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A Brief History of the Willys M38A1


When you’re restoring one of the many classic Jeeps that were successfully produced as far back as the 40s, taking the time to learn the history of the vehicle can make the whole process more fulfilling. Classic Jeeps have a rich history, and many of them effectively paved the way for a bevy of vehicles, including other Jeep models that came into production later. To enlighten you on the legacy of classic Jeeps, we’ll go through a brief history of the Willys M38A1.

While earlier Willys Jeep models were frequent vehicles on the World War II battlefield, the Willys M38A1 was commonly used during such conflicts as the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The M38A1 was in production for many years, with the initial production beginning in 1952, until it finally came to a close in 1971. During those years, 101,488 models were successfully produced, with 80,290 of them being domestic sales and the remaining 21,198 being foreign sales.

The Willys M38A1 (aka the Willys MD) was the follow-up to the M38. The M38A1 was also the basic groundwork for the Jeep CJ-5, despite their notable differences, which began production only a few years after the M38A1 and remained in production until 1983. Whereas the original M38 carried a flat-fender design, the M38A1 introduced the iconic round founders, as well as a round hood. This new design was helpful in accommodating the new Willys Hurricane Engine inside, which was a replacement for the previous Go Devil engine.

The Willys M38A1 redesign also included a two-piece windshield with wipers attached to the top of each windshield, as well as a T90 transmission and a 24-volt electrical system. That electrical system, in addition to the M38A1’s overall stronger chassis and reversed spring shackles, made it a technically better vehicle than the CJ-5, despite the fact that the CJ-5 was initially produced years after the M38A1.

Although this is a brief history of the Willys M38A1, it doesn’t make this member of the Jeep family any less important or interesting than models that came before it and even after it. The M38A1 wasn’t on the frontlines of WWII like the original Jeeps were, but from its use in other wars and its iconic redesign, the M38A1 has a legacy worth recognizing and preserving. At Army Jeep Parts, we can help you find a wide variety of used Willys Jeep parts that you can use to successfully restore an M38A1 and many other classic Jeep models.