By Kelechi Deca

Infinity Tyres
Two weeks ago, I complained of the need to exorcise Nigeria from my system to enable me to focus on things that give me joy and evidently add to my life. I have been struggling to live up to this because Nigeria has a way of sticking on you. Nigeria is draining especially to those of us who live here, and experience it daily.
Since early this year, Jeep has been unveiling some well crafted limited edition vehicles to mark its 80 years.
Probably one of the most popular and easily recognizable trademarks in automobile history, so popular that its name has become the generic name for 4-Wheel Drive vehicles such that even some well educated people refer to  every sport utility vehicle (SUV) as Jeep.
Oftentimes, I come across even journalists writing stuff like Mercedes Jeep, Lexus Jeep, BMW Jeep and so forth. They owe such ignorance to the commanding presence of brand name Jeep. Interestingly, as the company adopted one of its most popular payoff lines; Jeep, There’s Only One!
This iconic vehicle owes its birth to the battlefield. Little wonder, it has remained the most efficient all-terrain vehicle of all times.
In 1940, as the U.S. joined the World War II by proxy through the provision of significant military supplies and other assistance to the Allies (even though they  did not enter the war until December 1941), the US military made a request for a “light reconnaissance vehicle” that will replace motorcycles and modified Model-T Ford vehicles. The specifications included 4-wheel drive, a 2-speed transfer case, a short wheelbase and light weight.
Three companies namely. Willys-Overland, American Bantam Car Manufacturing Company and Ford Motor Company all came up with prototype vehicles. The Willys prototype was the Quad, Bantam produced the Blitz Buggy and Ford produced the Model GP, also known as the Pygmy.
After production, Willys was chosen as the primary manufacturer and was asked to incorporate elements from both the Ford and Bantam vehicles.
The Name JEEP.
Till date, no one seems to know how that name came about. Some say that it may have been either the abbreviated pronunciation of “GP,” the military label for “General Purpose,” or from the character “Eugene the Jeep” in the Popeye cartoon. Either way, the Jeep name stuck.
After the 2nd World War, Willys trademarked the name (Jeep) and began selling them to civilians. But by then, the versatility and the effectiveness of the vehicle in going just about anywhere irrespective of the terrain during the 2nd World War attracted the interests of other countries who promptly disassembled Jeep vehicles to fully understand the application of the  4-Wheel Drive technology in a production car. Though 4×4 technologies has been around for a while and different car companies had one prototype or limited editions, the first successfully mass produced four wheeler was the Jeep.
Global Influence
The first company outside America that latched on to that was Rover of England that built The Land Rover in 1948, the Land Rover was originally conceived as a stop-gap product for the struggling Rover car company, it succeeded far better than their passenger cars. Then Toyota of Japan that came up with the Land Cruiser in 1951, Willys even threatened Toyota with a copyright suit.
Later on in 1970, Land Rover’s Chief Engineer Maurice Wilks who drove his Willys Jeep across some of the most inhospitable terrains expecting the car to break down got further inspiration to develop the more refined yet still off-road capable luxury 4WD Range Rover.
Other auto manufacturing companies copied the Jeep’s sturdy boxy frame and design notable among them is Mercedes Benz after one of its key Shareholders, The Shah of Iran suggested to the management of Daimler Benz to build a military type all terrain vehicle.
That suggestion gave birth to the Mercedes Benz G-Class (G-Wagen) in 1972 by Magna Steyr (formally Steyr-Daimler-Puch) in Graz, Austria and civilian versions launched in 1979 which took a lot from the ubiquitous Unimog.
All of them from the ubiquitous Land Rover, to the Land Cruiser, and the G-Wagon also copied the round shaped headlights of the Jeep.
Back to Jeep
The Jeep’s versatility and capacity to go anywhere contributed immensely in building America’s spirit of adventurism as more people embraced the vehicle that can go anywhere.
It not only became an American icon, but a global one. It also helped drive massive competition in 4-Wheel drive vehicles by other automobile manufacturing companies in America.
 In 1953 Henry J. Kaiser purchased Willys-Overland for $60 million, and the Kaiser Company began research and development to expand the Jeep product range.
From the experience they got from the tropical and semi tropical terrains during the Korean War based on the Korean War M-38A-1 military vehicle, Kaiser introduced softer body lines and more rounded fenders with improvements in transmissions, axles and seating comfort.
In 1970, the American Motors Corporation purchased Kaiser Jeep in 1970; the new owners who wanted additional room expanded the size.
In 1962 Jeep changed the concept of a 4-wheel drive globally by introducing the 1963 Jeep Wagoneer which was the first luxury 4-wheel-drive SUV. It was also the first 4-wheel-drive vehicle to offer an automatic transmission and independent front suspension. An idea Land Rover took to another level when they engineered their Range Rover with all independent suspensions.
In 1973 the Wagoneer became available with Quadra-Trac 4WD — the first automatic full-time 4WD system. A Full-Time 4WD is a vehicle with a center differential that sends engine power to both the front and rear wheels all the time.
In August 1987 American Motors Corporation was sold to Chrysler Corporation and Jeep became a division of Chrysler and in 1993 they launched the all-new midsize SUV, the Jeep Grand Cherokee which set new standards for ride, handling and comfort in an SUV. The Grand Cherokee was the first SUV with a driver’s side airbag.
From the iconic Wrangler, Jeep has used the same platform to build many other vehicles that I may not be able to mention here. However, I will focus on their best selling; the Wrangler and the Grand Cherokee.
Pace Setter.
In 2018 Jeep introduced the most powerful production line SUV ever with The Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, with a powerplant from the monster Hellcat series: a 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8 that produces a staggering 707 horsepower.
This special Grand Cherokee can go from 0 to 100  in 3.4 seconds with a top speed of  290 kmh, a speed that super cars like Ferrari and friends are proud of, yet this beast has more than 8 inches of ground clearance, full-time all-wheel drive with snow setting and the ability to tow more than 7,000 pounds.
In November 2020 Jeep announced the 2021 Wrangler Rubicon 392, the first Wrangler powered by a V8 since 1981. The Wrangler Rubicon 392 gets a 6.4-liter 392-cubic-inch V8 producing 470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque, paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission.
According to Jeep, Rubicon 392 will accelerate from zero to 100 kmh in 4.5 seconds and complete the quarter mile in 13 seconds. Rubicon 392 is lifted one inch higher than the standard Rubicon and features 17-inch bronze wheels with a beadlock option and 33-inch off-road tires.
The icon is today owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the seventh placer on the world’s largest automobile manufacturer.
Still leading in the building the most authentic, versatile, multi-terrain off-road vehicles that venture where other off-roaders dare not dream. In fact, The Jeep Wrangler is still the most capable off-road vehicle in the world today.
I doff my ‘heart’ for the Icon at 80.