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Thursday, July 31, 2008

The origins of the vehicle: the first jeeps

The first jeep prototype (the Bantam BRC) was built for the Department of the Army by American Bantam in Butler, Pennsylvania, followed by two other competing prototypes produced by Ford and Willys-Overland. The American Bantam Car Company actually built and designed the vehicle that first met the Army's criteria, but its engine did not meet the Army's torque requirements. Plus, the Army felt that the company was too small to supply the number needed and it allowed Willys and Ford to make second attempts on their designs after seeing Bantam's vehicle in action. Some people believe that Ford and Willys also had access to Bantam's technical paperwork.

Quantities (1,500) of each of the three models were then extensively field tested. During the bidding process for 16,000 "jeeps," Willys-Overland offered the lowest bid and won the initial contract. Willys thus designed what would become the standardized jeep, designating it a model MB military vehicle and building it at their plant in Toledo, Ohio.

Like American Bantam, Willys-Overland was a small company and, likewise, the military was concerned about their ability to produce large quantities of jeeps. The military was also concerned that Willys-Overland had only one manufacturing facility: something that would make the supply of jeeps more susceptible to sabotage or production stoppages.

Based on these two concerns, the U.S. government required that jeeps also be built by the Ford Motor Company, who designated the vehicle as model GPW (G = governmental vehicle, P showed the wheelbase, and W = the Willys design). Willys and Ford, under the direction of Charles E. Sorensen (Vice-President of Ford during World War II), produced more than 600,000 jeeps containing their cost slightly above 300 dollars per unit, due to its mass-production system economy. Besides just being a "truck" the jeep was used for many other purposes.

The jeep was widely copied around the world, including in France by Hotchkiss et Cie (after 1954, Hotchkiss manufactured Jeeps under license from Willys), and in Japan by Mitsubishi Motors. There were several versions created, including a railway jeep and an amphibious jeep. As part of the war effort, Jeeps were also supplied to the Soviet Red Army during World War II.During the jeep's service in Korea the name was referred to as "Just Enough Essential Parts" by the troops due to the very basic design.

In the United States military, the jeep has been supplanted by a number of vehicles (e.g. Ford's M151 MUTT) of which the latest is the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or "Humvee").

source :

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