Willys MB

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Willys MB
Ford GPW
Covered Willy's jeep Wings Over Wine Country 2007.JPG
Type14 ton[nb 1] 4×4 utility truck
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1941 until varying per country
WarsWorld War II
Korean War
Various post 1945 conflicts
Production history
DesignerKarl Probst, Delmar G. Roos
No. built
  • MB: 359,489
  • GPW: 277,896
Specifications (MB and GPW same [1])
Weight2,453 lb (1,113 kg) incl. liquids and fuel
2,337 lb (1,060 kg) dry weight
Length132 14 in (3.36 m)
Width62 in (1.57 m)
Heightoverall, top up: 69 34 in (1.77 m)
reducible to 52 in (1.32 m)

Engine134 cu in (2.2 l) Inline 4 Willys L134 "Go Devil"
60 hp (45 kW; 61 PS)
Power/weight49 hp/ST (54.0 hp/t)
Payload capacity800 lb (360 kg)
Transmission3 spd. x 2 range trf. case
SuspensionLive axles on leaf springs front and rear
Ground clearance8 34 in (22 cm)
Fuel capacity15 US gal (12.5 imp gal; 56.8 L)
300 mi (482.8 km)
Speed65 mph (105 km/h) [nb 2]

The Willys MB and the Ford GPW, both formally called the U.S. Army Truck, ​14 ton, 4×4, Command Reconnaissance,[2][3] commonly known as Jeep or jeep,[4] and sometimes referred to as G503 [nb 3] are light, off-road capable, military utility vehicles that were manufactured during World War II (from 1941 to 1945) to help mobilize the Allied forces.

The jeep became the primary light wheeled transport vehicle of the United States Military and its Allies in World War II. It was also the world's first mass-produced four-wheel drive car, manufactured in six-figure numbers. The ca. 640,000 units built, constituted a quarter of the total U.S. non-combat motor vehicle production in the war,[7] and almost two thirds of the ca. 988,000 light vehicle class, together with the Dodge WC series, outnumbering those by almost two to one.

"In many respects, the jeep became the iconic vehicle of World War II, with an almost mythological reputation.." — (Hyde, 2013)[5], having proven itself exceptionally capable, tough, durable and versatile. Not only did it become the workhorse of the American military, as it literally replaced the use of horses and other draft animals (still abundant in World War I) in every role, from cavalry units to supply trains, but improvised field-modifications also made the jeep capable of just about any other function GI's could think of.[8]

The jeep was considered such a valuable piece of equipment that General Eisenhower wrote that most senior officers regarded it as one of the six most vital U.S. vehicles to win the war.[nb 4] Moreover, General George Marshall called the squared-off little car “America’s greatest contribution to modern warfare.”[10][11][12] In 1991, the MB Jeep was designated an "International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark" by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.[13]

After WW II, the original jeep continued to serve, in the Korean War and other conflicts, until it was updated in the form of the M38 Willys MC and M38A1 Willys MD (in 1949 and 1952 respectively), and received a complete redesign by Ford in the form of the 1960-introduced M151 jeep. Its influence however, was much greater than that — manufacturers around the world began building jeeps and similar designs, either under license or not – at first primarily for military purposes, but later also for the civilian market. Willys trademarked the "Jeep" name, turned the MB into the civilian Jeep CJ models, and Jeep became its own brand. The 1945 Willys Jeep was the world's first mass-produced civilian four-wheel drive car.

The success of the jeep inspired both an entire category of recreational 4WDs and SUVs, making 'four-wheel drive' a household term, and numerous incarnations of military light utility vehicles. In 2010, the American Enterprise Institute called the jeep "one of the most influential designs in automotive history", and its “sardine tin on wheels” silhouette perhaps even more instantly recognizable than the VW Beetle.[12]


General Dwight D. Eisenhower in his jeep during the liberation of Lower Normandy, summer of 1944. The lieutenant general in the backseat could be Omar Bradley. Eisenhower later wrote that the jeep was one of the six most vital U.S. vehicles to win the war.[nb 4]

The design of the World War II jeep was the result of a long process, involving the contributions of both U.S. military officers and civilian engineers, the latter mostly tied to three companies: Bantam, Willys and Ford, and has repeatedly been called a design by committee.[14][15][16] In fall 1941, Lt. E.P. Hogan of the U.S. Quartermaster Corps wrote: "Credit for the original design of the Army's truck ​14-ton, 4×4, may not be claimed by any single individual or manufacturer. This vehicle is the result of much research and many tests."[17] Hogan credited both military and civilian engineers, especially those working at the Holabird Quartermaster Depot.

Pre-war tests and conceptualization[edit]

Advances in early 20th-century technology resulted in widespread mechanisation of the military during World War I. The United States Army deployed 10,000s of motor vehicles in that war, like some 12,800 Dodges,[18] and thousands of four-wheel drive trucks: Jeffery / Nash Quads, and trucks from the Four Wheel Drive Auto Company (FWD). General John Pershing viewed horses and mules as acceptable for the previous three U.S. wars, but in the new century, his cavalry forces had to move quicker, with more range and more personnel.[19]

Immediately after World War I, its use of motor vehicles was considered only a prelude of much greater application in future armed conflicts — as early as 1919, the US Quartermaster Corps recommended the acquisition of a new kind of military vehicle, "..of light weight and compact size, with a low silhouette and high ground clearance, and possess the ability to carry weapons and men over all sorts of rough terrain." [15] For years the U.S. Army started looking for a small vehicle suited for reconnaissance and messaging; while at the same time searching a light cross-country weapons carrier.[20]

At the same time, a great need for standardization was felt. By the end of World War I, the U.S. forces overseas had a total of 216 makes and models of motor vehicles to operate, both foreign and domestic, and no good supply system to keep them running.[17]

