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History of the Jeep Wrangler CJ (1945-1986)

Posted by Jeep Federation Team on Oct 20th 2017

History of the Jeep Wrangler CJ (1945-1986)

The Wrangler CJ series actually evolved from the Jeep Willys’ MB (1941-1945) vehicles which played a significant part in WWII. This is really the foundation and original nature of the Jeep. CJ and all other Jeep models were built around the MB. The ‘CJ’ in Wrangler CJ stands for ‘Civilian Jeep’. This range of 4x4 vehicles was named so because it was reconfigured from the military MB line. They were initially sold as a substitute to tractors and even came with different plows, power take-off attachments, and onboard elders too. From the CJ-2A to the CJ-8, this entire line spanned from 1845 up until 1968. The range of vehicles developed in comfort and size throughout those years.

Just like the military MB line, the Wrangler CJ started off with a four-cylinder, 60 h-p, ‘Go Devil’ engine but grew to embrace different engine options including six and eight cylinders. With around 40 years of producing the Wrangler CJ, Jeep became a resounding brand for selling durable and competent off-road vehicles. Americans made this image more famous with their adoption of 4x4 vehicles as everyday cars around the 1960s and 1970s. It is safe to say that the CJ series was a resounding success.

QUICK FACTOID: the iconic and peculiar seven-slot grille of Jeep first emerged with the Wrangler CJ-2A. The military line had a nine-slot grille.

Codes by year

The first of the CJ series is the CJ-2A and the last is the CJ-7 and CJ-8. All vehicles in this range are quite similar and also shared a few parts over the years of production but everyone should have a concept of the CJ model they have. The CJ series is a classic series but this is what the models and codes mean.

  • CJ-2A: this is also known as the ‘universal Jeep’ and was the very first model that Willys made for civilians. This model was made from the year 1945 to 1949.
  • CJ-3A: this upgrade to the CJ-2A was made from the year 1949 to 1953. This vehicle was based off the military M38 post-war Jeep and the windshield was one-piece.
  • CJ-3B: this vehicle was popularly called the ‘high hood’ Jeep and was manufactured from 1953 to 1968.
  • CJ-5: featuring a rounded hood to lodge the hurricane engine, this vehicle was produced from 1955 to 1983.
  • CJ-5A: this vehicle had an option for a Tuxedo Park package which compromised of bucket seats and a Dauntless V6 engine. It was produced from 1964 to 1967.
  • CJ-6: this model basically took the CJ-5 but added a longer wheelbase. It was produced from 1955 to 1975.
  • CJ-6A: from this model, only 459 cars were produced so it is easily the scarcest of the CJ models. Popularly known as ‘Tuxedo Park’, this vehicle was made from 1964 to 1967.
  • CJ-7: this vehicle was manufactured between 1976 and 1986. It was the very first that was not called a universal Jeep.
  • CJ-8: popularly known as ‘Scrambler’, this vehicle produced between 1981 and 1985 was just a larger CJ.
  • CJ-10: this vehicle had a CJ body but was a pickup truck. It was manufactured between 1981 and 1985.
  • C10: the C104 produced from 1972 to 1973 featured an AMC engine and the Jeepster Commando manufactured 1966 to 1971 came in a variation of pick up and convertible.
  • CJ-10A: this flight line airplane tug model was founded on the CJ-10. It was produced from 1984 to 1986.

The differences

  • One major difference between the military MB Jeeps and CJ-2A was the grille. MB had nine slot grille while CJ-2A had a seven-slot grille.
  • The CJ-5 welcomed a more rounded tub and the frame was boxed at the anterior of the back axle.
  • The wheelbase of the CJ-7 was 10 inches longer than the CJ-5 with no back curves on the cutouts of the door.
  • The chassis of CJ-7 and CJ-5 ha a duo of

What happened

Although none survived, a CJ-1 model was built and was a simple modification from the MB; civilian style canvas, drawbar, and tailgate were added. CJ-2 wasn’t so obtainable at retail but all the military properties were removed and it was basically an ‘Agri Jeep’. From the lessons learned in the past, the civilianized CJ-2A was created. It was fundamentally built for farming so accompanying attachments were available. Only two color variations were made initially but more options came up later.

With one-piece windshield, T-90 transmission, 60 h-p 4 cylinder engines and strengthened suspension to accommodate different agricultural tools built for it, the CJ-3A was a good Farm Jeep option.

One CJ-4 was made in 1951 and the CJ-3B replaced CJ-3A in 1953. Kaiser bought Willys the same year too. The CJ-5 was one of the longest in production and was influenced by Kaiser. The Tuxedo Park was raised from a package to make the different CJ-5A and CJ-6A models. The CJ-7 turned into the CJ-8 with a wheelbase.

With square headlights and nine slot grille, the CJ-10 was designed for export, especially for Australia. The CJ-10A was used by the USA Air Force to pull airplanes.

What changes

  • The CJ-2A had a more muscular transmission with T-90 three-speed while the MB had a T-84 transmission.
  • The rear wheel well of the CJ-3A was shorter than that of the CJ-2A which moved the driver's seat behind.
  • CJ-3B had a higher hood and grille and an optional manual transmission of four speeds in 1963.
  • The frame and tub of the CJ-5 were slightly modified.
  • The CJ-7 had the option for automatic system for all-wheel drive and duo speed transfer case.
  • The CJ-7 had a diesel option made by General Motors.
  • The CJ-8 did not have a different pickup bed but a small box.
  • The CJ-8 had options for five, four and three-speed manual transmissions with the latter as the most common.
  • The CJ-10 offered three different engine options.