The Willys-Overland Farm Jeep

The Farm Jeep, a low-cost alternative to the tractor couldn’t cut it on the farm mostly because of its light weight, weak drive train and cost.

| December 2018

  • farm jeep
    “If it can pull a bogged lorry out of the sand, it can pull a plow, or a harrow, or a seeder, or a cultivator.” This 1944 advertisement cited the Jeep’s battlefield prowess as justification for use in the farm fields of America.
    Image courtesy Darrel Wrider
  • farm jeep
    Farm Jeeps on the job, pulling and powering implements in every conceivable application.
    Image courtesy Darrel Wrider
  • farm jeep
    Farm Jeeps on the job, pulling and powering implements in every conceivable application.
    Image courtesy Darrel Wrider
  • farm jeep
    Farm Jeeps on the job, pulling and powering implements in every conceivable application.
    Image courtesy Darrel Wrider
  • farm jeep
    Farm Jeeps on the job, pulling and powering implements in every conceivable application.
    Image courtesy Darrel Wrider
  • farm Jeep
    Farm Jeeps on the job, pulling and powering implements in every conceivable application.
    Image courtesy Darrel Wrider
  • farm Jeep
    Farm Jeeps on the job, pulling and powering implements in every conceivable application.
    Image courtesy Darrel Wrider
  • farm Jeep
    Farm Jeeps on the job, pulling and powering implements in every conceivable application.
    Image courtesy Darrel Wrider
  • farm Jeep
    Farm Jeeps on the job, pulling and powering implements in every conceivable application.
    Image courtesy Darrel Wrider
  • farm Jeep
    Farm Jeeps on the job, pulling and powering implements in every conceivable application.
    Image courtesy Darrel Wrider
  • farm Jeep ad
    Farm applications were just a few of the ways the Willys marketing department envisioned Jeeps in use in the post-war 1940s. Illustrations in this 1946 ad present the Jeep as a freight hauler, residential utility vehicle, industrial tug and recreational vehicle.
    Image courtesy Darrel Wrider

  • farm jeep
  • farm jeep
  • farm jeep
  • farm jeep
  • farm jeep
  • farm Jeep
  • farm Jeep
  • farm Jeep
  • farm Jeep
  • farm Jeep
  • farm Jeep ad

At the beginning of World War II, farm tractor and implement manufacturers suspended production as they converted their factories to war-time production. With 4 million American farmers (out of a total of 5.5 million) owning neither a pickup nor a tractor, Willys-Overland executives saw a big post-war market for a Jeep adapted for use on the farm. Maybe they were also inspired by the description of the Jeep by World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle: "It's as faithful as a dog, as strong as a mule and as agile as a goat."

Early planning for conversion to civilian use began in 1942, when two military jeeps were tested by the Department of Agriculture at a tillage laboratory in Alabama. Testers were surprised by how well the jeeps performed, but recommended lower gearing, a stronger clutch and additions such as a drawbar.

By early 1944, when it appeared the Allies were going to win the war, Willys-Overland began drawing plans for a postwar farm jeep. Engineers took two military jeeps off the production line and called them "CJ-1" for "Civilian Jeep." Modifications included addition of tailgates, lower gearing and drawbars. A civilian-style top was designed to be offered as an option.

Birth of the Farm Jeep

When the CJ-1 was ready for production, it was called a "CJ-2." The CJ-2 had lower axle ratios, lower low-range ratios for the transfer case, a stronger transmission, provision for center and rear PTOs, and changes to the chassis to position the drawbar. The Go Devil L-head engine was retained but with a different carburetor and ignition, and a governor for the PTO was added.



Willys introduced the CJ-2 to the public in July 1945 with the addition of a 265-pound weight mounted between the frame rails behind the front bumper. Engineers added that as a counter-weight to hold the front end down for plowing. The CJ-2 model name was changed to CJ-2A later in 1945, CJ-3A in 1949 and CJ-3B in 1953. All of those were marketed as the Farm Jeep, although some early units had AgriJeep tags on the dash.

The "Jeep Tractor," a stripped-down version of the Farm Jeep, was introduced in 1952. It was sold without front shocks, spare tire, windshield, passenger seats, tailgate, headlights, fuel-pump booster, speedometer or horn. The Jeep Tractor couldn't be licensed for on-road use so it quickly lost its versatility. It's not surprising that few were sold.

FarmJeep
12/2/2018 4:52:46 PM

Newgren Equipment Company was founded in Toledo and then purchased by Monroe Auto Equipment Company when they wanted their lift to be the "official" Jeep 3-point lift. Monroe sold the company to American Bantam Car Company and Newgren's headquarters were moved to Butler, PA. Newgren was a distributor of implements manufactured by different companies during its short history. A data-tag with a Hillsdale, MI would be a very rare find and I hope you can share your source.


Monroe3pt
12/2/2018 7:30:02 AM

Kudos to Mr Wrider for bringing the Farm Jeep and Jeep Tractor to the attention of readers who may otherwise have been unaware of them. A word of caution however to those who may be interested in seeking out more information on the subject. From someone who has been researching all of the 3-point hitches and implements that were used by the Universal Jeep, the Dodge Power Wagon, ATC Terratrac tractor, LeRoi Centaur AG tractor, Empire tractor, etc., I can confidently state that a majority of the information found on the internet today can be misleading at best, if not unabashedly wrong. I have been researching, collecting information, and publishing articles on farm jeeps and farm trucks for over 30 years. The very best sources of information on the subject to be found to date come in the form of vintage dealer supplied manuals, sales literature, patent applications, and period newspaper and magazine articles from the 1940's through the 1960's. All difficult information to come by, but well worth the effort to seek it out. As they say, "The thrill is in chase."


darrelwrider
11/28/2018 4:31:10 PM

To clear up some confusion, Willys-Overland marketed the jeep to farmers as the Universal Jeep or Jeep Universal until 1951when it was named the Farm Jeep, and the stripped down Jeep Tractor was introduced. This was done due to declining sales. While the Newgren Company had a Toledo address, a Maine farmer reported his plow had a "data-tag" showing it was built by "Newgren Co. of Hillsdale, MI." Since writing this article, I found a photocopy of a letter with the letterhead, "The Newgren Company, Batter, Pennsylvania. It was signed by "W. W. Smelker, Vice-President in Charge of Dist." Willys-Overland Production Figures shows that no Farm Jeeps or Jeep Tractors were built in 1951 or 1952. Another source reported that at the start of the Korean War, Willys-Overland retooled to build the M-38 and the M-38A1 for the military. I stand behind my article. Darrel Wrider




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