Various light motor vehicles were tried. At first motorcycles with and without sidecars, and some modified Ford Model Ts.[21][22] In the early 1930s, the U.S. Army experimented with a bantam weight "midget truck" for scouts and raiders — a 1050 lbs, low-built car with a compact pick-up body was shown in a 1933 article in Popular Mechanics magazine.[23] After 1935, when U.S. Congress declared World War I vehicles obsolete, procurement for "remotorization of the Army" gained more traction.[24] In 1937 Marmon-Herrington presented five 4×4 Fords, and American Bantam delivered three Austin roadsters in 1938.[25][26]

Meanwhile, in Asia and the Pacific, Japan had already invaded Manchuria in 1931, and was warring with China from 1937. Its Imperial Army used a small, three-man crew, four-wheel drive car for reconnaissance and troop movements, the Kurogane Type 95, introduced in 1936.

By 1939 the army began standardizing its general-purpose trucks' chassis types by payload rating, initially in five classes from ½-ton to 7½-ton. But in 1940 the categories were revised. For the first time, a quarter-ton truck chassis class was introduced, at the bottom of the range, and the ½-ton category was supplanted by a ¾-ton chassis.[27]

By the eve of World War II the United States Department of War had determined it needed a ​14-ton, cross-country reconnaissance vehicle. Anxious to have one in time for America's entry into World War II, the U.S. Army solicited proposals from domestic automobile manufacturers. Recognizing the need to create standard specifications, the Army formalized its requirements on July 11, 1940, and submitted them to 135 U.S. automotive manufacturers.

Bantam's first prototype – the BRC Pilot model ("Old Number One")

Development start – Bantam Reconnaissance Car[edit]

By now the war was under way in Europe, so the Army's need was urgent and demanding: Bids were to be received by July 22, a span of just eleven days. Manufacturers were given 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: the vehicle would be four-wheel drive, have a crew of three on a wheelbase of no more than 75 in (191 cm) – that was later upped to 80 in (203 cm) – and track no more than 47 in (119 cm), feature a fold-down windshield, 660 lb (299 kg) payload and be powered by an engine capable of 85 lb⋅ft (115 N⋅m) of torque. The most daunting demand, however, was an empty weight of no more than 1,300 lb (590 kg).

The remainder of Bantam's 70 test units, usually called 'BRC60', still had a round hood and grille, but square fenders. Shown #7, nicknamed "Gramps", owned by the Smithsonian[28]

Initially, only American Bantam and Willys-Overland entered the competition – Ford joined later.[29] Although Willys was the low bidder, Willys was penalized for requesting more time, and Bantam received the contract, as the only company committing to deliver a pilot model in 49 days and production examples in 75. Bantam's own chief engineer Harold Crist, who had previously worked on the first Duesenberg, and been an engineer at Stutz Motor Co. of Indianapolis for 18 years,[30][12] solicited freelance Detroit designer Karl Probst to collaborate. Probst turned down Bantam initially, but responded to an Army request and began work on July 17, 1940.

Probst laid out full design drawings for the Bantam prototype, known as the Bantam Reconnaissance Car or BRC, in just two days, and worked up a cost estimate the next day. Bantam's bid was submitted, complete with blueprints, on July 22.[31] To save time, the vehicle was put together using off-the-shelf components as much as possible. Bantam adapted body stampings from its car line: the hood, cowl, dash and curvy front fenders – and the engine was a 112 cu in (1.8 l) Continental four-cylinder engine making 45 HP and 86 lb⋅ft (117 N⋅m) of torque.[32] But custom four-wheel drivetrain components, amongst others, were contributed by Spicer.

Using available automotive parts where possible had partly enabled drawing up the blueprints so quickly, by working backwards — Probst and Bantam's draftsmen converted what Crist and a few other men put together into drawings.[12] The hand-built prototype was then further completed in Butler, Pennsylvania,[33] and driven to the Army vehicle test center at Camp Holabird, Maryland, and delivered on September 23, 1940. The vehicle met all the Army's criteria except engine torque. The Bantam pilot (later also dubbed the "Blitz Buggy" or "Old Number One") presented Army officials with the first of what eventually evolved into the World War II U.S. military jeep.

Preproduction models — Bantam mk-2, Ford GP and Willys MA
Vigorous testing for Army proving — shown a Ford GP, 1941.
Willys MA jeep at the Desert Training Center, Indio, California, June 1942.
Allies hastily received interim models – the U.K.'s King George VI inspects a Bantam BRC40 (1942)
Ford's first test model, the 'Pygmy', U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum.

Enter Willys and Ford – pre-production jeeps[edit]

External images
Four-wheel steering Willys Quad prototype (archived)
Four-wheel steering Ford GP testing unit (archived)

Since Bantam did not have the production capacity or fiscal stability to deliver on the scale needed by the War Department, the other two bidders, Ford and Willys, were encouraged to complete their own pilot models for testing. The contract for the new reconnaissance car was to be determined by trials. As testing of the Bantam prototype took place from September 27 to October 16, Ford and Willys technical representatives present at Holabird were given ample opportunity to study the vehicle's performance. Moreover, in order to expedite production, the War Department forwarded the Bantam blueprints to Ford and Willys, claiming the government owned the design. Bantam did not dispute this move due to its precarious financial situation. By November 1940, Ford and Willys each submitted prototypes to compete with the Bantam in the Army's trials. The pilot models, the Willys Quad and the Ford Pygmy, turned out very similar to each other and were joined in testing by Bantam's entry, now evolved into a Mark II called the BRC 60.[nb 6][nb 7] By then the U.S. and its armed forces were already under such pressure that all three cars were declared acceptable and orders for 1,500 units per company were given for field testing. At this time it was acknowledged the original weight limit (which even Bantam could not meet) was unrealistic, and it was raised to 2,160 lb (980 kg).

