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.



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