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Another Jeep history, compiled & researched by Robb Hindle,Page3

Last edited: 23 May 2008 08:45:21



At the end of the war, the tools and dies at Bantam had been scrapped at government request (and by some accounts by Willys-Overland) and the company was sold in 1946. New management continued building trailers at the plant until 1956, when the plant was sold to American Rolling Mills. The factory building still exists and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission have placed an historic roadside marker on Hansen Avenue in Butler, commemorating the development of the Bantam Reconnaissance Car, the "jeep." The American Austin Bantam Car Club regularly visits the area and Jeep fans tour the Butler County Heritage Center to view one of the original vehicles. In May of 1943, the Fair Trade Commission charged Willys with false and misleading advertising by claiming that Willys had created the Jeep. The court determined that the Jeep was fostered and conceived in Butler, Pennsylvania, by the American Bantam Car Company. (2)


The Ford Motor Company jumped into the race after Willys Overland and Bantam after being directly approached. Their first model was called the GP and dubbed the Pygmy. Under the hood was a modified 1966cc four cylinder engine right out of a 9N tractor with a three speed Model A Ford gearbox and Spicer transfer Box. A couple noteworthy features was the overall comfort that drivers reported. In addition, the headlamps were put behind the grill where they were less likely to be damaged from rough terrain (stones, debris, etc…). The Ford version of the Jeep also innovated a way that allowed the headlights to swivel to light up the engine compartment. This was very valuable and allowed maintenance at night.

After forceful testing at Camp Holobird, tests showed that the GP overheated and the transmission got stuck on occasion. Regardless of these results, Ford was given the green light to manufacture 100 vehicles. The GP’s were manufactured at the Rouge River plant in Dearborn, Michigan and charged the US Government $925.00 for each Jeep. (9) (Note that Willys-Overland was producing the same vehicle for almost $200.00 less per unit)

War history

This is usually where every other Jeep historian goes off on the war history of the Jeep. I too, will focus on military usage, but I’m going to go in a slightly different direction. One of the things I remember from childhood was watching the TV show, “Rat Patrol” where a Jeep is in my humble opinion, the star. This show, at least according to Wikipedia, (11) was based loosely on the Brits’ use of Jeeps as light assault vehicles in North Africa and other locations. Thus I became interested in Jeeps at an early age.  Here’s an interesting piece from a website I found while researching this compilation.

The British SAS (Special Air Service) was founded by Captain David Stirling and is one of the world’s elite Special Forces. The regiment’s famous motto is “Who Dares Wins” and the regiment’s history dates back to WWII.

The idea of creating a desert raiding force to weaken Rommel’s supply lines and disrupt aircraft operations was conceived by Captain Stirling while recovering in hospital from a parachute training accident. Stirling had already gained experience of working behind enemy lines in North Africa with Colonel Robert Laycock’s ‘Layforce’ commando brigade. However, following three disastrous operations during which heavy losses were sustained, the group was disbanded in June 1941.

Remaining convinced of the basic concept, Stirling managed to bluff his way to see Major General Neil Ritchie (Deputy Commander-in-chief N.Africa & Middle East). His idea was to raise a new group from the remains of the Layforce organized into smaller units that would parachute down near enemy airfields, plant delayed-action explosives, then walk to rendezvous points to be picked up by L.R.D.G. (Long-Range Desert Group) patrols. The plan was bold and both Ritchie and his Commander in Chief thought it might just work.

In July 1941 Stirling gained permission to form the L Detachment of the non-existent Special Air Service Brigade, a name intended to confuse German intelligence. His ideas proved difficult to put into practice without sustaining large losses of men either killed or captured on one disastrous occasion only two men made it back! Remembering a successful raid on an airfield carried out by the Layforce when closely supported by the L.R.D.G. in Chevrolet trucks mounted with .303 machine guns, Stirling turned his thoughts towards the potential of the jeep for carrying out his deep penetration raids behind enemy lines. Vehicles obtained by the British Army through the Lend-Lease Scheme were obtained and suitably modified for SAS use.

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