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From Military-Grade to Civilian-Ready: The Early CJ Models

After World War II made the military jeep an essential wartime vehicle for the transportation of American soldiers, armaments, and materials, the “jeep” became a household name in North America and throughout the world. The noncombatant public saw the jeep as the vehicle that defeated the European Axis powers, and the public wanted to see those jeeps on the streets. As soon as the Allied forces became confident they would win the war, Willys-Overland wanted to jump on the post-war domestic market by designing Civilian Jeeps (CJs). 

The Original Civilian Jeep

Early in 1944, nearly a year before Germany and Japan surrendered, plans were drawn up for the CJ-1 Prototype, which was mostly the Willys MB with minor modifications, including: - The addition of tailgate and drawbar - Lower gears - Civilian-friendly canvas top

The CJ-1 was the first jeep made entirely for civilian use. Although it was only a proof-of-concept test, this jeep paved the way for the additional improvements that came onto the scene. 


After a short time and a few more modifications, the manufacturing ended for the CJ-1 and began for the CJ-2. This vehicle, with only about 40 manufactured, was not available for civilian purchase. It was essentially a second-generation prototype based on the same Willys GB as the first-generation. This model still included the Willys Go Devil engine, but it was stripped of all military features and was evaluated for agricultural use. 

After only a few months, the CJ-2A replaced the CJ-2 and became the first full-production civilian jeep. From 1945 to 1949, the Willys-Overland manufactured the CJ-2A, intending it primarily for ranching, farming, and industrial purposes. In fact, when the second-generation CJ was in production, some jeeps were labeled as “AGRIJEEPS.” The AGRIJEEP name then became trademarked on the cusp of 1945 but was never officially used.


As the reason for CJ-2A production turned to agricultural use, Willys-Overland made a few necessary adjustments to the CJ-2, such as the removal of passenger seats and mirrors. However, many options remained, including:  - Capstan winch - Canvas top - Snowplow - Rear hydraulic lift - And many more additions

Additionally, the CJ-2A owners did have the option to include the passenger seat and a rear seat and even add a splash of color. From Pasture Green bodies and Autumn Yellow wheels to Harvest Tan bodies and Sunset Red wheels, the CJ-2A was truly civilianized. Other colors became available as production continued. Michigan Yellow, Harvard Red, Americar Black, Normandy Blue, and Picket Gray were some of those color alternatives. 

The CJ-2A was a relative success, but it was replaced by the third-generation (CJ-3A) in ‘49. The Farm Jeep and Jeep Tractor versions of the 3A became available in 1951, and since then, the Civilian Jeep designation has moved up to CJ-10 (pick-up truck). We at Army Jeep Parts are passionate about jeeps in all of their manifestations, and we have the Willys jeep parts, M100 trailer parts, and an extensive selection of other components that any jeep collector or restorer might need. Contact us today for more information.