Today is the 72nd anniversary of the Normandy Landings, also called D-Day. To commemorate this historic day, I’m taking a ride in a 1946 Willys CJ2a, a descendant of one of World War II’s most instrumental weapons, the Willys MB “Jeep.”

On this day in 1944, over 150,000 allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France in a quest to liberate western Europe from the Nazis. After a grueling two-month battle, and hundreds of thousands of casualties, allied forces eventually gained control of Paris, and the Normandy campaign came to an end a few days later.


Normandy is considered by some the “beginning of the end” of the war in Europe. And, indeed, it wasn’t long thereafter that the conflict came to an end.

Stateside, car company Willys-Overland—which had been struggling prior to the war—wanted to make sure it stayed afloat when the war finished, so the company planned to make a civilian farm-used model of the camouflaged Jeep MB.

Planned well before the war ended, and even produced alongside the MB, the Jeep CJ2a shared quite a few components with the WW2 Jeep, including the “Go-Devil” engine. The frame, body and drivetrain was all similar to the rough-and-tumble original Jeep, and one look at the CJ shows just how much styling the two off-roaders share.

So today, on D-Day, let’s take a ride in the civilian version of WW2's four wheel-drive hero. My friend Brandon restored this 1946 CJ2a in high school, and boy is this little Jeep a gem.

Thanks for watching!

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

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