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 One theory of how Jeep got its name comes from its use in the military during WWII when during development and testing the now famous vehicle was referred to as the GP which stood for General Purpose. When WWll soldiers started using these vehicles GP quickly became Jeep and so it stuck until now. 

Since those times, the Jeep has gone through many changes, some good, some not so good, which includes the year 1979 when Renault gained a controlling interest in AMC. Or in 1987 when Chrysler bought the brand, or in 2002 when the KJ Liberty replaced the XJ Cherokee and the reliable 4.0 liter six cylinder went away. Or maybe it was 2007 when the MK Compass and Patriot where the engine was placed transversely which in this writer’s opinion is a far cry from what a Jeep should be. Or maybe it was the 2010s when the Cherokee nameplate returned on a Fiat chassis and the brand once again fell under the control of a European automaker. 

But what if! What if back in 1965 when Jeep designed and displayed a concept vehicle known as the Model H seen below. 


If this vehicle had gone into production Jeep would have manufactured the very first mass produced SUV 30 years before any other automaker. 

As early as 1959 Jeep introduced another concept vehicle called the Jeep Malibu, seen below, a four-wheel drive SUV, which was the precursor of the Wagoneer which wasn’t produced until 1962. 


While the Malibu went on to influence the 1963 Wagoneer and the full-size Jeep lineup, Kaiser still wanted a compact SUV better suited to take on the International Harvester Scout. 

For almost as long as raw, utilitarian Jeeps have been around, somebody has been trying to civilize them with fancy trim, plush upholstery, and automotive-style bodies. Plenty of servicemen during World War II tried their hands at it, Wally Cohn refined their attempts just after the war, an entire cottage industry dedicated to coach built Jeeps sprung up in postwar Europe, and the likes of Raymond Ring and Brooks Stevens proposed postwar automobile designs using theWillys MB chassis. Kaiser even started to investigate softer Jeep SUVs as early as the late 1950s with its Malibu and Berkeley concept vehicles that tilted more toward station wagon than truck-based SUV. If Kaiser Jeeps mid-sixties collaboration with Renault had happened, the Model H would have clearly taken the title of the first maker of an SUV. 


According to Jeep historian Jim Allen, several functioning prototypes were built in both two- and four-wheel-drive configurations with a variety of body styles, including two-door station wagon, pickup and convertible. Styling borrowed here and there from the Malibu and Wagoneer, particularly with the softer lines, pronounced wheel arches, and multi-slot grille similar to the 1966 Wagoneer’s “razor” grille. Yet it also closely resembled the styling that appeared on the 1967 Jeepster Commando, particularly the dip down from the cowl to the door, the shape of the vent window, the rearward angle of the B-pillar, and the forward slant of the D-pillar and tailgate. Photos from September 1965 showed what appeared to be production-ready designs with trimmed interior, Renault 16 wheels and hubcaps, and functional tailgate. 

Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards in Jeep’s favor because in August of 1965 Ford introduced the first Bronco and Kaiser needed a direct competitor to both the IH Scout and the Ford Bronco right then and there, but it wasn’t until 1967 when the Jeep Commando C101 came out which had many of the Model H design features. 

Whether it would have proven any more competitive against the Scout and Bronco is anybody’s guess, but had the Model H entered production as shown, it would have been well ahead of its time. Assuming a debut in 1966, it would have introduced a unibody four-wheel-drive chassis 16 years before the XJ Cherokee, a front-wheel-drive-based four-wheel-drive system 29 years before the CR-V, and rack-and-pinion steering in an American vehicle eight years before the Mustang II and Pinto. 

And whatever the motoring press would have called it, Jeep would have bestowed on the world the first crossover, and that is how automotive history recorded it. 

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