CJ is an abbreviation of Civilian Jeep - the Willys CJ-2A looked very much like a civilianized military MB Jeep with a tailgate and side mounted spare tire. One major difference was the MB had recessed headlights and nine-slot grilles while the CJ-2A had larger headlights flush-mounted in a seven-slot grille. The MB transmission was replaced with a beefier T-90 three speed transmission and the CJ-2A was still powered with the reliable L-134 Go-Devil engine. Many of the early CJ-2As were produced using surplus military Jeep parts.

Since the CJ-2A was primarily intended for farming, ranching, and industrial applications, a wide variety of extra equipment could be purchased with the Jeep. Examples of extra equipment are: rear seat, center rear view mirror, front passenger seat, canvas top, front PTO, rear PTO, belt pulley drive, capstan winch, governor, rear hydraulic lift, snow plow, welder, generator, mower, disc, front bumper weight, heavy duty springs, dual vacuum windshield wipers, dual taillights, and hot-climate radiator, driveshaft guards, heater, side steps, and radiator brush guard.

From 1945 to mid-1946, CJ-2As were only available in two color combinations. Then “wild” 3 and 4 uncoordinated colors were offered, some declared “downright ugly”! Olive drab was also available for export models.

A total of 214,760 CJ-2As were produced.

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The birth of the Willys Jeep. In July 1940, 135 U. S. automotive manufacturers were approached to submit a design meeting the Army’s specifications for a vehicle described as “… a general purpose, personnel or cargo carrier especially adaptable for reconnaissance or command, and designated as ¼ ton 4x4 Truck.” Many believe the word “Jeep’ comes from “General Purpose” – G P – Jeep.

The Army's need was urgent and demanding. Bids were to be received by July 22 (in 11 days), they had 49 days to submit their first prototype and 75 days for completion of 70 test vehicles. The Army's Ordnance Technical Committee specifications were equally demanding - four-wheel drive, a crew of three on a wheelbase of no more than 75 (later 80) inches, tracks no more than 47 inches, a fold-down windshield, 660 lb, payload and be powered by an engine capable of 85 ft·lbf (115 N·m) of torque. The most daunting demand, however, was an empty weight of no more than 1,300 lbs. (it was unrealistic and later raised to 2,160 lbs.).

Only three companies entered - American Bantam Company, Ford Motor Company and Willys Overland – Ford and Willys won the contracts.- Willys produced 363,000 MA/MB Jeeps and Ford 280,000. Approximately 51,000 were exported to the U.S.S.R. under the Lend Lease Program.