After the end of World War II, the Willys-Overland company decided it was time to build a consumer-friendly version of their world-famous military vehicle. And so, the CJ or “Civilian Jeep” series was born. It was at this point that the recipe of body-on-frame construction, rigid live axles, leaf springs, open bodies, a fold-flat windshield and part-time 4WD was written. This recipe has been in use, basically unchanged, ever since.
The CJ-5 model arrived in the 1950s and was built over the coming decades in a variety of flavors like the Kaiser variant built with a Buick V6. In 1970, the company was sold to American Motors Corporation (AMC) at which point the future Wrangler began to take shape. AMC began marketing the Jeep as more of a sporty 4×4 instead of universal utility and applied a broad revamp in 1972.
A significant change was the use of American Motors’ in-house engines like the 304 CID (5.0L) V8 that is fitted to today’s example. This necessitated a stretched wheelbase and longer hood. They also beefed up the chassis with six cross members and a new box frame. Over the coming years, features like a radio, air conditioning and the Golden Eagle package arrived. Referred to as “America’s Workhorse”, the CJ series was incredibly successful with more than 1.5 million Jeeps built over 40 years and led to the Jeep brand we know so well today.