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"Describes the designing of the Jeep to meet military needs of being compact, light weight and maneuverable over rough terrain."
Jeep is an automobile marque of Chrysler (itself a subsidiary of Fiat). The first Willys Jeeps were produced in 1941 with the first civilian models in 1945, making it the oldest off-road vehicle and sport utility vehicle (SUV) brand. It inspired a number of other light utility vehicles, such as the Land Rover which is the second oldest 4-wheel-drive brand. The original Jeep vehicle that first appeared as the prototype Bantam BRC became the primary light 4-wheel-drive vehicle of the United States Army and Allies during World War II, as well as the postwar period. Many Jeep variants serving similar military and civilian roles have since been created in other nations.
Bantam Reconnaissance Car
When it became obvious that the United States was eventually going to become involved in the war raging in Europe, the U.S. Army contacted 135 companies asking for working prototypes of a four-wheel-drive reconnaissance car. Only two companies responded to the request, The American Bantam Car Company and Willys-Overland. The Army had set what seemed like an impossible deadline of 49 days to supply a working prototype. Willys asked for more time but were refused. The bankrupt American Bantam Car Company had no engineering staff left on the payroll and brought in Karl Probst, a talented freelance designer from Detroit. After turning down an initial request from Bantam, Probst accepted the job after being asked again by the Army, and initially working without salary, went to work July 17, 1940.
Probst completely laid out plans for the Bantam prototype, known as the BRC or Bantam Reconnaissane Car, in two days, and the next day estimated the total cost of the vehicle. On July 22, Bantam’s bid was submitted, complete with blueprints. Much of the vehicle had to be assembled from existing off-the-shelf automotive parts, and the custom four-wheel drivetrain components were supplied by Spicer. The hand-built prototype was completed in Butler, Pennsylvania, and driven to Camp Holabird, Maryland, for testing by the Army on 21 September 1940. The vehicle met the Army’s criteria, but its engine did not meet the Army’s torque requirements.
Ford Pygmy and Willys MB
The Army felt that the Bantam company was too small to supply the number of vehicles it needed, so it supplied the Bantam 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 (Bantam Reconnaissance Car) prototype and Spicer supplied very similar four-wheel drivetrain components to all three manufacturers.
Fifteen hundred of each of the three models were built and extensively field-tested. Willys-Overland’s chief engineer Delmar "Barney" Roos made design changes to meet a revised weight specification (a maximum of 1,275 lb (578 kg) including oil and water). He was thus able to use the powerful but comparatively heavy Willys "Go Devil" engine, and win the initial production contract. 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 familiar pressed metal Jeep grille was actually a Ford design feature and incorporated into the final design by the Army.
Since the War Department required a large number of vehicles to be manufactured in a relatively short time, Willys-Overland granted the United States Government a non-exclusive license to allow another company to manufacture vehicles using Willys’ specifications. The Army chose Ford as the second supplier, but building Jeeps to the Willys’ design. Willys supplied Ford with a complete set of plans and specifications. American Bantam, the creators of the first Jeep, spent the rest of the war building heavy-duty trailers for the Army....