How The Jeep Got It's Name
November 16, 2005
Where did the name come from? Not from the original designer and builder, the Bantam Car Company. It wasn’t Willys, the famous manufacturer of the Willys MB, either. Ford didn’t pick the name when it was making the GPW, and the U.S. Military never designated the term either. Truth be told, no one knows for sure just how the name “Jeep” came about, but the one common thread is that all of the theories relate to a sort of general population adoption of the term.
There are a number of theories on the origination of the name. There are reports that the term “Jeep” was used in Oklahoma in the 1930’s to describe specialized trucks used in drilling for oil, and that was how the term was later used by those from the area in describing the Willys MB.
Others believe that the name came from a slang abbreviation of the term G.P., which was an acronym that stood for General Purpose vehicle. The trouble with this theory is that the term General Purpose was reportedly used to describe the US Army’s quarter-ton reconnaissance vehicles, and not the Willys. Further, the Willys MB was designated for specific duties and was not referred to in Army circles as a General Purpose vehicle.
Along similar lines goes the theory that the name was a one-vowel slang word replacement for Ford’s description of the vehicle (the Ford GPW now commonly referred to as the Willys GPW), which referred to it as GP. The G stood for government use and the P referred to its wheel base size of 80 inches. When Ford began making these vehicles some people may have found it difficult to call it a Willys since it was actually manufactured by Ford.
Another explanation of the name has it that it was based on a character from the Popeye comic strip in the 1930’s that was known as Eugene the Jeep. This little guy was from another dimension and was blessed with the ability to go anywhere and do anything. He went through walls, scaled huge trees, flew, disappeared, etc. There wasn’t anywhere Eugene the Jeep couldn’t go. The theory goes that US soldiers were so impressed by the Willys go-anywhere performance that they began calling it Jeep after the character.
We’ll probably never know the answer to how the name Jeep began, but maybe that’s a good thing as it adds to the mystical allure of this American icon.
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