Tuesday, July 23, 2024 Detailed Auto Topics
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Perhaps no vehicle symbolizes the US military more than the Jeep. This little four-wheel drive offers versatile transportation, medical support and a tactical vehicle. The relationship between a GI and his Jeep is almost like love. This brief history of the military Jeep is in honor of this valiant little warrior.

The average GI loved his Jeep

The beginning

In the late 1930s, the US Army begins looking at prototype general purpose vehicles. By 1940 they invited bids for a quarter-ton general purpose vehicle. Out of 135 bid request, only three companies respond. American Bantam offers the most economical design. Willys-Overland submits the Quad, with an elaborate front grill and a more powerful engine.

Why Willys Won

The contract goes to Willys-Overland, because of the engine and the army feels American Bantam may not keep up with production. Ford also submits a prototype and many features from this vehicle are incorporated in the final design. One of the most prominent Ford features is the flat hood, which is an invaluable addition. The flat hoods are very suitable for carrying wounded soldiers, use as a dinner table and even a desktop for map reading.

Several grills help identify the early Jeeps

World War II

The United States enters World War II in December of 1941 and the Jeep, as it has become known, goes to war. Willys-Overland produces the model MA Jeep and soon the revised ‘slat grill’ model. They call it the slat grill, because of the metal slats that make the grill. Ford also shares production with the GPW. In this abbreviation, G stands for a government vehicle. P is the designation for an eighty-inch wheelbase, and W means Willys engine.

Through the war, they refine the Jeep. Willys-Overland offers the model MB in 1942, with a stamped grill, as on the Ford GPW. This change helps keep costs down. Early production models cost to the US government $649.00 per vehicle. At the height of production, they build a Jeep every two minutes.

Post War Jeeps

The grille on military Jeeps changes through the years. Watching the grill is useful for identification. They drop the nine-slot grill, standard on the Willys MB and Ford GPW, when the war ends. Willys-Overland releases a civilian Jeep or CJ version in 1946.

Korea and the M-38 Jeep

The Model M-38 used in the Korean War

We use the M-38 model in the Korean war. This has the seven-slot grill, common in later models. Otherwise the M-38 is similar to the earlier MB, used in World War II.

Vietnam and the M-151 Jeep

The Model M-151 and M-151A1 are used in the Vietnam war

By the Vietnam war, the M-151 and later M151A enter service. This model has a horizontal slotted grill and independent suspension. A few years later, the military adopts the HUMVEE, as the vehicle of choice. The last military Jeep rolls off the assembly line in 1985. After a long and illustrious career, they retire the Jeep from US military service.

While the Jeep is no longer on active duty, collectors covet these little work-horses. They restore many and they reside in prized collections. A fully restored, Willys MB, can easily cost more than $30,000.00. That is not a bad resale, for a vehicle with a $649.00 price tag, when new?

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