Let's all celebrate two things: the 4th of July and the 70th anniversary of the Jeep!
American Bantam contracted Karl Probst for the design, and he came up with the plans in two days. Willys needed more time. On September 21, 1940, Bantam presented the first Jeep. While the 4x4 was able to climb the steps of the capital with its astounding off-road capability and light weight design, the engine was unable to provide enough torque to meet the Army's requirements.
The Bantam Jeep plans were then sold to Willys-Overland for production plans and for torque improvements. Willys-Overland reduced the overall weight of the vehicle to add a more powerful engine. Since production needs were so high, Willys allowed the US government a non-exclusive license to bring in another manufacturer on the project. Ford was then brought in to production, and between the two companies 640,000 Jeeps were produced for military use during WWII. Jeeps were used by every division of the U.S. military and an average of 145 were supplied to every infantry regiment.
American Motor Corporation (AMC) purchased Kaiser's Jeep operation in 1970. The utility vehicles complemented AMC's passenger car business by sharing components, achieving volume efficiencies, as well as capitalizing on Jeep's international and government markets.
French automaker Renault began investing in AMC's production in 1979, but became unprofitable throughtout the late 1980's. In 1987, Chrysler bought AMC's Jeep brand with other assets after the Jeep CJ-7 was replaced with the Jeep Wrangler.
Chrysler now holds trademark status on the name "Jeep" and the distinctive 7-slot front grille design. The original 9-slot grille associated with all World War II jeeps was designed by Ford for their GPW, and because it weighed less than the original "Slat Grille" of Willys (an arrangement of flat bars), was incorporated into the "standardized jeep" design.