World War II Jeeps Are Not Showpieces. They Are Meant to Go Off-Road.
Recently I met some Jeep fans who were passionately discussing the World War II Jeeps that they or their friends own. Few were arguing about whose was more original, which was actually a Ford, why the Willys are better, and so on.
The World War II Jeep is one of the most incredible vehicles made by man.
They were also quarreling about the differences between the Ford GPW and Willys MB and the special markings on the bolts, variations in the engine block and serial numbers, the rear toolbox opening buttons being dissimilar, the distinct front cross members, and so on. That's not all; there were also disagreements about the size and fonts of the army unit markings, which were painted on many WWII Jeeps!
Jeep enthusiasts the world over treasure it.
Few of them were proud of their bookish knowledge and maybe because I looked amused, one of them asked what I thought. I told them all this talk of cosmetics and markings is all very fine, but what about the mechanicals? How well do your Jeeps run? Do their 4WD systems work and do you take them off-road?
From the history books.
They were surprised and one said, "After putting in so much effort to restore the Jeep and making it look as original as possible, you don't expect us to go bashing them around, do you? Yes, we often go for drives around the city and even fold the windscreen down at times, which is real fun. But I don't like getting my Jeep dirty!"
Simplicity is its strength.
On hearing this, I just could not hold myself back and said that in my books, he was definitely not a genuine Jeep guy. Not just him, but all the others also wanted to know what I meant and here is what I said. The tagline used by Jeep is - "Born in the heat of battle, the Go Anywhere. Do Anything Jeep". So if you don't go off-road with it, it's actually an insult to what the WW II Jeep stands for. And to understand why the WWII Jeep is one of the greatest ever vehicles, one has to comprehend its purpose and appreciate its immense abilities. And you cannot do that by just driving it on paved city roads, where it's like a fish out of water.
George C. Marshall, US Army Chief of Staff during World War II, said it was "America's greatest contribution to modern warfare".
The Jeep was essentially built to go to the battlefield and it was in June 1940, when WW II looked unavoidable, that the US Army asked over 100 manufacturers to submit a bid to make a "light reconnaissance vehicle" designed to their specifications. Surprisingly, only three companies responded - Willys, Ford and Bantam. The requirements listed by the army were quite clear and the design was done in just 75 days! The designers did not even consider the looks and styling, as their focus was purely function and performance.
Made for the battlefield, the WW II Jeep is still one of the most capable 4WD vehicles ever.
From what I know, Willys-Overland provided a prototype to the US Army towards the end of 1940. But it was not the sole creator. Engineers from Ford and Bantam also contributed to the design and development process. After trials the army asked for some alterations and eventually what emerged as "The Jeep", is in reality a bit of a crossbreed. Yes, it's an amalgamation of a 4WD transmission and differentials by Bantam mated to a Willy's engine, all housed in bodywork by Ford.
Unfortunately, many collectors are more concerned about how they look, than how they run.
As the US Army required a large number of Jeeps in a relatively short time, the entire design and engineering was standardized and though they were too be produced by different manufacturers like Bantam (only initially) Willys and Ford, most of the parts and components were common and interchangeable, to ensure speedy production and also quick and easy maintenance in the field.
No roads- this is where a Jeep belongs.
During World War II, a total of about 6.5 lakh Jeeps were manufactured, with Bantam making less than 3000 and both Willys and Ford, producing over 3 lakhs each. Yes, unlike what some people believe, Willys did not make the majority of WWII Jeeps; approximately half of them were actually built by Ford.
And a true Jeep enthusiast should surely drive it in such terrain.
It's also true that there are small differences between the Willys MB and Ford GPW, like the "Ford Script Bolts". In the GPW's Ford made, it used bolts that had F stamped on them and some mounts and brackets also had this F marking. But as these "Ford Script Bolts" are exactly the same size as the ones in the Willys, they were often interchanged while undergoing repairs or overhauls at the US government run motor maintenance centers. So to find a Willys with these prized "Ford Script Bolts" is not uncommon and it's also a fact that several Ford GPW's don't have such bolts.
Is it a Jeep made by Willys or Ford? What's more important is that it's a Jeep. And it should drive like one.
The point I want to make is that we should not forget that the WWII Jeep is a "war-time tool" built for battles. And as putting them out into the battlefield was the top most priority, they had common parts. So in my opinion, instead of arguing over which is a Ford, Willys and what were the markings or parts they came with, I think we should concentrate on making sure the mechanicals and body parts are as sound and original as possible.
The Jeep is not meant to be a showpiece.
If you have a Jeep, the greatest tribute to its makers is to keep them in top running condition. Because to celebrate the greatness and simplicity of the design, you need to experience the Jeep's incredible performance and capabilities. And the best way to do this is to take them out into the field, where they can meet the mud; they were designed to drive in.
The best tribute to a WW II Jeep is driving it in tough territory.
All photos courtesy Jeep
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