Though designed by American Bantam and produced by Ford and Willys, the Willys 'Jeep' was an American war hero. After the war, Willys turned to famed industrial designer Brook Stevens to produce civilian versions of its Jeeps, including a station wagon that in many ways was the original sport utility vehicle and the Jeepster, a four-passenger phaeton-style vehicle that provided an open-air driving experience.
Fewer than 20,000 Jeepsters were produced between 1948 and 1951, powered by a four-cylinder 'Go Devil' engine that at the start of production put 63 horsepower to the rear wheels.
Sold for $19,800 at 2011 RM Sothebys. The Jeep was a very capable and adaptable vehicle in its original concept as a reconnaissance car during World War II. When war came to a close, Willys had produced nearly 363,000 of its final MB version, while Ford built almost 278,000 of the Willys-designed GPW (General Purpose Willys). General George C. Marshall even called the Jeep 'America's greatest contribution to modern warfare.'
After World War II, Willys based its civilian production on a series of Jeep-based vehicles. This required very little retooling and capitalized on the hundreds of thousands of returning military personnel who became very loyal to Jeep during their wartime service.
Brooks Stevens designed the two-door Jeepster Phaeton. It shared its chassis with the Jeep station wagon. It had an unmistakable Jeep-derived front end, a sporty design, and rakish cut-down doors that were inspired by the little roadsters spawned from the United Kingdom. The Jeepster was introduced on May 3rd of 1948, initially powered by the F-head 'Hurricane Four.' Beginning with the VJ-3 model in July 1949, the 72-bhp, L-head 'Lightning Six' was available for the Jeepster. Overdrive was optional.
This Willys Jeepster Phaeton is painted in yellow and black with a matching interior. It is one of just 3,638 examples built in total for 1949. There are four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes, a three-speed manual transmission with overdrive, and the 'Lighting Six' L-head engine.
In 2011, this vehicle was offered for sale at the Hershey Auction presented by RM Auctions. It was estimated to sell for $20,000 - $25,000 and offered without reserve. As bidding came to a close, the vehicle had been sold for the sum of $19,800 including buyer's premium. By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2011
Willys-Overland Motors launched their Jeep Station Wagon in 1946, arguably as the first mass-production, all-steel, passenger-carrying station wagon. And thus the first SUV? Production based on the Brooks Stevens design lasted until 1965. In 1946, there was just the model 463 (L-134, 4-cylinder, Go-Devil flathead motor) but for 1948 the model 663 was launched with the L-148 Lightning 6-cylinder motor, still flathead. Four-wheel-drive was offered first as an option in 1948. It was the Jeep Wagoneer (no longer with Willys in its name) that superseded the Station Wagon after around 300,000 (all versions total) were built.
The Willys vehicle aided service greatly during The Second World War. Its versatility and toughness helped it traverse various types of terrain. By the close of the war, 362,841 examples of the Willys MB military vehicles had been created. Ford had created 277,896 of the Willys designed General Purpose Willys (GPW).
After the war, Willys decided to resume civilian production. Many returning serviceman were eager to purchase one as they knew first-hand the vehicles capabilities. A two-door Jeepster, designed by Brooks Stevens, was introduced in 1948 and shared a chassis with the Jeep station wagon. For 1950, there were minimal improvements such as to the front end, a new center-gauge dashboard design, and a wraparound rear bumper. It was offered with either a four- or six-cylinder engine and optional overdrive. By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2008
Sold for $26,500 at 2015 Mecum. During World War II, the Willys earned a reputation for building some of the most dependable, robust, and utilitarian vehicles of the era. After the War, Willys continued building jeeps, trucks, and wagons for civilian use. These were economical and utilitarian vehicles that were alternatives to the larger, heavier trucks and wagons.
In 1948, the Jeepster was introduced, riding on a two-wheel drive chassis and powered by a four-cylinder engine mated to a 3-speed manual transmission. Inside, there was seating for five occupants. The Jeepster was unique, with a convertible top that fit snuggly. Production, however, was short lived and ended in 1950. A six-cylinder option became available in 1949, but only a few hundred were ordered.
This particular example is powered by a four-cylinder engine and has been treated to restoration. It is finished in light yellow paint with a red interior. By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2016
Sold for $37,000 at 2015 Mecum. The General Purpose vehicle firmly established itself during World War II, proving to be capable, durable and tough. After the war, Willys-Overland, the owners of the Jeep name and design, were in position to market Civilian Jeeps (CJs) and Jeep-based wagons and trucks. The chairman of the board at Willys-Overland, however, envisioned a more youthful, sporty, and comfortable and fun vehicle. Working with industrial designer Brooks Stevens, the VJ, or Jeepster, was conceived. Originally offered April 3, 1948, the new vehicle appealed to a new audience of buyers. The traditional Willys customer took some time to be convinced. Power was from a 134 CID inline-4 offering 62 horsepower and mated to a 3-speed manual transmission with optional overdrive. They had four-wheel drum brakes and a single transverse leaf-spring suspension and offered in rear-wheel drive only. In 1948, over 10,000 examples were sold. The following year, the company offered the new VJ3-6 engine as an option. The 149 CID inline-6 engine produced 72 horsepower, over a smoother ride and more power than the four-cylinder unit. Additional features were also offered, but unfortunately, sales dipped to 2,960. Just 653 of those were powered by the VJ3-6. While nearly 6,000 VJs were sold, the company was still selling them into 1951.
This particular 1949 Willys Jeepster in finished in two-stage Ferrari Red paint with Black trim. It has a new black interior with plaid inserts, and a new top. Power is from the 134 CID inline-4 engine which has been treated to a comprehensive rebuild. It has a 3-speed manual transmission with overdrive which has been rebuilt.
This Jeepster has been driven just 27 miles since the restoration was completed. By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2016
One of the most overlooked but interesting vehicles in the storied off-road vehicle maker's past is the 1948-1951 Jeepster, a two-wheel drive convertible that industrial designer Brooks Stevens envisioned as a sports car for returning WW2 GIs.
The Jeepster had the same front-end styling as the Willy's wagon and pick-up but with a fancier look thanks to Steven's stainless steel T bar in the grille. The Jeepster was designed to be a sporty automobile, so Willy's offered it solely as a two-wheel drive model. For whatever reason, Willy's did not see any commercial application for the Jeepster, so four wheel drive did not materialize.
A total of 19,132 VJ Jeepsters were produced from 1948-1950.
This Jeepster was given a total frame-off restoraiton in Florida around 2011.