Kaiser Willys Jeep History (1953-1969)

Article by Mark Trotta

In 1953, Kaiser Motors purchased Willys-Overland and changed the name to Willys Motors. One year later, the CJ5 was introduced. Improvements over the Willys CJ-3B included a 12-volt electrical system, new instrument panel, larger windshield, and optional all-weather top.

Kaiser Willys Jeep history

Kaiser-Willys Jeep CJ5

Essentially a civilian version of the M-38A1 military model, the CJ5 rode on a longer, wider frame than it's predecessor. External differences from earlier Jeeps included more rounded fenders and a larger frame windshield.

Semi-elliptic leaf springs were fitted front and rear. The front axle was a full-floating Dana Spicer 25. The rear unit was a semi-floating Dana 44, with available gearing of 4.27.



Hurricane 4 Engine

The 134 cubic-inch Willys Hurricane engine, in use since 1950, would be the only motor available until 1961. With a compression ratio of 6.9:1, power output was about 72-horsepower.

CJ Jeep history

Known as the F-Head motor, the "F" represented the valve configuration: the exhaust valves were in the block, and intake valves were in the cylinder head. This allowed the intake valves to be larger.

First Postal Jeep

Produced from 1956 until 1965, the two-wheel-drive DJ-3A was the first Postal Jeep, and was flat-fendered similar to the CJ-3A. In 1965, the DJ-5 was introduced. Jeep also produced a long-wheelbase version, the DJ-6, from 1965 until 1968. The DJ-5 was produced into the early seventies and continued production under AM General.

Perkins Diesel Engine

The Perkins 4.192 (Four 192) four-cylinder diesel engine was available in Jeep CJ's from 1961 through 1968/1969. Power output was 62-horsepower at 3,000 rpm and an impressive 143 lb-ft of torque at 1,350 rpm. Jeep was one the first American manufacturers to offer a diesel in a non-commercial vehicle.

Kaiser Jeep Name

In 1963, the Willys-Kaiser name was changed to the Kaiser-Jeep Corporation. Most Jeep historians agree that 1964 and prior Jeeps will have a script "Willys" stamped across the top of the firewall VIN plate; models produced after 1964 will not.

The CJ Jeep's first real competitor, the International Scout, was being offered with V-6 and V-8 engine options for the 1965 model year. Kaiser-Jeep's four-cylinder Hurricane motor now seemed under-powered by comparison. In the Fall of 1965, Kaiser bought the casting rights to Buick's 225-cid V-6 motor.

Dauntless V-6 Engine

Producing nearly double the horsepower of the Hurricane engine, the Buick-designed "Dauntless V-6" made 155 horsepower at 4000 rpm. Net torque was 235 at 2400 rpm. The engine's firing order, 1-6-5-4-3-2, is known as the "odd-fire" pattern. A heavier flywheel was used to increase torque, and also help dampen vibrations of the odd-fire design.

Jeep CJ5 history

Read: CJ5 Engine Swap Choices

The compact V6 configuration fit well into the tight Jeep engine compartment, and proved to be a very popular option. By 1968, more than 75 percent of CJ Jeep's sold were ordered with the Dauntless motor.



In 1966, the Dana Spicer 25 front axle was upgraded to a Dana Spicer 27 axle. The following year, rear axle gearing was changed to 3.54.

Jeep CJ ad

1969 Jeep CJ Camper

In 1969, Kaiser-Jeep introduced three new RV's as part of their "Great Jeep Escape" campaign. The Camper was mounted in the bed of a CJ5, and extended beyond the back and carrying it's own axle and brakes. It also extended above the front roof of the CJ5, where the main bed was located. The camper had room to sleep four.

The camper, manufactured by the Honorbuilt Division of Ward Manufacturing, was an option that could be added to any factory CJ5, but it was recommended for Jeeps with the Buick V6 Dauntless engine and 4.88 gearing. Standard items included a propane stove, 100-pound capacity icebox, 20-gallon water tank and pressure system, stainless-steel sink, and marine-type toilet and holding tank.

Kaiser-Jeep also sold these campers separately, as they would fit any CJ5 made since 1955. Only 336 Jeep CJ Campers were sold in 1969. When AMC bought out Kaiser-Jeep in February 1970, the camper option was discontinued.

CJ5 Jeep history

1969 Jeep 462

The Jeep 462 package was the forerunner to the Jeep Renegade series. Included in the 462 package were the V6 Dauntless engine, heavy-duty frame and springs, a locking differential, bucket seats and a rear seat, oil pan skid plate, rear swing-out tire carrier, full wheel covers, padded visors and a padded dash. Upgrades from standard models included larger wider off-road tires, extra gauges, a hood stripe and a roll bar. The following year Jeep would release the first of the Renegade packages.

Mandatory side-marker lights were added in 1969.

Kaiser-Jeep was bought by American Motors Corporation in 1970, and became Jeep Corporation.


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