Many of us younger wheelers are into the XJ Cherokee and TJ Wrangler. However, we lack knowledge on how the whole Jeep thing came to be. Some of us have always wanted a flat fender Jeep, but don’t even know what model of the CJ was a flat fender. We want to help get other young Jeepers up to speed but giving them a brief overview of the Jeep CJ.
CJ-1 and CJ-2
In 1944, the Allies were completely confident we would win the won. This meant that Willys could design and build a Jeep for the post-war civilian market. Although there isn’t much documentation left, it’s thought that in May of that year they a working civilian model. It was named the Willys-Overland CJ-1, which stood for “Civilian Jeep-1.”
From 1944 to 1945 Willys-Overland continued developing a civilian model of the Jeep. The CJ-2 which was also known as “AgriJeeps” were the next step in the development process. It used much of the Willys MB including the same exact 2.2-liter “Go Devil” engine, but the military features were removed. Of the 45 CJ-2s that were built only nine survived.
CJ-2A (1945 to 1949)
The CJ-2A is when Willys finally launched their first production vehicle. It looked a lot like the Willys MB, but it has a tailgate, a spare tire mounted on the side of the body, and a slightly different front end. The 2A used the same “Go Devil” engine as the Willys MB, and many of the early 2As used surplus Willys MB parts. An impressive 214k CJ-2As were sold from 1945 to 1949.
CJ-3A (1949 to 1953)
The CJ-3A was very similar to the CJ-2A, but with some minor changes. First off the window was changed to one solid piece of glass instead two pieces. The suspension was beefed up a little bit for hauling heavier loads. The rear wheel well was shortened by about 2 inches which allows for the driver’s seat to be moved further back. Other than that it the 2A and 3A were pretty much the same. 131k CJ-3As were sold from 1949 to 1953.
CJ-3B (1953 – 1968)
Willys was sold to Kaiser in 1953, and they dropped “Overland” out of the name. The CJ-3B was pretty similar to the CJ-3A before it, sharing most components. The new CJ-3B, however, received the new Willys Hurricane engine, and an optional four-speed transmission in 1963. The new engine was significantly taller, which forced the hood to be much taller than before. Other than the new engine the 3B was pretty similar to the 3A. Around 196,000 were produced from 1953 to 1968.
CJ-5 (1954 – 1983)
Now were getting into the realm of “modern” Jeeps. Interestingly enough it was supposed to replace the CJ-3B, but they went on the be produced together. The CJ-5 got rid of the super flat fenders and a really big step into taking the “Jeep” into the modern era. In 1970 AMC bought Kaiser Jeep and began using their own 3.8-liter and 4.2-liter inline-6 engines in 1972. A 5.0-liter V8 was also available, which actually made the CJ-5 pretty darn fast.
To fit all the new engines the front end was stretched five inches, and the wheelbase was stretched three inches. Tons of other changes were made throughout the years. The frame was stiffened, drivetrain beefed up, interior improved, and more. A whopping 603k CJ-5s were produced from 1954 to 1983.
In 1980 a segment on the “60 Minutes” show demonstrated that the CJ-5 had a high rollover risk. Years after the segment aired it was revealed that they only managed eight rollovers out of 435 runs. Not only was the rollover rate less than two percent, they had to hang weights off the side of the Jeep to even induce a rollover mid corner.
CJ-7 (1976 – 1986)
The CJ-7 was the largest step towards modern Jeeps. The wheelbase was stretched 10 inches over the CJ-5 and got rid of the goofy shaped doors. The chassis was strengthened and the suspension was mounted closer to the outside of the body. This massively improved handling and stability. This was done after the whole “60 Minutes” controversy.
The CJ-7 also featured a new all-wheel drive system, a two-speed part-time transfer case, and the option for an automatic transmission. It also featured an optional molded hardtop and steel doors. A total of 380k CJ-7s were built from 1976 to 1986
So there you have it, a brief history of the Jeep CJ. After the CJ-7 came the YJ which also picked up the “Wrangler” name. Up until the CJ-7, the Jeep CJ didn’t really evolve very much. Personally, I really like the CJ-7 because it ditched the goofy looking doors and tiny wheelbase for a more useable wheelbase. Let me know which CJ is your favorite in the comments down below!