A vintage Willys Jeep has the power to inspire awe and admiration for authentic craftsmanship and American ingenuity. However, learning the more in-depth history of these vehicles is also necessary for a proper appreciation. Whether you’re a student of military history or an owner of your own jeep, learning these lesser-known facts can help you develop even greater respect for this all-American vehicle.
1. The Willys Jeep’s legendary front was Ford's contribution.
Our previous bulletin discussed how in 1940, the U.S. Military sent out a request to 135 automakers to produce a light-duty truck with reconnaissance capabilities to prepare for WWII. Out of three who responded — Willys-Overland, Bantam, and Ford — it was to Willys the U.S. awarded the contract, partly because it had the most powerful engine.
Soon, Ford was also brought in on the project of producing vehicles and made many contributions to the design, including the famous flat front grill.
2. America’s oldest Jeep is a Ford
In response to the government’s request, American Bantam delivered the first pilot model to the U.S. Army on 23 September 1940. That same year, Willys-Overland delivered the first of two pilot model “Quads” on 11 November, while Ford delivered its two pilot models GP-No. 1 and GP-No. 2 on 23 November.
Of the five pilot models, only the Ford versions are known to survive, making the 1940 Ford Pilot Model GP-No. 1 “Pygmy” America’s oldest known jeep.
3. Almost everybody copied the original Jeep
After the war, Willys began selling a civilian version of their vehicle to the American public for agrarian and industrial use. However, models such as the Willys Station Wagon soon became a common sight on streets everywhere, with its replacement, the Wagoneer, becoming the first SUV. Today, automakers around the world have made copies under license, such as Ford and Mitsubishi. The original Land Rover was actually built on a WWII GPW chassie but done in secret