For these respective pre-production runs, each vehicle received revisions and a new name. Bantam's became the BRC 40. Production began on March 31, 1941, with a total of 2,605 built up to December 6 – most of them supplied to Allied nations under the Lend-Lease program.[35][28] The BRC-40 was the lightest and most nimble of the three pre-standardized models, and the Army appreciated its good suspension and brakes, and high fuel economy. However, as the company could not meet the Army's demand for 75 Jeeps a day, production contracts were also awarded to Willys and Ford.[14]

After reducing the Quad's weight by 240 lb (109 kg), through many painstaking detail changes, Willys renamed their vehicle to the designation "MA" for "Military" model "A". Some 1,555 MAs were built, many of which went to the Soviet Union under Lend-Lease — only a mere 27 units are still known to exist.[28] Ford's pre-production model went into production as the "GP", with "G" indicating a "Government" contract, and "P" chosen by Ford to designate a car with a wheelbase of 80 in (203 cm).[nb 8] With about 4,458 units built, the Ford GP became not only the most numerous of the pre-standardized jeeps [28] — it was also the first jeep fielded in a significant number to U.S. Army units and soldiers. The Ford's overall design and quality of construction had advantages over the Bantam and Willys models, but the GP's engine, an adaptation of the Model N tractor engine, was underpowered and insufficiently reliable. Fifty units were built with four-wheel steering, of which four have survived.[28]

Full production – Willys MB and Ford GPW[edit]

By July 1941, the War Department desired to standardize and decided to select a single manufacturer to supply them with the next order for 16,000 vehicles. Willys won the contract mostly due to its much more powerful 60HP engine (the "Go Devil"), which soldiers raved about, and its lower cost and silhouette. The design features in the Bantam and Ford entries which represented an improvement over Willys's design were then incorporated into the Willys car, moving it from an "A" designation to "B", thus the "MB" nomenclature. Most notable was a flat wide hood, adapted from Ford GP.

By October 1941, it became clear that Willys-Overland could not keep up with production demand, and Ford was contracted to build jeeps as well – but according to Willys blueprints, drawings, specifications and patents, including the Willys engine.[36] The Ford car was then designated GPW, with the "W" referring to the "Willys" licensed design and engine. During World War II, Willys produced 363,000 Jeeps and Ford some 280,000. Approximately 51,000 were exported to the U.S.S.R. under the Lend-Lease program.[citation needed]

Ford faithfully built jeeps with functionally interchangeable parts and components, in part facilitated by using components from common sources – frames from Midland Steel, wheels from Kelsey-Hayes, and axles and transfer-cases from Spicer, for instance[37] – but there were many minor differences. Most well known: the Ford chassis had an inverted U-shaped front crossmember instead of a tubular bar, and a Ford script letter 'F' was stamped into many small parts. Many body detail differences remained for as long as January 1944, when a composite body, fabricated by American Central, was adopted by both Ford and Willys, that integrated features of both designs.[28] Through the chaotic circumstances of war, sometimes peculiar deviations from regular mass production came off the assembly line, that are today extra prized by avid collectors — for instance: the earliest Ford GPWs had a Willys design frame, and in late 1943, some GPWs came with an unmodified Willys body; and in 1945 Willys produced some MBs with a deep mud exhaust system, vacuum windshield wipers, and a jeep CJ style parking brake.[38]

On 7 April 1942, U.S. patent no. 2278450 for the WW II jeep, titled "Military vehicle body" was awarded to the U.S. Army, which had applied for it, listing Colonel Byron Q. Jones as the inventor on the patent, though he performed no work on the design of the vehicle.[39] Filed on 8 October 1941, stating in the application that "The invention described herein, if patented, may be manufactured and used by or for the Government for governmental purposes without the payment of any royalty thereon",[40] the patent relates to a “small car vehicle body having convertible features whereby it is rendered particularly desirable for military purposes” and describes the purpose of the vehicle is to essentially create an automobile equivalent of a Swiss Army knife:

Initially, Ford and Willys embossed their brand names in some of their jeeps' panels, like the rear – but the U.S. government forbade this in 1942.

"One of the principal objects of the invention is to provide a convertible small car body so arranged that a single vehicle may be interchangeably used as a cargo truck, personnel carrier, emergency ambulance, field beds, radio car, trench mortar unit, mobile anti-aircraft machine gun unit, or for other purposes." [40]

Standardized jeep cabin / dash

The Ford GPA, the amphibious jeep[edit]

A further roughly 13,000 amphibian jeeps were built by Ford under the name GPA (nicknamed "Seep" for Sea Jeep). Inspired by the larger DUKW, the vehicle was produced too quickly and proved to be too heavy, too unwieldy, and of insufficient freeboard. In spite of participating successfully in the Sicily landings in July 1943, most GPAs were routed to the U.S.S.R. under the Lend-Lease program. The Soviets were sufficiently pleased with its ability to cross rivers to develop their own version of it after the war, the GAZ 46 MAV.

How the jeep got its name[edit]

There is no consensus among historians, on how exactly the U.S. army's World War II ¼-ton reconnaissance car became generally known as the "jeep" — let alone how the word originated in the first place. Many explanations have proven difficult to verify. With certainty, the term "jeep" was already in use before the war, designating various things; while early jeeps were indicated by many designations and nicknames.

