• Top 5 Civilian Vehicles Originally Designed For Military Use

Can we take a moment to remember our wheeled veterans as well? Why, certainly! Just as the worst of times can bring out the best in men, the grim business of conflict often results in some outstanding machinery. When the dust settles and peace thankfully returns, many military vehicles make their way into private life, and just like the war heroes who made use of them, they put their talents to use in peacetime as well.

It’s no surprise that many decommissioned military vehicles find their way into the private sector. The qualities that make a car or truck attractive to the armed forces also draw civilian customers, as they’re designed to be rugged, easily serviced and long-lived in the face of unimaginable abuse. Many gained popularity after World War II, when returning soldiers who had experience with vehicles like the Jeep returned home and wanted a peacetime vehicle that embodied the same qualities. In some cases, a factory already tooled up to produce wartime trucks was simple to convert to civilian usage to meet demand. Still others have continued as simple evolution to a great design. They’ve come a long way and evolved a great deal since their military origins, but here are a few of the vehicles plying the streets today that got their start serving in the Armed Forces.

Chevrolet Suburban

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General Motors’ longest-lived nameplate was first introduced in 1934 as a truck produced exclusively for the National Guard and Civilian Conservation Corps. Designed with a station wagon-type body on a truck frame and designed to carry eight passengers, the original Suburban has been serving that purpose faithfully ever since. The second-generation Suburban saw service in WWII as well. Long a favorite among ranchers, the Suburban was caught up in the SUV fever that gripped the nation in the late 1990s, and remains a strong competitor today. It’s been a civilian vehicle for a long time, but retains a sturdy truck frame and high towing capacity.

Dodge (Ram) Power Wagon

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The original Dodge Power Wagon is a direct descendant of the four-wheel drive half-, three-quarter- and one-ton military vehicles that Dodge produced starting in 1934. After WWII, the Power Wagon was available to private consumers in 1946 due to high demand. The civilian version of the Power Wagon was unabashedly utilitarian, with a cab dating to 1939, a wood-plank bed and simple open fenders that resisted mud clogging. It was more of an agricultural tool than a truck, but garnered huge respect and helped to make Dodge’s mark in the pickup truck segment. The current Ram 2500 Power Wagon pays homage to this classic truck.

Hummer H1

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The go-anywhere vehicle that launched the Hummer brand is one of the first SUVs to pop to mind when thinking of military vehicles converted to civilian use. Designed as the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) and made available to civilian buyers in 1992 by AM General, the Hummer gained widespread recognition after its service in the Persian Gulf War. Like the original Power Wagon, the Hummer H1 saw very few cosmetic changes in its transfer to peacetime duty, and this massive truck’s tall, wide stance set it apart on the road as well. Though criticized for a six-figure price tag, huge fuel thirst and an interior that was the opposite of comfortable, the H1 was a hugely capable off-roader that served as the halo vehicle for the short-lived, high-profile Hummer brand.

Jeep Wrangler

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Jeep’s most capable off-roader has its roots firmly in the beloved Willys-Overland MB from WWII, from which it still takes its basic styling cues. The endlessly versatile Jeep helped to create an entirely new class of vehicles when Willys began selling them to the public at the close of the war in 1945. The Jeep saw several generations of military service, and the private-sale versions of each benefited from that evolution. Today, the Wrangler bears the unmistakable styling of the classic military Jeep and serves as a halo vehicle for the brand.

Mercedes G-Class

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You may have seen the Mercedes G-Class in active military duty, wearing United Nations livery. Designed as a joint project between Mercedes and Austrian military vehicle manufacturer Steyr-Daimler-Puch the Gelandewagen (“cross-country vehicle” in German) debuted in 1979 and has since been used by over five dozen different armies, as well as NATO. It has always been available as a civilian version as well. Utilitarian at first, Mercedes has piled on the luxury equipment in recent years, creating a vehicle that’s paradoxically crude and luxurious at the same time. The G-Class has been a staple of the Mercedes lineup ever since, even surviving its own intended successor the GL-Class.

Emmy Jackson
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