The Willys-Ford Jeep, a war hero that deserved a medal
Advert

The Willys-Ford Jeep, a war hero that deserved a medal

Willys-Ford Jeep canvas top

Willys-Ford Jeep canvas top

One of the most famous heroes in just about any World War II movie, described by General Dwight Eisenhower as “one of the six most vital US vehicles to win the war” and by Presidential Chief of Staff, George Marshall, as “America's greatest contribution to modern warfare,” was the Willys-Ford Jeep.

With America entering the war, the US military put out an urgent tender for a quarter-tonne 4x4 cross-country reconnaissance vehicle. Three companies responded: American Bantam with their Bantam, Willys Overland with their Quad and Ford with their Pygmy.

With a short deadline to produce prototype models for tough military testing and commitment to large production numbers, saw the Bantam out of the running and Willys, with its superior more powerful engine, winning the contract.

The Willys left-hand drive MB was powered by a four-cylinder, 2,199cc petrol engine developing a very healthy (in its day) 65bhp. Nicknamed “the Go Devil”, it transferred the power to the four-wheel drive via a three-speed high and low ratio gearbox giving it a top speed of 104km/h.

The Jeep was very basic to keep its weight to the prescribed 690kg maximum and, as specified, was open-sided with a removable canvas top, featured a drop-down front windscreen (with hand operated wipers on the early versions), simple canvas seats, an axe and shovel strapped to the side and an additional jerrycan for petrol at the rear. To start it, there was a push button on the floor.

Particularly innovative were the headlamps, which could be reversed to point internally to illuminate the engine for nighttime repairs.

As the war progressed, the demand for vehicles came beyond Willys' capability and an agreement was made for Ford to also produce the Jeep to the accepted Willys specifications. In all between 1941 and 1945 a total of nearly 640,000 were built – approximately 360,000 by Willys and 280,000 by Ford.

The Jeep saw action in all the Allied theatres of war and was used not only for reconnaissance but for every conceivable purpose, from ferrying generals around, to serving as an ambulance, as a gun platform and was even modified to cross rivers where there was no bridge.

Where the name Jeep came from is a much-debated issue, The most probable was that the Ford Production model was the Ford GP (general purpose) although there was also a pre-war cartoon in the US by that name.

Wherever it originated, the Jeep became the iconic vehicle of World War II, with an almost mythological reputation for toughness, durability, and versatility.

Comments not loading? We recommend using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox with javascript turned on.
Comments powered by Disqus  
Advert
Advert