Even before the end of the Second World War, Willys knew that they had a winner on their hands with the model MB jeeps that they were building for the government. As early as 1944, Willys had started preliminarily tests on MBs as a postwar civilian product. The first fruit of that labor was the CJ-2, as in “Civilian Jeep, Type 2” as opposed to the modified MBs that were called CJ-1s. On July 17, 1945, the first of a long line of civilian Jeeps went into production. It was called the CJ-2A.
In many ways, the CJ-2A was very similar to the wartime MB (and Ford GPW), but there were some significant changes for the Jeep’s new life outside of military applications. These included the addition of a tailgate, relocation of the fuel filler to the outside of the body, moving the spare tire carrier to the right side of the body towards the rear, and the addition of large exposed headlights and a seven-slat grille. Initially, the Jeep continued to use the same basic “Go Devil” flathead four-cylinder engine that predated the war, but several changes were made in late 1946, the most notable being the utilization of gear drive instead of chain drive for the camshaft.
First year production CJ-2As are unique as the only year that had column shift. From early 1946 on, all CJ-2As were floor shift, although some later models did have variations with column shifters. Other early evolutionary changes included deleting indents on the body for pioneer tools, the use of semi-floating axles over full-floating, and moving from painted to chrome headlight rings.
Initially, one of the targeted markets of the CJ-2A was agriculture, and some CJ-2s were even badged as Agri-Jeeps. As such, a range of farm ranch-related accessories were offered, including a winch, rear hydraulic lift, snow plow, generator and heavy duty springs. It was soon apparent that the Jeep had successfully become an appealing civilian product, and work soon began on another version, which was the slightly improved but similarly styled CJ-3A that came about in early 1949. The CJ-2A was phased out of production by the end of that year.
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