Eugene the Jeep and prior usage of "jeep"[edit]

World War II soldiers called the ½-ton 1940/1941 Dodge Reconnaissance / Weapon Carriers a "Jeep" before the Willys MB

As early as spring 1936 a character called Eugene the Jeep was created in E. C. Segar's Popeye cartoons.[41] Eugene the Jeep was Popeye's "jungle pet" and was small, able to walk through walls and move between dimensions, and could go anywhere and solve seemingly impossible problems.[42][43] According to some sources, the word "jeep" was used as early as World War I — both as U.S. Army slang for new, uninitiated recruits or other new personnel who still had to prove their mettle; as well as by mechanics, to refer to any new prototypes and untested vehicles to be proven at military bases.[3][44] The Eugene cartoon character brought new meaning to the Jeep name, diverging from the initial, somewhat sceptical meaning of the term – instead changing the slang to mean an extremely capable person or thing.[45]

Eugene the Jeep's go-anywhere ability resulted in various industrial and four-wheel drive vehicles getting nicknamed "Jeep" in the late thirties. Around 1940, converted 4WD Minneapolis-Moline tractors, supplied to the U.S. Army as prime movers, were called jeeps,[46][47][nb 9] and Halliburton used the name for an electric logging device,[3][48] or for a custombuilt FWD exploration/survey vehicle.[45] A small, anti-submarine, escort aircraft carrier was called a "jeep carrier" in the U.S. Navy in WW II,[49][50] and also several aircraft – prototypes for both Kellett autogyros, and for the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress,[45][51] as well as the 1941 Curtiss-Wright AT-9 were called jeeps.

By 1940-1942, soldiers generally used "jeep" for ​12-ton or ​34-ton Dodge Command Reconnaissance cars, with the ​34-ton Command Cars sometimes called "Beeps" (for "big Jeeps"), while the ​14-ton cars were called "Peeps", "son of jeep", "baby jeep", or still quads or bantams.[3][47][48] Originally, "Peep" seemed a fitting name, because the ¼-ton was considered primarily a reconnaissance (peeping) car.[48]

The early 1940s terminology situation is perfectly summed up in the definition given in "Words of the Fighting Forces" by Clinton A. Sanders, a dictionary of military slang, published in 1942, in the Pentagon library: Jeep: A four-wheel drive car of one-half to one-and-one-half-ton capacity for reconnaissance or other army duty. A term applied to the bantam-cars, and occasionally to other motor vehicles (U.S.A.) in the Air Corps, the Link Trainer; in the armored forces, the ​12 ton command car. Also referred to as "any small plane, helicopter, or gadget." — "jeep" could still mean various things, including other light wheeled utility vehicles than the jeep...

Whether jeep was derived from GP[edit]

One of the most frequently given explanations, is that the designation GP (either from the initial Ford GP, or from the military G.P. for General Purpose car) was slurred into the word Jeep in the same way that the contemporary HMMWV (for High-Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle) has become known as the Humvee. Although prior existence of the term "jeep" dismisses this as an etymology in the proper sense, it may well have contributed to the marriage of the term with the WW II ​14-ton truck. The first version (based on the ford GP model code) was already given in an article in the San Francisco Call-Bulletin in late 1941,[52] and is to an extent plausible, because the Ford GP was the first of the pre-standardized jeeps to reach GIs by the hundreds, starting early in 1941. So it is possible “GP” could have evolved into “Geep” and finally “jeep".[32] The latter explanation (from the term "general purpose"), though this does appear in the TM9-803 manual (page 10),[1] and the car is designated a "GP" in the TM9-2800 manual — these were published in late 1943, and early 1944, and their influence on the jeep's name is debatable. Moreover: the jeep wasn't the only of the Quartermaster Corps' "general purpose" vehicles – so if this was the source, people would have nicknamed the others "geeps" or "jeeps" as well ..[23]

Willys wartime advertisement promoting its Jeeps' contribution to the war effort

Willys-Overland's positions and promotion[edit]

Joe Frazer, Willys-Overland President from 1939 to 1944, claimed to have coined the word jeep by slurring the initials G.P.,[51] possibly related to Willys-Overland's 1946 copyright claim to the 'Jeep' name. However, the company handling Willys' P.R. in 1944 wrote that the jeep name probably came from the fact that the vehicle made quite an impression on soldiers at the time, so much so that they informally named it after the go-anywhere Eugene the Jeep.[52]

In early 1941, when the test-cars went by names like BRC / "Blitz-Buggy", Ford Pygmy and such, Willys-Overland staged a press event in Washington, D.C., a publicity stunt and Senate photo-opportunity demonstrating the car's off-road capability by driving it up the Capitol steps. Irving "Red" Hausmann, a test driver on the Willys development team who had accompanied the car for its testing at Camp Holabird, had heard soldiers there referring to it as a jeep. He was enlisted to go to the event and give a demonstration ride to a group of dignitaries, including Katherine Hillyer, a reporter for the Washington Daily News. When asked what it was, Hausmann said "it's a Jeep". Hausmann preferred "Jeep", to distinguish the Willys rig from the other funny-named ¼-tons at Camp Holabird.[47] Hillyer's syndicated article appeared in the newspaper on February 20, 1941, with a photo showing a jeep going up the Capitol steps and a caption including the term "jeep". This is believed to be the most likely origin of the term being fixed in public awareness. Even though Hausmann did not create or invent the word "Jeep", he likely contributed to its mainstream media usage indicating the ¼-ton vehicle.

External images
In the early 1940s Willys would stage publicity events showing off their MA's stair-climbing capabilities for the war effort (archived)
Part of Hillyer's Feb 1941 article. The caption: "LAWMAKERS TAKE A RIDE – With Senator Meade of New York at the wheel and Representative Thomas of New Jersey sitting beside him, one of the Army’s new scout cars, known as “jeeps” or “quads” climbs up the Capitol steps in a demonstration yesterday. Soldiers in the rear seat for gunners were unperturbed."

