The immortal Willys Jeep is sometimes described as the vehicle that won WW2. But what do you do when hostilities cease, with production lines geared up to produce thousands when you believe the tough little workhorse can only appeal to farmers and foresters? You produce a civilian version. Willys-Overland developed the Jeepster to cross over into the passenger car market from the utilitarian vehicles it pressed into production immediately after WW2. To handle the styling, it engaged industrial design guru Brooks Stevens, who envisioned a sports car for returning GIs. The Jeepster had the same front-end styling as the Willys wagon and pickup, but with a fancier look thanks to Stevens' stainless steel T-bar in the grille. While slab-sided, the Jeepster had a higher cowl, with beltline dropped at the doors and accentuated by a chrome strip to lower the lines. The Jeepster uses a 2.2-litre (134cu in) sidevalve 'Go-Devil' motor similar to that used in the wartime GP and the post-war CJ2, one of the world's most renowned torquey old sloggers, producing 105lbft at modest revs, meaning that only a three-speed transmission is needed, though overdrive was standard by 1950.
Reflecting its civilian market, the Jeepster was rear-wheel drive only, with transverse-leaf front suspension shared with the Jeep Wagon of 1946. It could seat five, in rather more comfort than its wartime ancestor, with access to the rear by folding the front passenger seat or climbing over the sides via built-in steps. Parts supply remains excellent from specialists in the US. The owner, describing the rare light utility vehicle as "very good all round", says: "The car has been well restored and drives just as one would expect it to, with the mileage believed less than 8000. I have a letter from well-respected American collector, George Tissen of Morristown NJ who owned the car, giving 7800 miles as the total. It has the original radio". These pioneer cars represent the first of a new automotive breed, the Sports Utility Vehicle so beloved of the North American market, but the original Jeepster remained in production for just two years, 1948-1950. Fewer than 20,000 were built, against 600,000 Jeeps, and this is one of only 5836 made in the final year of production.