Willys-Overland Jeepster

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Jeep Jeepster Commando)

Willys-Overland Jeepster
TypeEarly Crossover/Phaeton
ManufacturerWillys-Overland Motors
AssemblyToledo, Ohio
DesignerBrooks Stevens
Body and chassis
Body style2-door phaeton/convertible
LayoutFR layout
Engine134.1 cu in (2.2 L) I4
148.5 cu in (2.4 L) I6
161 cu in (2.6 L) I6
Transmission3-speed manual with overdrive[1]
Wheelbase104 in (2,642 mm)[1]
Length174 in (4,420 mm)[2]
Width69 in (1,753 mm)[2]
Height62 in (1,575 mm)[2]
Curb weight4-cylinder: 2,468 lb (1,119 kg)
(6-cylinder: 2,392 lb (1,085 kg) [3]

The Jeepster is an automobile originally produced by Willys-Overland Motors from 1948 to 1950.[4] It was developed to fill a gap in the company's product line, crossing over from their "utilitarian" proto SUVs and trucks to the passenger automobile market.

The Jeepster initially included numerous deluxe features and interior fittings in addition to a high level of standard equipment that cost extra on other automobiles. A total of almost 20,000 were manufactured.

The Jeepster name was revived in 1966 on a new model, the C-101 Jeepster Commando.


After World War II, Jeep trademark owner, Willys (pronounced "WILL-is"), began producing and marketing the "CJ" (for Civilian Jeep) to farmers, foresters, and others with similar utilitarian needs. The company also began producing the Jeep Wagon/Panel Utility/Pick-up in 1946,[5] and the Jeep Truck in 1947.[6]

Seeing a gap in their product lineup, Willys developed the Jeepster to crossover from their "utilitarian" trucks to the passenger automobile market. It was to expand its Jeep work truck focus and thus broaden Willys' customer base.[7] The new sporty rear-wheel-drive-only model was to have a "dual personality for city and country driving" and marketing emphasized it as "America's greatest value in sports cars!"[7]

Willys-Overland lacked the machinery to form deep-drawn fenders or complicated shapes, so the vehicle had to use a simple and slab-sided design.[8][9] Industrial designer Brooks Stevens styled a line of postwar vehicles for Willys using a common platform that included the Jeep pickup and station wagon, as well as a sporty two-door open car[9] that he envisioned as a sports car for veterans of World War II.[4]

The Willys-Overland Jeepster ("VJ" internally) was introduced in April 1948,[10] and produced through 1950.[11] Some leftover models were sold under the 1951 model year.[11][12]


1948 Willys Jeepster.
1949 Jeepster standard Continental kit
1950 Jeepster

The basic 1948 Jeepster included numerous deluxe features and interior fittings in addition to a high level of standard equipment that cost extra on other automobiles. These included, among many others, whitewall tires, hubcaps with bright trim rings, sun visors, deluxe steering wheel, wind wings, locking glovebox, cigar lighter, and continental tire with fabric cover.[13] The Jeepster had Willys' World War II-proven 134.2 cu in (2.2 L) straight-4 "Go Devil" engine, and plastic side curtains, but its US$1,765 (equivalent to $21,498 in 2022)[14] price was about the same as a Ford Super DeLuxe Club convertible with roll-down windows, fancier styling, and a V8 engine.[4][15]

The car was only offered with rear-wheel drive, thus limiting its appeal to typical Jeep customers.[11] Its distinctive boxy styling and performance were praised by automotive journalists.[citation needed] However, the Jeepster did not catch on with the intended market segment. Sales were also limited by sparse advertising and an insufficient dealer network.[16]

The Jeepster's I-4 engine was rated at 63 hp (47 kW; 64 PS) and coupled to a Borg-Warner T-96 3-speed manual transmission with an overdrive unit as standard.[1] The Planadyne single transverse leaf spring independent front suspension, entire drivetrain, front end, rear suspension, steering, and four-wheel drum brakes were from the Willys Station Wagon.[1][17] The flat-topped rear fenders were taken from the Jeep truck line.[10]


The 1949 Jeepster began production with a one-model/one-engine offering. The price was lowered to $1,495, with some previously standard features returning as extra-cost options. Toward the middle of the year, an additional model was introduced, the VJ3-6, powered by Willys' new L148 Lightning I-6 engine.[18]


1950 Willys Jeepster in red (Montauk Fire Commissioner), front left

The 1950 model year featured the VJ-3 Jeepster's first styling revisions that included a new instrument panel and redesigned front end featuring a V-shaped grille with horizontal chrome trim.[12] A new model was introduced with reduced standard equipment at a lower price.

Willys' L161 Lightning six-cylinder was offered in addition to the standard Go Devil four-cylinder engine.[18]

Model designations were dependent on production timeframe, with early 1950s four-cylinder Jeepsters given VJ-3 463 and six-cylinders VJ-3 663, changed to VJ-473 and VJ-673, respectively, for later year vehicles.[18]



The Jeepster's problems in the marketplace were its limited utility and practicality.[19] It also looks rugged and off-road capable, but is not.[19] Appeal is limited due to the basic construction, poor all-weather protection, and the low performance when equipped with the I-4 engine.[19] Even with an optional six-cylinder engine and offering the VJ3 version at a lower price, the Jeepsters did not draw many new buyers due to three factors: a relatively high price, low performance, and the lack of roll-up door windows.[7]

Model year sales:

  • 1948 - 10,326
  • 1949 - 2,960
  • 1950 - 5,836

A total of 19,132 Jeepsters were produced.[4]

The Jeepster name was revived by Kaiser for the 1967 model year as the C-101 Jeepster Commando. However, this version came with roll-up door windows, V6 engine, four-wheel-drive and available as a pickup truck, convertible, and station wagon, in addition to roadster.[20] American Motors Corporation (AMC) purchased Kaiser's Jeep utility-vehicle operations in 1970 to complement its existing passenger-car business. The Jeepster was reengineered to use AMC engines and production continued for several years.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d 1948 Willys Jeepster Introduction
  2. ^ a b c Brown 1994, p. 236.
  3. ^ "About Willys Vehicles - Jeepster (VJ)". kaiserwillys.com. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Mattar 2012.
  5. ^ Brown 1994, pp. 70, 72.
  6. ^ Brown 1994, p. 74.
  7. ^ a b c DeMauro 2014.
  8. ^ Brown 1994, pp. 58, 68.
  9. ^ a b 1948 Willys Jeepster Development
  10. ^ a b Brown 1994, p. 76.
  11. ^ a b c Brown 1994, p. 78.
  12. ^ a b Statham 2002, p. 77.
  13. ^ 1948 Willys Jeepster Design Features
  14. ^ 1634–1699: McCusker, J. J. (1997). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700–1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved 28 May 2023.
  15. ^ "1948 Ford Super Deluxe 2 Door Convertible Prices, Values & Super Deluxe 2 Door Convertible Price Specs". NADA guides. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  16. ^ 1948 Willys Jeepster Reviews
  17. ^ Brown 1994, pp. 68, 70, 76.
  18. ^ a b c 1949-1950 Willys Jeepster
  19. ^ a b c Peek 2019.
  20. ^ Zyla, Greg. "Jeepster History and Fun Facts" (18 October 2019). Auto Round-Up Publications. Retrieved 20 May 2022.


External links[edit]