Convergence from mixed origins and media coverage[edit]

It is plausible that the origin was mixed and converged on "jeep" from multiple directions. Ford Motor Company pushed its Ford GP hard, to get the military contract, putting the term "GP" into use. Military officers and G.I.s involved in the procurement and testing of the car may have called it jeep from the WW I slang. Civilian contractors, engineers, and testers may have related it to Popeye's 'Eugene the Jeep character'. People may have heard the same name from different directions, and as one person heard it from another, put their own understanding and explanation on it.[53] Overwhelming presence of the nickname 'jeep' in the public's opinion was probably the deciding factor.[45]

From 1941 onwards, a "constant flow of press and film publicity",[17] as well as Willys advertising as of 1942, proclaiming it had created and perfected the jeep, cemented the name "Jeep" in the civilian public's mind,[48][16] even when "peep" was still used at many army camps.[17]
But without any doubt the Bantam jeep was the very first of its kind. One other particularly influential article may have been the January 1942 full review of the military's new wonder buggy in Scientific American, reprinted as "Meet the Jeep" in Reader's Digest, the best-selling consumer magazine of the day.[54] Author Jo Chamberlin was duly impressed by the "midget combat car" and wrote:
"Our Army's youngest, smallest toughest baby has a dozen pet names such as jeep, peep, blitz-buggy, leaping Lena, panzer-killer. The names are all affectionate, for the jeep has made good. Only a year old, it stole the show in Louisiana. Now the Army plans to have 75,000 of them." In a prescient footnote, Chamberlin wrote: "Some army men call the bantam a "peep,' reserving "jeep' for the larger command car in which the brass hats ride. However, the term "jeep' (born of GP, an auto manufacturing classification) is used by newspapers and most soldiers, and apparently will stick."[55][56]


Willys made its first 25,000 MB Jeeps with a welded flat iron "slat" radiator grille. It was Ford who first designed and implemented the now familiar and distinctive stamped, vertical-slot steel grille into its Jeep vehicles, which was lighter, used fewer resources, and was less costly to produce.[57] Along with many other design features innovated by Ford, this was adopted by Willys and implemented into the standard World War II Jeep by April 1942.

In order to be able to get their grille design trademarked, Willys gave their post-war jeeps a seven slot grille instead of the original Ford nine-slot design.[57] This applies both to Willys' "Civilian Jeeps", as well as the M38 and M38A1 military models. Through a series of corporate takeovers and mergers, AM General Corporation ended up with the rights to use the seven-slot grille as well, which they in turn extended to Chrysler when it acquired American Motors Corporation, then manufacturer of Jeep, in 1987.


The 1941 Bantam BRC proved strong enough for total lift-off, loaded with full 3-men crew, and towing a 37mm anti-tank gun; the U.S. Army Signal Corps photo may have inspired the "Flying Jeep" poster and similar.
External image
Over flat terrain, the jeep would transport up to six soldiers with backpacks, if necessary (reenactment; archived)

The USA provided jeeps to most or all of the Allies in World War II. Britain, Canada,[nb 10] Australia, India, the Free French, China and Russia – all received jeeps, mostly under the American Lend-Lease program.[11] Over 80,000 jeeps were shipped to the Soviet Union alone.[10] Around the world, jeeps took part in every theater of war overseas — in Africa and the Pacific Theater, the Western Allied invasion of Europe in 1944, as well as the Eastern Front. Jeeps became so ubiquitous in the European battle theater that some German troops believed that each American soldier was issued their own jeep.[58][nb 11]

Jeeps served as indefatigable pack horses for troop transport and towing supply trailers, carrying water, fuel and ammo, and pulling through the most difficult terrain. They performed nimble scout and reconnaissance duty, were frequent ambulances for the wounded, and did hearse service. They also doubled as mobile field command headquarters or weapons platforms – either with mounted machine guns or pulling small artillery pieces into “unreachable” areas over inhospitable terrain.[12] The Jeep’s flat hood was used as a commander's map table, a chaplain's field altar, the G.I.s' poker table, or even for field surgery. Fitted with flanged steel wheels, they could pull railroad cars.[10][11][12] Despite some shortcomings, the jeep was generally well-liked, seen as versatile, maneuverable, dependable, and almost indestructible.[11] The seats were found uncomfortable and cramped in the rear, but many soldiers enjoyed driving the nimble jeep, appreciating its powerful engine and with its light weight, low-cut body sides, bucket seats and manual floor-shifter, it was as close to a sportscar as most GIs had ever driven before.[10] Enzo Ferrari famously called the Jeep "America's only real sports car."[58]

In the cauldron of war, the jeeps served every purpose imaginable: as a power plant, light source, improvised stove for field rations, or a hot water source for shaving. Hitched-up with the proper tools, it would plow snow, or dig long furrows for laying heavy electrical cable along jungle airfields – laid by another jeep following it.[12] Battle-hardened warriors learned to weld a roof-top height vertical cutter-bar to the front of their jeeps, to cut any trip wires tied across roads or trails by the Germans, placed to snap the necks of unsuspecting jeepers.[10] Pulitzer Prize–winning war journalist Ernie Pyle wrote: "It does everything. It goes everywhere. It's as faithful as a dog, as strong as a mule and as agile as a goat. It constantly carries twice what it was designed for, and still keeps on going." [5][10]


Willys MB used by former Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay
1946 Willys CJ-2A

Willys-Overland filed to trademark the "Jeep" name in 1943,[61] and from 1945 onwards, Willys marketed its four-wheel drive vehicle to the public with its CJ (Civilian Jeep) versions, making these the world's first mass-produced 4WD civilian cars.

