The Army Jeep has been a vehicle in use by Army soldiers for a long time.
In today’s post, I am going to take a look back through Army Jeep history. We will look at 18 cool facts about this form of transportation.
If you have any added facts, feel free to share them in the comment section at the end of this post.
Army Jeep Fact #1: A Request By The U.S. Army
In 1940, the U.S. Army approached over 130 vehicle manufacturers to design a four wheel drive vehicle that would carry soldiers and heavy artillery. There was a difficult stipulation; there had to be a test run prototype available in 49 days or less.
Army Jeep Fact #2: Only Two
Only 2 companies responded to the Army – Bantam and Willys.
Army Jeep Fact #3: Bantam Promises
The American Bantam Car Company was in desperate need of this business, so they promised to deliver a working prototype in 45 days and the Army gave them the contract.
Bantam workers labored day and night and Karl Probst who was a freelance designer was contracted for design.
The prototype was finished and delivered to the Army for testing. Bantam’s design had just one issue, it was 550 pounds too heavy. But the Army was pleased none-the-less. But the Army was also concerned that with the financial difficulties Bantam faced, they would not be able to deliver.
Army Jeep Fact #4: Spec Sharing
The Army shared the Bantam’s specs with Willys who also shared them with Ford. While Bantam had delivered over 2,000 Jeeps, the contract for World War II Jeeps was given over to Willys and Ford jumped in with some versions at a later date.
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The Various Army Jeeps
Army Jeep Fact #5: The Bantam Pilot
The original prototype, this was the first Jeep used by the U.S. Army. Bantam delivered a total of 70 of these Jeeps. The first one was wrecked in an accident in 1941.
Army Jeep Fact #6: The Willys Quad
These were the first test units from Willys. While they had major horsepower with the famed “Go Devil” engine, these were seriously overweight. Willys delivered 2 to the Army in 1940.
Army Jeep Fact #7: The Ford Pygmy
This was Ford’s input in 1940 and the Army loved the basic design but the horsepower was terrible. Ford delivered 2 of these.
Army Jeep Fact #8: 1,500 Vehicle Contract From All 3
The U.S. Army just told all 3 companies: Bantam, Willys and Ford they needed 1,500 vehicles from each company in 1941.
Army Jeep Fact #9: The Ford GP
Ford started producing these Jeeps in 1941. they had an 80 inch wheelbase and all together, Ford supplied the U.S. Army with 3,700 of these Jeeps.
Army Jeep Fact #10: The Willys MA
This was Willys 1941 1,500 vehicle contract. Willys actually delivered 1,553 and it was similar to the Quad but had a column shift.
Army Jeep Fact #11: The Bantam BRC
This is the Jeep Bantam delivered to the Army in 1941. Many soldiers loved this Jeep and Bantam produced over 2,500. But they stopped all Jeep production after the BRC but did supply the Army with trailers.
Army Jeep Fact #12: The Willys MB Slat Grill
This was the start of the Willys and Army love affair. And I would love to own one of these. There are very few left. Willys produced about 25,800 of these first MBs that had Willys embossed in the back panel.
Army Jeep Fact #13: The Willys MB
This was the World War II Jeep! Over 335,000 were produced and now did not have Willys embossed because the Army did not like the advertisement. They were produced from 1941 through 1945.
Army Jeep Fact #14: The Ford GPW
Willys shared some of the 1941-1945 Jeep contract with Ford. Ford produced over 280,000 of the GPW.
Army Jeep Fact #15: The Willys M38
Moving into the Korean War era, Willys produced these upgraded Jeeps from 1950 through 1952. Approximately 45,000 of these Jeeps were produced.
Army Jeep Fact #16: The Willys M38A1
You may actually see some of these still in use. Designed with the rounded fenders, there were over 100,000 produced from 1952 – 1957.
Army Jeep Fact #17: The Willys M170
Produced from 1953 to 1963, these were used primarily by Army Med Units.
Army Jeep Fact #18: 1960 – 1984
The Jeeps for the Army evolved into the M151. Several companies manufactured these Army Jeeps including:
- Kaiser Jeep
- American Motors General
Throughout all this time, there were many various modifications to Army Jeeps. There is no possible way to tell you all the different oddball styles used.
Truth be told though, Jeep is truly the best all around vehicle the Army has ever had. Yes, technology has given us Hummers and such, but Jeeps have been the most used Army vehicle of all.
The designation Jeep has went through many Corporate ownerships.
- Willys – Overland owned the original Jeep name.
- In 1953, Kaiser purchased Willys – Overland and changed the name to Willys Motor Company.
- In 1963, it was changed to Kaiser-Jeep.
- In 1970, Kaiser sold the Jeep division to American Motors.
- And in 1987, AMC merged with Chrysler who is now the owners of the Jeep name.
While I believe the Humvee is a cool vehicle, I would really love to see the army bring back the Jeep.
How about you?
I miss them and here in Puerto Rico, Jeeps are loved much like pet dogs. We see Jeeps everywhere.
I remember watching episode after episode of MASH and admiring the Army Jeeps used in the show.
So let’s hear your thoughts. You can post comments and questions below. Thank you.
Former Army Major (resigned)
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