John N. Willys purchased the Overland Automotive Co. in Indianapolis in 1908. Within a year the company had to relocate to a larger facility in Toledo, Ohio, and changed its name to Willys Overland.
When World War II started the company was contracted by the government to produce some 360,000 jeeps for the war effort. After the war the company was eager to sell a sporty, two-door, open-aired car that would appeal to the returned veterans. The vehicle was called Willys’ Overland Jeepster.
Unfortunately, many of the 1948 models were retitled as 1949s because sales never met expectations. The estimated 10,326 cars manufactured saw a reduction in base price to $1,495. Whitewall tires, wheel trim rings, T-shaped grill trim, bumper guards and a beefed-up horn were all options. The first half of the production run offered only the four-cylinder flat head, three-speed transmission, two-wheel drive. The 134 cubic-inch engine (2.2 liter) was capable of producing 63 horsepower.
Patrick Mills of Mooresville is proud to tell the story of how his mother had one of these Jeepsters many years ago.
In her later years, urged on by nostalgia, she searched for another one. She located one in the Franklin area and soon was off with her beloved little car to “Jeepster Jim” in East Palatka, Fla. Restoration included the original Pacific Blue paint color scheme.
Although Patrick's mom died in January 2016 from a long battle with cancer and only got to enjoy the car for about a year, her son is honoring her memory by attending as many car shows as he can with her favorite car.
The Willys name was retired in 1965, and the company has changed hands several times. The Jeep would eventually become part of the Chrysler Corp.'s lineup. The Jeepster's collectablity is on the rise as evidenced by a recent record-setting price of $55,000 at the April 9, 2016, Barrett-Jackson auction in Palm Beach, Fla.
Until next time, happy cruising!