In 1948, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission agreed with American Bantam that the idea of creating the Jeep was originated and developed by the American Bantam in collaboration with the U.S. Army as well as Ford and Spicer.[62] The commission forbade Willys from claiming, directly or by implication, that it had created or designed the Jeep, and allowed it only to claim that it contributed to the development of the vehicle.[44][14] The trademark lawsuit initiated and won by Bantam was a hollow victory, American Bantam went bankrupt by 1950 and Willys was granted the "Jeep" trademark in 1950.[62][63]

The first CJs were essentially the same as the MB, except for such alterations as vacuum-powered windshield wipers, a tailgate (and therefore a side-mounted spare tire), and civilian lighting. Also, the civilian jeeps had amenities like naugahyde seats, chrome trim, and were available in a variety of colors. Mechanically, a heftier T-90 transmission replaced the Willys MB's T84 in order to appeal to the originally considered rural buyer demographic.

In Britain, Rover was also inspired to build their own jeep-like vehicle. Their first testing prototype was actually built on the chassis of a battered war-surplus jeep on a Welsh farm, and Land Rover production started after its presentation model was well-received at the 1948 Amsterdam auto show.[12]

Dutch Army M38A1
M606 in Colombia

Willys-Overland and its successors, Willys Motors and Kaiser Jeep continued to supply the U.S. military, as well as many allied nations with military jeeps through the late 1960s. In 1950, the first post-war military jeep, the M38 (or MC), was launched, based on the 1949 CJ-3A. In 1953, it was quickly followed by the M38A1 (or MD), featuring an all-new "round-fendered" body in order to clear the also new, taller, Willys Hurricane engine. This jeep was later developed into the civilian CJ-5 launched in 1955. Similarly, its ambulance version, the M170 (or MDA), featuring a 20-inch wheelbase stretch, was later turned into the civilian CJ-6.

Before the CJ-5, Willys offered the public a cheaper alternative with the taller F-head, overhead-valve engine, in the form of the 1953 CJ-3B, simply using a CJ-3A body with a taller hood. This was quickly turned into the M606 jeep (mostly used for export, through 1968) by equipping it with the available heavy-duty options such as larger tires and springs, and by adding black-out lighting, olive drab paint, and a trailer hitch. After 1968, M606A2 and -A3 versions of the CJ-5 were created in a similar way for friendly foreign governments.[nb 12]

Licenses to produce jeeps, especially CJ-3Bs, were issued to manufacturers in many different countries, and some, such as the Mahindra corporation in India, continue to produce them in some form or another to this day. In France, for instance, the army used Hotchkiss M201 jeeps – essentially license produced Willys MBs. In japan, Mitsubishi's first jeeps were versions of the CJ-3B, and in 1950 Toyota Motors was given an order by U.S. forces to build a vehicle to Jeep specifications, resulting in Toyota's BJ and FJ series of utility vehicles, slightly bigger and more powerful jeep-type vehicles.[12]

The Mitsubishi Jeep started as a license produced CJ-3B

The compact military jeep continued to be used in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. In Korea, it was mostly deployed in the form of the MB, as well as the M38 and M38A1 (introduced in 1952 and 1953), its direct descendants. In Vietnam, the most used jeep was the then newly designed Ford M151, which featured such state-of-the-art technologies as a unibody construction and all around independent suspension with coil-springs. The M151 jeep remained in U.S. military service into the 1990s, and many other countries still use small, jeep-like vehicles in their militaries.
Apart from the mainstream of — by today's standards — relatively small jeeps, an even smaller vehicle was developed for the US Marines, suitable for helicopter airlifting and manhandling, the M422 "Mighty Mite".

Eventually, the U.S. military decided on a fundamentally different concept, choosing a much larger vehicle that not only took over the role of the jeep, but also replaced all its other light wheeled vehicles: the HMMWV ("Humvee").[nb 13]

In 1991, the Willys-Overland Jeep MB was designated an International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.[13]

The Jeep brand has become successful to this day, and its Wrangler model still offers a compact, open-topped, body on frame, part-time four-wheel drive, with solid live axles and high and low gearing. It can even still be driven with the doors off and the windshield folded forward. Aside from a generally increased level of sophistication, to keep the car up-to-date, the only significant departure was replacing leaf-springs with coil-springs in 1995.

Postwar conversions[edit]

Filipino jeepney[edit]

When American troops began to leave the Philippines at the end of World War II, hundreds of surplus jeeps were sold or given to local Filipinos. The Filipinos stripped down the jeeps to accommodate several passengers, added metal roofs for shade, and decorated the vehicles with vibrant colors and bright chrome hood ornaments.

The jeepney rapidly emerged as a popular and creative way to reestablish inexpensive public transportation, which had been virtually destroyed during World War II. Recognizing the widespread use of these vehicles, the Philippine government began to place restrictions on their use. Drivers now must have specialized licenses, regular routes, and reasonably fixed fares.

Argentine Autoar[edit]

Starting in 1950, a Jeep-engined utility vehicle was produced by Autoar in Argentina. Starting from 1951, a new sedan was introduced using the same 2199 cc Jeep engine and manual transmission. It was fitted with overdrive to compensate for the Jeep’s low axle ratio. In 1952, a new overhead valve 3-litre six-cylinder was announced, but was probably never built. At that time, Piero Dusio returned to Italy. In the 1950s, production was sporadic, and models built included a station wagon with a Jeep-type 1901 cc engine.

