In 1942, respected industrial designer Brooks Stevens authored an SAE paper and an article in Popular Mechanics
that described his proposal for an all new vehicle that would be based on Willys-Overland's military Jeep,
but targeted for the civilian market.
His designs and sketches intrigued Willys-Overland management, who hired Stevens
and funded a special project for him to further develop his designs and produce a prototype of this new passenger car.
Stevens' "6/66" prototype used a Jeep L-head 4 cylinder engine but the chassis and sheet metal were all new.
Independent of Steven's project, John Tjaarda (designer of the Lincoln Zephyr) pitched a deal to Willys Overland management that
a consortium of 5 car companies could be formed to design, build and market 3 new civilian vehicles based on
Willys-Overland's now famous military Jeep. One of Tjaarda's vehicles was a "sporty" passenger car with a lowered frame but without
the Jeep's trademark 4 wheel drive. The proposed "industrial consortium" never came to be, but Willys-Overland management was now
determined to make Jeep-based vehicles for the civilian market. Stevens was asked to hone his designs further and these
innovative plans resulted in a "utilitaritian" but sporty vehicle that was based on the famous Jeep platform, and would eventually be named
the "Jeepster". Initially, the Jeepster's design showed smooth fender-less sides and no doors, but later Stevens added doors and
appropriated rear fenders from Willy's new pickup trucks, to complete the final Jeepster design. Production began on April 3, 1948
but with a $1765 price tag, this new "Jeep Phaeton" was met with only mild enthusiasm by the public,
and only 10,326 units were manufactured. For 1949, the price dropped to $1495 for the 4-cylinder model, but
the new "Lightening" 6-cylinder motor was now available as an option. Only 3350 Jeepsters were built in 1949. For the 1950 model year,
the Jeepster sported a newly designed front grille and interior instrumentation, a "counter-balanced" convertible top and optional
"Hurricane" 4-cylinder engine. 1950 Jeepster sales of 5,845 units were disappointing, leading Willys-Overland management to announce
that 1950 would be the last model year for the Jeepster (curiously the last few Jeepsters made were sold in 1951 and titled as 1951 models).
Total production for 1948-1951 was 19,131 units. Kaiser Corporation acquired Willys-Overland in 1953, and in
1968 Kaiser introduced a completely modernized "Jeepster". Later the Jeep line was acquired by American Motors who continued to market
this sporty phaeton as the "Jeep Commando" - dropping the "Jeepster" name forever.