At Evans Arena in Dayton, we love being an Ohio Jeep Dealer. With its versatile lineup of off-road ready SUVs and now a pickup truck, Jeep is a brand we are proud to represent. But something that makes being a Jeep dealer in Ohio even more special, is that Jeep's long-time headquarters is located just up North in Toledo. Now, Jeep and the city of Toledo have announced plans to build a Jeep Museum right here in our state!

And while Evans Arena has long been a Jeep dealer in Dayton, the Evans family's history with Jeep goes way further back then the founding of our dealership. In fact, James Evans, our owner's ancestor, was one of the designers who worked on the original Jeep model! It is exciting that the Jeep Museum in Toledo will feature part of the Evans family's legacy, and that all of our Ohio Jeep owners will be able to see how Jeep has evolved over the years.

Jeep is truly an American icon, featured in countless films and other media. But where did Jeep get its start? While we're sure that the Jeep Museum will offer a much more extensive history than we can here, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at when the first Jeeps were produced. And for those Dayton Jeep fans who can't wait for the Jeep Museum in Toledo to open, you can stop by Evans Arena to see our display on the first Jeep and the Evans family's role in its creation.


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When Was the First Jeep Made?

Jeep is now a popular brand making everything from family SUVs, to off-roaders, to pickup trucks. However, the story of the Jeep starts with World War II. The US military knew it needed a capable 4x4 vehicle for a range of duties, and accepted bids from American Bantam Car Company and Willys-Overland. Bantam produced the initial prototype of the military vehicle, whose influence is still visible in Jeep Wranglers of today.

However, they lacked the production capacity to supply the US Military with as many vehicles as they needed. As Ford and Willys-Overland competed for their respective versions of the Bantam vehicle to be selected, Willys-Overland made the breakthrough with its more powerful engine. It was this original Willys vehicle, the MB, that became the first Jeep to be produced at their Toledo, Ohio plant.

Production continued throughout the war, with Ford also receiving permission to build the Willys vehicle. In total, the two manufacturers produces around 640,000 of the first Jeep during WWII. The first civilian Jeep model would not be produced until 1945 by Willys-Overland. And the rest, as they say, is history. But where did the name Jeep come from in the first place, if the model name during the war was the MB?

Origin of the Name 'Jeep'

While the Jeep name began to be popularized during World War II, it was not a trademarked brand until years later. So where did the name Jeep come from? There are actually a lot of theories about this, so maybe it's something the Toledo Jeep Museum will be able to settle once and for all!

One theory states that it came from the military initials of the vehicle, but that has mostly been disproven. Another theory says that it was named after a character in the Popeye comics name Jeep, who could do anything and go anywhere. However, the real origin of the name Jeep is more likely in military slang.

Army engineers, as well as enlisted soldiers, would call new pieces of equipment "jeeps." So a jeep could be a new plane, or in this case, an off-road vehicle. The name became immortalized when one of the early Jeeps was driven up the stairs of the Capitol building in Washington, DC. When the driver was asked the name of the vehicle, he famously replied, "It's a Jeep." He probably heard the word from the military men who handed the vehicle over to him, and the rest is now history.

Once a Jeep, Always a Jeep

One thing is for sure. The Jeep name, and its reputation for off-road ability, has stuck through the years. From the early military vehicles in WWII, to the first consumer vehicles, to the groundbreaking Wagoneer, and Jeep's current lineup, Jeep has long been a household name in America. It's fitting that such a legendary brand would get its own museum, and right where it all started in Toledo, Ohio.

We at Evans Arena are excited for the new museum, and to share information about it with our Jeep customers. The Evans family's role in the Jeep's creation decades ago has long added importance to our status as an Ohio Jeep dealer, and the new Jeep Museum in Toledo helps cement Ohio as part of Jeep's history.

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