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08-01-1941: The Mighty Jeep Begins Production


Eric
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After a long period of design, testing and competitive trials, the venerable Willis MB/Ford GPW (Jeep) went into production on August 1, 1941. More than 647,000 Jeeps were produced during WWII and saw service in every theater, with all of our allies. The Jeep went on to achieve legendary status for ruggedness & reliability and became the most recognizable military vehicle in history.

Eighty years later, there are still Jeeps that are recognizably descended from that original vehicle in production and God alone knows how many thousands of the original Jeeps are still being used by both civilians and military forces alike.

Huge numbers of Jeeps were left in Europe and across Asia after WWII. Those nations desperately needed vehicles for all manner of personal, municipal, agricultural and military purposes and those Jeeps got modified to perform a bewildering variety of jobs. To this day, there are still huge numbers of Jeep enthusiasts across the world, that own Jeeps that are restored to original condition, or customized in all manner of ways. Across Europe, there are enormous Jeep owner and enthusiast groups that hold car shows and drives for their Jeeps. How many vehicles have left that kind of lasting impression on the world?

I've owned a '66 Jeepster Commando, four Jeep Cherokees and a Jeep Grand Cherokee, in my time. I loved them all. The 4.0L I-6 was one of the best engines ever built and it saw service in quite a few different vehicles. I bought my last Jeep the last year they offered the 4.0L engine. That engine with a manual trans was a hell of a lot of fun and it was a great off-road package. Inline sixes produce a lot of torque and tend to do so at low to mid-range RPMs. Perfect for off-road.

Anyway, here's to the Jeep.

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The original prototype was made by the British company Bantam. They did not have the cash or resources to handle such a project though and a lot of the evolution of the Jeep design occurred under Willis Overland and Ford. There are Brits that still nurse some sour grapes over the fact that the Jeep is considered an American design, but it mostly is and we are the ones that were able to produce almost 650,000 of them AND equip every allied force with them.

I think that the real litmus test of whether a vehicle is British is the number of electrical fires attributed to them and that simply wasn't an issue with the Jeep. :anim_lol:

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The GAZ-46 was a copy of the original SEEPs the Soviets got through Lend-Lease, that evolved into an all Soviet-Built vehicle by the early 1950s. GAZ-46s are still in use all over the world.

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By the time I joined the Army in 1986, the original Jeeps had long since been replaced by the M151 Jeeps, which were being replaced by the HMMWVs. We still had a lot of Jeeps around though.

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Actually, my unit used M1009 CUCV Blazers almost exclusively, for both garrison and field use. I only ever road in an M151 a few times. Those freaking Blazers would get stuck in the mud on dry ground. I lost count of the number of times we had to use a Duece-and-a-half or a HMMWV to pull a CUCV out of something.

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One of my worst days in the Corps was the day they took away my 151. I was a serious scrounger. The Skipper needed it? I “found” it. I got away with a lot because of that little Jeep. Couldn’t operate like that with a Hummer. Too big. Too slow. Too loud. 

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Sadly, I've got nothing on this topic. Still considering the new Grand Wagoneer...

iris.png

 

On the other side of the pond a friend owned the German equivalent, a VW Kuebelwagen. Man that thing was super slow. Some 45 HP from a tiny Beetle boxer engine .

 

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7 minutes ago, crockett said:

Sadly, I've got nothing on this topic. Still considering the new Grand Wagoneer...

iris.png

 

On the other side of the pond a friend owned the German equivalent, a VW Kuebelwagen. Man that thing was super slow. Some 45 HP from a tiny Beetle boxer engine .

 

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That’s a VW Thing tarted up to look like a Kübelwagen. It was definitely a recognizable descendant of the Kübelwagen though.

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I remember seeing VW Things on the road all the time, when I was a kid. Ive worked on a few of them. Some of them had an optional gasoline heater in the front compartment, basically right over your feet, on the other side of the bulkhead. There was a timer knob that started it and a thermostat knob that controlled how much heat it made, which was usually not much. 

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1 minute ago, Fog said:

A friend of mine just finished fully restoring one. Same color as the photo. 

It's his parade rig.

They are interesting vehicles and very rare today. 

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I tell you, it brings a smile to my face to see French people fawning over their American Jeeps, flying the American flag and wearing WWII-vintage US military uniforms. I love that there are still those there that remember and pay tribute to what our grandfathers and great grandfathers sacrificed for them. It also warms my heart to know that car guys are car guys all over the world. It is one of the many threads that bind us all. Common ground is precious real estate.

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Some of those Jeeps may well have once driven up that road long ago, under very different circumstances. There is a Dodge WC in the woodpile as well. There were a hell of a lot of Dodge utility vehicles serving in WWII. They were cargo trucks, troop trucks, ambulances, commo vehicles, command cars and more. They were larger and quite a bit more powerful than the Jeep. The Dodge WC was designated a 3/4-ton vehicle, whereas the Jeep was designated a 1/4-ton vehicle.

There was a 1943 Dodge WC command car at the car museum my parents managed, when I was a kid. The thing had a canvas top so course, that you could see points of daylight through it. I remember sitting in it one day when it was raining outside. Although I could see points of light through that canvas, it didn't leak. It didn't leak until I touched it, that is. :anim_lol:That canvas top was like a Lister bag. Once you touched it, the water would wick right through that spot and it would continue to do so until the canvas dried out and got wet again.

The canvas tops on the duece-and-a-half trucks in the Army were the same way. I used to nonchalantly touch the top over someone when we were riding in the rain and there would suddenly be a leak over them. It took a while for anyone to get wise to what I was doing. Then everyone was doing it and anarchy rained. :biggrin:

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  • Eric changed the title to 08-01-1941: The Mighty Jeep Begins Production
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