The Jeep has been an American icon since World War II. The brand is also undoubtedly one of the more valuable assets of the Fiat Chrysler Automotive group, if not the most crown jewel. The newly redesigned yet-instantly recognizable Wrangler still continues to define it.
Despite its shortcomings as an on-road passenger vehicle, the rugged looks and relatively basic nature of the truck still attracts a lot of buyers. Modern marketers can throw around words like “lifestyle” and “activity vehicle,” but there is but one original—and it’s the nickname of the vehicle that helped liberate Europe. It must be; they even emulate jerry cans in the taillights of their newer models, right?
As we approach the 74th anniversary of D-Day (June 6, 1944), this week’s eBay find seems appropriate. It is instantly recognizable as the distant ancestor of today’s Wrangler; the seven-slot grill, sturdy upright styling, even the fold-down windscreen have remained to this day. Of course, this 1946 example is tiny and downright agricultural compared to the modern Jeep. For comparison, the wheelbase of this CJ-2A is almost 17 inches shorter than a short-wheelbase 2018 Wrangler, 80 inches vs. 96.8 inches.
Willys turned to civilian production of the military Jeep in 1945 with the introduction of the CJ-2A. (CJ stands for Civilian Jeep. Who needed a bunch of consumer research?) Aimed primarily at agricultural and industrial customers, the basic nature of the war-time vehicle remained, and it’s unlikely that anyone at the time contemplated the long-lived name and loyal following this vehicle was going to inspire.
This example is claimed to be recently restored with a few modifications like an aftermarket overdrive (perhaps allowing for slightly more long-legged, on-road performance from the 60-horsepower engine) and a custom canvas top. We suspect this is better enjoyed with the top removed for better visibility on a nice summer day.
As automotive icons go, these are immensely usable and robust vehicles capable of almost anything except extended freeway travel. They weren’t designed for that, of course, so one of these should be appreciated for what it is… the archetype of the do-anything, go-anywhere sport utility that dominates today’s automotive market.
With a Buy-it-Now price of $14,000, this CJ-2A falls just short of the #2 (excellent) value listed in Hagerty Valuation Tools. But can you really put a price on a piece of American history?