Commemorative edition[edit]

Inspired by the U.S. Army Willys MB, Jeep produced about 1000 Willys editions of the 2004 Wrangler TJ, and hoped to sell twice that number for the 2005 model year.[64]

Production numbers[edit]

Once the jeep's design had converged, and was standardized, Ford and Willys built over 600,000 jeeps virtually identical to this 1944 MB
Model Year Number built
Bantam pilot 1940 1
Bantam Mk II / BRC-60 [nb 7] 1940 70
Ford Pygmy 1940 1
Ford Budd 1940 1
Willys Quad 1940 2
Bantam BRC-40 [nb 14] 1941 2,605
Ford GP 1941 4,456
Willys MA 1941 1,553
Willys MB 1941–1945 361,339 (335,531 + 25,808 "slats")
Ford GPW 1942–1945 277,896
World War II Total 1940–1945 647,925
Ford GPA "Seep" 1942–1943 12,778
Willys M38 (MC) 1950–1952 61,423
Willys M38A1 (MD) 1952–1957 101,488
Willys M606 (CJ-3B) 1953–1968 ? (part of 155,494 CJ-3Bs produced)
Willys M170 1954–1964 6,500


In Pop Culture[edit]

The Cars Character Sarge (voiced by Paul Dooley) Is based on a 1941 Willys Jeep


  1. ^ Nominal off-road payload rating
  2. ^ Although the dashboard caution plate indicated only 60 mph (97 km/h) in 3rd high.[1]
  3. ^ According to its U.S. Army Ordnance Corps Supply Catalog designation — a group number for ordering parts, based on a standard nomenclature list.
  4. ^ a b The others being the bulldozer, the Landing Ship, Tank, the amphibious "Duck" truck, the 2½-ton 6x6 truck, and the C-47 airplane.[9]
  5. ^ Phil Patton was a design journalist, curator, and authored books. He wrote regularly about automobile design for the New York Times.
  6. ^ for "Bantam Reconnaissance Car".
  7. ^ a b New research into identification of the earliest jeeps suggests Bantam simply referred to these as the ’40 BRC.[34]
  8. ^ Ford's GP designation did not represent "general purpose" – that was a government description.
  9. ^ Willys had owned Moline, but sold it long before the war.[48]
  10. ^ Though Canada itself built large numbers of light and medium trucks in the war, it relied on America for its jeeps
  11. ^ By war's end, in 1945, in the European theater U.S. forces had close to one motor truck (jeeps included) for every four men [59] — worldwide it had one vehicle per seven American GIs.[60]
  12. ^ In the early 1980s, the Canadian Army took delivery of 195 militarized units of the CJ-7. These were put into service as a stopgap measure between the retirement of the M38A1 and the introduction of the Iltis. They were codified by the Canadian Forces with the Equipment Configuration Code (ECC) Number 121526.[citation needed]
  13. ^ The HMMWV was generally very successful, but a few U.S. military units kept a small number of M151s in reserve for applications where the Humvee was simply too large or too heavy
  14. ^ New research into identification of the earliest jeeps suggests Bantam referred to these as the ’41 BRC.[34]

