The jeep is an automobile, originally a military vehicle built for the United States Army during World War II, and later produced in a line of consumer models. More comfortable versions have been launched as farm or family vehicles (e.g., British Land Rover), and were the inspiration for vehicles such as the International Harvester (IH) Scout and Chevrolet Blazer that were the roots of the SUV era in the 1980s.
The origin of the term "jeep" is somewhat of a mystery; popular notion has it that the vehicle designation "GP" was phonetically slurred in pronunciation, eventually becoming "jeep"; however, many claim that the more likely origin is a reference to a character from Popeye cartoons known as Eugene the Jeep. The character could walk through walls and ceilings, fly, and just about go anywhere it wanted, and it is thought that soldiers at the time were so impressed with the new vehicle that they informally named it after the character. It is a popular misconception that the designation "GP" stands for "General Purpose"; the Ford Motor Company which produced the vehicles for many years used the letter "G" for "Government", while the "P" was an indicator of the vehicle's wheelbase size.
The original prototypes were built for the Department of the Army by Bantam. The model MB military Jeep was first built in quantity by Willys-Overland Motor Company in Toledo, Ohio. Due to their inability to produce the vast number of vehicles required, the U.S. government also allowed jeeps to be built by Ford Motor Company. Combined production by Willys and Ford during World War II was more than 500,000.
The Jeep was widely copied in countries other than the United States. There were versions adapted to run on railways. As part of the war effort, Jeeps were supplied to the Soviet Red Army during the World War.
DaimlerChrysler, the most recent successor company to Willys, considers the word "Jeep" and the distinctive front grill design to be trademarks. It is said that the number of people worldwide who can recognize the distinctive grill design is second only to the number who can recognize Mickey Mouse. In 2003, Jeep produces three models: the Wrangler, the Grand Cherokee and the Liberty.
Jeeps are also produced in Beijing, China, by Beijing Jeep Corporation, Ltd. (BJC), a joint venture between Beijing Automobile Industry Corporation, DaimlerChrysler Corporation and DaimlerChrysler China Invest Corporation, established on January 15, 1984.
See also: jerrycan