for the allies during the war.
An early brochure printed in 1945 attempted to position the Jeep as an ideal farm vehicle for light utility for business. Its cover depicts a thinly disguised Military-version Jeep parked in front of a general store in rural America, surrounded by a cross section of townspeople, representing various trades enthusiastically admiring it.
Starting in 1947, Willys soon expanded marketing efforts by appealing to industrial users, and created targeted sales literature directed to the booming postwar manufacturing industry.
Soon special purpose variants developed, and Willys began to consider expanding to the nascent postwar family and recreational vehicle market. Hiring the famous industrial designer Brooks Stevens to add a styling flair to the utilitarian design by creating the Jeepster Station Wagon, Willys had stumbled on a market segment, which today is considered the forerunner of the contemporary SUV.
Jeepster brochures prominently featured illustrations of families on the go with an emphasis on leisure adventure, like camping and lake fishing, instead of appealing to the usual mundane utilitarian uses of a truck based vehicle.
By 1953 Willys Overland was struggling after an ill-fated attempt to re-enter the passenger car market, and was bought out by Kaiser Motors. The company name would soon again change to Kaiser-Jeep, when in 1962 Brook Stevens was again hired to design a larger, all-wheel drive vehicle, which would become the “Wagoneer”, enhanced over time with more luxurious features and trim, and moved significantly upscale, it still retained its basic design architecture during a production run of 29 years!
From the late 1940s through the mid 1960s, Jeep promotional advertising reflected a constant theme of the rugged lifestyle as the original Jeep concept as it evolved through various CJ models, up though what now are seen as prescient, SUV incarnations.
Jeep sales literature from the late 1940s through the mid 1950s, is becoming somewhat difficult to find, and is priced accordingly. Entry into collecting these wonderfully illustrated brochures is still nominal… in the $30 to $40 range. The mid 1960s and later material is easy to find from the usual sources, and therefore very inexpensive, running around $10 or less.
To read more great columns like this one from automotive literature expert David Kayser...