1949 Willys-Overland Jeepster: Jeep’s Oddball Passenger Car
Jeeps and off-roading go together like peanut butter and jelly. But there was a time when you could actually buy a Jeepster passenger car!
Whether you’re talking about the original, military-derived Jeep or the modern Wrangler we know and love today, Jeeps have always been synonymous with off-roading. But like any good company, Willys wanted to expand their product offerings to attract more customers. After a few years following World War II, the manufacturer was already selling the CJ, Jeep Wagon, Panel Utility, and Jeep Truck. But they saw a perceived gap in the passenger car market, and thus came up with a solution— the Jeepster.
The Jeepster, like other Willys offerings, featured a simple, slab-sided design necessitated by their lack of advanced machinery. The first Jeepster went on sale in 1948, actually offering a series of features as standard equipment that cost extra on other passenger cars at the time. Power came from the tried-and-true 2.2-liter straight-four engine.
But there were, of course, some problems. The Jeepster cost as much as a Ford Super Deluxe club convertible, which had a V8 engine. It was offered in rear-wheel drive only, which turned off existing Jeep customers. And with little advertising and a limited dealer network, the Jeepster was doomed from the start.
Willys dropped the price on their passenger car the very next year and made several options standard equipment. They also offered a six-cylinder engine and proceeded to revise the styling in 1950. But none of that could save the Jeepster from impending doom. When it was all said and done, only 19,132 were produced over three model years.
This 1949 Jeepster, which we spotted over at The Collector Car Network, is the rarest of that trio. Only 2,960 were built, and this is easily one of the nicest ones we’ve ever seen. This example has been restored to original, with a rebuilt drivetrain and all the original parts intact. Not only is it quite the find, but this odd ride is a great reminder that not all Jeeps were built to go off-road!