Jeep has its own prestige when the same image is perceived in most of the places it presents. Simply put, it’s only a vehicle to carry first military missions then transform to civil use. However, behind the name there are great stories to tell especially with the Jeep vehicles which are part of the history.
Since World War II the US military has relied on the “Jeep” to get it through the mud and to the front line. There were many incarnations of it, the last being the trusty “Mutt” (Military Unit Tactical Truck) that was first used in Vietnam and only recently retired in the early 1990s. The U.S. Air Force used it as a mode of transport for its important forward air controllers, who helped call in pinpoint air strikes on enemy positions.
From World War I, the need to replace the horse with a vehicle capable of traversing rough terrain for reconnaissance and communications duty had been evident. The motorcycle with sidecar used in that war had proved too noisy and unstable in the mud of France. During the 1920s, the army experimented with stripped-down Model T Fords equipped with salvaged airplane tires for greater traction.
The outbreak of WW11 in Europe and the mobility demonstrated by the German forces brought new urgency to that quest. After France capitulated in June 1940, the Army Quartermaster Corps issued specifications for a lightweight reconnaissance vehicle that could also carry men and equipment across rough terrain.
The specifications included four-wheel drive, a load capacity of 600 pounds, a maximum height of 36 inches, and a folding windshield.
This four wheel drive reconnaissance vehicle became the focus of the US military just prior to their involvement in World War II. At that time, the US Army asked over 130 companies to present a working prototype of a four-wheel-drive reconnaissance car. The American Bantam Car Company and Willys-Overland were the only companies to respond to their request . After extensive field testing, Willys-Overland made design revisions to encompass new weight specifications. New guidelines allowed them to use their heavy but powerful Willys ‘Go Devil’ engine. This new design won Willys the contract. Due to the high volume of vehicles required, Willys-Overland did allow the US Government to use additional manufacturers. The Government chose Ford.
Ford had their own coding for various car models, G – for government units regardless of age, and P- for 80 W/B reconnaissance vehicle. The GP pronounced phonetically in American English as ‘geep’ or “jeep” – the name stuck and the Jeep was born.
The Jeep performed its primary missions superbly. As a scout car, it went virtually everywhere. Equipped with radio, it became a communications center and command post. It hauled ammunition, supplies, and, in a pinch, up to a half-dozen troops. With a .30- or .50-caliber machine gun mounted in the backseat, it became an anti-aircraft weapon or, towing a 37mm anti-tank gun, a threat to enemy armor. With the windshield folded down and a litter placed on the flat hood, it became a battlefield ambulance. With pipes mounted on the bumpers, it could be rigged with up to four stretchers.
On D-day the Jeep was one of the first vehicles to hit the French beaches. It was a machine that gave the Allies an edge in every battle zone across the world. For over forty years, through the wars in Korea and Vietnam the Jeep remained the standard military transport vehicle. It was phased out in the early 1990’s in favour of the Hummer, yet the Jeep remains a truly iconic classic of it’s era.