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The Birth of Jeep

Great Article. Just a few thoughts on the birth of Jeep historically:

In early 1940 just before WWII, the US Army during the prep phase contacted 134 US-based companies and asked them if they had interest in building a prototype of a small, 4WD reconnaissance car for a potential war effort. Only two companies responded to the request; Willys-Overland and The American Bantam Company.


Willys asked for more time to deliver a prototype but the Army refused the request. The American Bantam Car Company, which was being reorganized within backruptcy and had no engineering left on the staff, solicited Karl Probst, an ex-Bantam employee to help them out.

Although the Bantam prototype met almost all of the requirements, the Army felt that the company (Bantam) was too small to supply the number of vehicles it needed, so it supplied the Bantam-Probst design to Willys and Ford who were encouraged to make their own changes and modifications. The resulting Ford “Pygmy” and Willys “Quad” prototypes looked very similar to the Bantam BRC prototype.


Incredible as it now seems, fifteen hundred of each of the three Jeep prototypes were built and extensively field-tested. The Willys version of the car would become the standardized jeep design, designated the Model MB and was built at their plant in Toledo, Ohio. The Army chose Ford as the second supplier but they were required to build their Jeeps to the Willys’ design. American Bantam, the creators of the first Jeep, spent the rest of the war building heavy-duty trailers for the Army which suited them just fine.


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