History of the 1947-1965 Willys-Jeep Pickups
After the end of the Second World War, Willys really took the ball and ran with it to capitalize on the popularity of the Jeeps that they had helped build. Not only did they make a civilian version of the military Jeep, but they created a new line of light duty trucks that was heavily influenced by it. First to be offered for 1946 was a steel-bodied wagon, with a panel delivery and a pickup truck next in 1947. Initially, all of these were two-wheel drive. In a postwar market that starved for vehicles across the board, they sold reasonably well. It became obvious, however, that four-wheel drive like the Jeep CJ was what the buyers were really looking for and was something that would make Willys stand out from the competition. The live front axle was therefore introduced in 1949 for all body styles. It proved to be successful enough that the 4x2 pickup was discontinued after 1951, staying with four-wheel drive until the end of production in 1964 (with some left-over production sold as 1965s).
Changes over the years were more evolutionary than revolutionary, especially in engine availability. 1950 saw the replacement of the venerable flathead “Go Devil” four for the “Hurricane” F-head, which was essentially the former engine with a new cylinder head. As such, trucks so equipped became the model 4-73. Shortly after, the 148 cubic inch six was bumped up to 161 cubic inches, remaining a flathead until it was changed into an F-head in 1952. The final engine change was replacing the 161 with an overhead valve 230 cubic inch six in 1962.
Cosmetic changes over the years were even more subtle. The trucks got a new grille in 1950 with a more pronounced Vee front and vertical chrome bars. For 1956 only, the grille bar spacing was shuffled, and then went back to the previous arrangement in 1957. The first body side trim appeared in 1959 as a simple strip on each side, then using the same trim as the 4x4 Utility Wagon’s from 1960 onward. After 1965, the Jeep Gladiator became the only Jeep pickup offering.