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Another Jeep history, compiled & researched by Robb Hindle,Page2

Last edited: 23 May 2008 08:45:08



The specs for the proposed vehicle were;

*       load capacity of 600 pounds

*       wheelbase under 75 inches

*       height under 36 inches

*       engine run smoothly from 3 to 50 miles per hour

*       rectangular shaped body

*       two speed transfer case with four wheel drive

*       windshield that folds down

*       three bucket seats

*       blackout and driving lights

*       Gross vehicle weight under 1200 pounds (3)

    In 1940, Bantam developed the Bantam Reconnaissance Car (BRC) in response to a U.S. Army request for an all-purpose military vehicle. This vehicle became the prototype of the Jeep, later manufactured by Willys and Ford, and is the direct ancestor of the four-wheel drive vehicles of today. Despite over 60 years having passed, many people are still able to recognize a WW2 jeep, most referring to it simply as a 'Willys'. It is likely that they therefore also believe that the ubiquitous jeep with its unmistakable grille must have been conceived, designed and built by Willys Overland but the reality is somewhat different. It actually owes its existence to the American Bantam Car Company and the genius of Karl K Probst. (1) An interesting side note here regarding the grille that is referenced later by another source is that the stamped grille is actually a refinement made by the folks at Ford, not Willys. And also, there is a Port Authority bus running around the area with Karl Probst's likeness and name all over it, apparently as a tribute. (See this Wikipedia link)


   In 1908, John North Willys purchased the Overland Automotive Company, which by then was located in Indianapolis, Indiana. As Runabout sales grew, production was moved in 1908 to the newly purchased Pope-Toledo automobile manufacturing plant in Toledo, Ohio (3) The Willys Overland Company of Toledo, Ohio, also presented a design.  But only Bantam said they could deliver a prototype within the 49 day time frame required. Early on the morning of September 23, the prototype began a day-long drive to Camp Holobird, Maryland. It arrived with only thirty minutes to spare. The vehicle was rigorously tested by the Army for several weeks, and then declared to exceed expectations. By this time, both Willys and Ford had submitted their own prototypes. Both companies had the advantage both of watching the testing of the Bantam, and having free access to the blueprints of the Bantam. In the end, the government decided that the American Bantam Company plant in Butler was too small to produce the numbers of vehicles it needed and the contracts were given to Willys and Ford. But the Bantam "jeep" had already begun to revolutionize

surface warfare. (2)  In 1940 Willys-Overland Motors, Inc. started their vehicle development with the design and manufacture of a prototype for America’s first four-wheel drive ¼-ton utility vehicle. (3) It should be noted that at the time, Willys-Overland wasn’t in much better shape financially than American Bantam, and was looking for a nice, fat war contract to boost the company. Willys-Overland was granted a production contract and began production in 1941. In all, more than 350,000 “Jeeps” were produced during the 1940’s in support of the war effort. The military paid $738.74 per vehicle. During the war, Ford also built the vehicle using Willys-Overland blueprints. (3)


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