Reference notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c TM9-803 ¼-ton 4x4 Truck (Willys-Overland Model MB and Ford Model GPW) (PDF). Technical manual. US War Department. 22 February 1944. pp. 10–14. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-06-23. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  2. ^ War Department. "U.S. Ordnance Standard Nomenclature List – G-503 (Willys MB / Ford GPW)". pp. 11–15 – via Internet Archive.
  3. ^ a b c d Zaloga, Steven J. (2011). Jeeps 1941–45. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781780961477. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  4. ^ TM 9-2800 – Standard Military Motor Vehicles. U.S. War Department. 1 September 1943. pp. 136–137.
  5. ^ a b c Hyde (2013), page 152.
  6. ^ Thomson & Mayo (2003), page 296.
  7. ^ Counting 2,382,311 trucks across the four main payload classes,[5] plus 116,394 tractor trucks (34,295 military, and 82,099 commercially procured), and some of the 224,272 other vehicles, for a total of ca. 2.6 million.[6]
  8. ^ Elphick, James (5 May 2017). "7 Tools that Helped America win WW II". We Are The Mighty. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  9. ^ Dwight D. Eisenhower (1948). Crusade in Europe. Doubleday (US) / Heinemann (UK). p. 163/164. ISBN 080185668X. OCLC 394251.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Foster, Patrick R. (2014). Jeep: The History of America's Greatest Vehicle. Motorbooks. p. 11–13. ISBN 9780760345856. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  11. ^ a b c d "The Jeep: An American Icon". National Museum of the United States Army. 16 July 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bennett, Ralph Kinney (9 April 2010). "The Elegant Jeep". The American. American Enterprise Institute. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  13. ^ a b American Society of Mechanical Engineers (1991).
  14. ^ a b c Pulos, Arthur J. (1988). The American Design Adventure, 1940–1975. MIT Press. p. 20. ISBN 9780262161060. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  15. ^ a b Ackerson, Robert C. (2006). Jeep CJ 1945-1986. Veloce Publishing. ISBN 9781904788966. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  16. ^ a b Patton, Phil (23 April 2012). "Design by Committee: the Case of the Jeep". Phil Patton blog. Retrieved 27 January 2018.[nb 5]
  17. ^ a b c d Hogan, Lt. E.P. (1941). "The Story of the Quarter-Ton, The Army's Smallest Car Known as a "Jeep"" (PDF). The Quartermaster Review. Vol. XXI no. 2. Washington D.C.: The Quartermaster Association. pp. 53–54, 82–84. Retrieved 2018-02-22.
  18. ^ Allen, Jim (7 December 2016). "1943 Dodge WC-51 Weapons Carrier, Power & Glory: Backward Glances". FourWheeler.com. Extreme Ventures, LLC. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
  19. ^ Senefsky, Bill (31 July 2007). "1916 To 1975 Dodge Diesel Engines - Dodge's First Diesels". Truck Trend. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  20. ^ Foster, Patrick R. (15 July 2014). Jeep: The History of America's Greatest Vehicle. Minneapolis, MN: Motorbooks. p. 22. ISBN 9780760345856. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  21. ^ "View topic – The History of Jeep". links4jeeps. 24 February 2007. Archived from the original on 17 July 2015. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  22. ^ "Jeep 1941 – 2001". difflock.com. Archived from the original on 15 April 2012. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  23. ^ a b Cowdery, Ray "How the jeep got its name". 2013. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  24. ^ Thomson, Harry C.; Mayo, Lida (2003). "Chapt. XII - Motor Transport Vehicles". The Ordnance Department: procurement and supply (PDF). United States Army in World War II; The Technical Services. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, U.S. Army (Originally published: 1960, Washington, D.C., Office of the Chief of Military History, Dept. of the Army). p. 270. LCCN 74014697.
  25. ^ Fowler, Will (1993). Jeep Goes to War – a pictorial chronicle. Courage Books. ISBN 9781561382354.
  26. ^ Fisher, Lindsey (11 August 2014). "Vintage Monday: Marmon-Herrington Trucks; The Jeep's Grandfather". Off Road Xtreme. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  27. ^ Hyde, Charles K. (4 October 2013). Arsenal of Democracy: The American Automobile Industry in World War II. Wayne State University Press. pp. 147–148. ISBN 9780814339527.
  28. ^ a b c d e f Jeeps in Olive Drab – FourWheeler.com
  29. ^ Borth, Christy (1945). Masters of Mass Production. p. 220. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  30. ^ Austin, Bantam, and Willys: Birth of the Jeep – Allpar.com
  31. ^ "The Military Jeep". Cossor.com.au. Retrieved 12 March 2010.
  32. ^ a b Allen, Jim (10 January 2016). "Origins Of The Jeep: Birthing A 75-Year Legend". FourWheeler.com. Extreme Ventures, LLC. Retrieved 2018-02-22.
  33. ^ "Invention of the Jeep - Pennsylvania Historical Markers". Waymarking.com. 9 March 2006. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  34. ^ a b Smith, Stephen H. (7 December 2015). "Earliest Jeeps Built 75-Years Ago for WWII". York Daily Record. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  35. ^ Allen, Jim (2003). Jeep. Motorbooks International. p. 28. ISBN 9780760314869. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  36. ^ Thomson & Mayo (2003), page 277–278.
  37. ^ Thomson & Mayo (2003), page 278.
  38. ^ The Jimmy's Ancestry; The CCKW in Detail and The Collector's Syndrome — Bryce Sunderlin in Army Motors #47, p.19 (MVPA)
  39. ^ 75th Anniversary of the Original Jeep Patent - IPWatchdog.com – Patents & Patent Law
  40. ^ a b "Patent 2,278,450: Military Vehicle Body". Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  41. ^ "Vehicle Profiles: Jeep Willys". The ClassicCars.com Journal. Retrieved 8 November 2018.
  42. ^ Wilton, Dave (12 July 2006). "Jeep". Wordorigins.org. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  43. ^ Borth, Christy (1945). Masters of Mass Production. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill. pp. 208–236.
  44. ^ a b Ware, Pat (2010). Military Jeep Manual: An insight into the history, development, production and role of the US Army's light four-wheel-drive. Haynes. p. 39. ISBN 9781844259335.
  45. ^ a b c d Will The Real Jeep Please Stand Up – Offroaders.com
  46. ^ The Industrial Jeep - 1943 NTX - Minneapolis-Moline's – Hemmings Motor News
  47. ^ a b c Morr, Tom; Brubaker, Ken (2007). Jeep Off-Road. MotorBooks International. p. 11. ISBN 9781610590563. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  48. ^ a b c d e Massey, Ken; Zatz, David. "How the Jeep got its name". allpar.com. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  49. ^ Jeep carrier – Define Jeep carrier at Dictionary.com
  50. ^ Bryan, B.J. (19 March 2011). The Ship That Never Was. Xlibris Corporation. p. 131. ISBN 9781456877682. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  51. ^ a b Brown, Arch (2001). Jeep: The Unstoppable Legend. Publications International. p. 42. ISBN 0-7853-5562-6.
  52. ^ a b Dickson, Paul (1 August 2014). War Slang: American Fighting Words & Phrases Since the Civil War, Third Edition. Courier Corporation. p. 178. ISBN 9780486797168. .. from an article by Marsh Maslin in the San Francisco Call-Bulletin of November 22, 1941: "Do you know why those swift little army cars are called 'jeeps'? It's Model G-P produced by that automobile manufacturer—and G-P easily becomes 'jeep'.
  53. ^ "Origin of the Term Jeep". olive-drab.com. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  54. ^ How Americans got to meet the Jeep in 1942 – Automotive News.com
  55. ^ Why it's a 'Jeep' and not a 'Leaping Lena' – Automotive News.com
  56. ^ Where the Jeep name first came from – AutoWeek.com
  57. ^ a b Torchinsky, Jason (20 February 2015). "The Iconic Face Of The Jeep Was Actually Designed By Ford". Jalopnik. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  58. ^ a b Jeep – World War II Database
  59. ^ Thomson & Mayo (2003), page 265.
  60. ^ Taylor, Peter Shawn (19 April 2016). "The Trucks that Beat Hitler". National Post. Postmedia Network. Retrieved 2018-05-09.
  61. ^ "JEEP Trademark of WILLYS-OVERLAND MOTORS, INC. - Registration Number 0526175 - Serial Number 71458520". Justia Trademarks. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  62. ^ a b Linkhorn, Tyrel (7 August 2016). "Original Jeep designed by many minds". The Blade. Toledo, Ohio. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  63. ^ Zubritzky, Peter C. (Winter 2003–2004). "Pittsburgh, the steel and (once) motor city". Western Pennsylvania History. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  64. ^ Mead, Sue (14 June 2005). "First Look: 2005 Jeep TJ Willys – Truck Trend". Motor Trend. Retrieved 13 July 2012.

General references[edit]

External links[edit]