John North Willys took the helm of the Overland Company in 1907. The first automobile to bear the name Willys-Knight was produced in 1914. John North Willys was a great salesman and was drawn to the sleeve valve Knight Engine for its marketability. Willys-Overland Company produced more vehicles with Knight Engines than all other manufacturers in the world combined.
In 1919, the company decided to focus on 3 cars; a low priced Overland to compete with the Model T, a 4 cylinder Willys-Knight in the $2,000 range, and a new 6 cylinder Willys. In 1921 less than 50,000 units were sold. Sales were up to over 200,000 units by 1925.
Production of the Willys’ MB, better known as Jeep, began in 1941 with 8,598 units produced in its introduction year. By the end of World War II, 359,851 Jeeps were produced. The origin of the name “Jeep” has been debated for many years. Some believe “Jeep” is a phonetic pronunciation of the abbreviation GP, from “General Purpose”, which was the official Army nomenclature for the vehicle.