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Jeep Heritage: The 75-Year Legacy – From Quad To Wrangler


Willys Quad (1940)

The firstborn in the Jeep legacy was affectionately named the Willys Quad. Jeep created this model as its prototype 4×4 reconnaissance vehicle to present to the U.S. Army.

According to the army’s specifications, the new vehicle had to have four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case, reach speeds of up to 50 miles per hour, generate 115Nm torque, seat three passengers, have a wheelbase shorter than 75 inches (190cm) and be no taller than 36 inches (91cm).

In the summer of 1940, Jeep was contracted by the U.S. Army to construct 70 sample vehicles.

In March 1921, the U.S. Army asked for a further 1500 Quads before making it the official vehicle of the army. This was the start of the Jeep lineage which continues to the latest Wrangler JK.

A big reason why the Willys Quad, and later the MA/MB, won the bulk of the army contract, is the Willys L134 engine. Nicknamed the “Go Devil”, it was more powerful than the engines of the other competing reconnaissance vehicles.

It produced 45kW and 142Nm of torque – 7kW and 27Nm more than was required, using a 2.2-litre iron block and single barrel carburettor, and feeding fuel through an L-head cylinder head. Power was sent through a three-speed manual gearbox with a two-speed transfer case and the body was set on live axles and leaf springs at each corner.

Willys MA/MB (1941)

With a few cosmetic changes, the Willys Quad soon became known as the Willys MA (“M” for Military Model A).

Jeep added a 3-speed transmission shifter onto the steering-wheel column and two round instrument clusters onto the dashboard, lowered the Quad’s side body cutouts and fitted a handbrake in the dash rather than on the floor.

The U.S. Army then added a new 979kg weight limit to its vehicle specifications.

The MB was the result of the changes that were made in order to meet the new requirements.