Willys-Overland is generally acknowledged as being the inventor of the Jeep. The make Jeep-Eagle, which these days is part of Chrysler, will not deny this. However, the truth of the matter is that the American Bantam Car Company was the real inventor. In 1940, the American Ministry of War asked car manufacturers to draw up designs of a small, lightweight off-road vehicle. Only two manufacturers replied - the American Bantam Car Company and Willys Overland. The Bantam factory was the only one to keep to the original deadline. The small factory, which constructed Austins under licence, was given an order to supply 70 complete vehicles on 25 July 1940.
The different models were continually improved. Eventually, several companies produced production models that would write history under the name of Jeep. Ford constructed 277,896 Jeeps. Willys-Overland and the American Bantam Car Company together produced more than 368,000 vehicles, meaning that in total more than 600,000 cars were manufactured. On June 13, 1950 the name Jeep was patented as a Willys-Overland trademark.
Although modern Japanese off-road vehicles are often sold as Jeeps, there is only one real Jeep. The fact that the design was created originally at the American Bantam Car Company and not at Willys-Overland does not alter this fact.
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