Willys Jeep: the car that helped win a war RETROspective

Willys Jeep: the car that helped win a war RETROspective

FineAuto

As Jeep turns 80, we pit its original off-road hero against its latest. While the fundamental mechanicals of an off-roader haven’t changed much over the years – rugged looks, grippy tyres, four-wheel drive – some things most definitely have. But the Jeep was the first. So strap yourself in and don your war paint as Magazine’s Jack Rix gives you the history of an icon while throwing it about in a load of mud Want to watch a bit of on the internet? Welcome to the most comprehensive collection of official clips you’ll find on YouTube. Whether you’re searching for a caravan challenge, Ken Block in the Hoonicorn, cars versus fighter jets, Stig power laps or the latest Chris Harris Drives, you can find all the iconic films here.Want to share your views with the team?

this is the all-new jeep wrangler and i know what you’re thinking looks exactly like the old jeep wrangler right and the one before that and the one before that in fact the wrangler hasn’t changed much at all since it arrived in 1986 and even then it looked pretty much like every jeep that came before it the stick out fenders the squared off wheel arches the circular headlights the barbecue style grille grill honestly you could cook an entire cow on that it’s a look that can trace its roots all the way back to the 1940s to the wranglers great great grandfather the original willy’s jeep i mean forget your mirrors and e-types you want a real design icon check out gi joe back there believe it or not a jeep similar to this one is one of only eight cars on permanent display at the new york museum of modern art it is they say one of the world’s very few automotive masterpieces and that’s not bad for a car designed in just 11 days flat you see back in world war ii the americans realized the victory in europe would depend on a huge land invasion to rid the world of fascism they needed some wheels and they needed them fast so us army chiefs called on america’s car makers to come up with a car giving them less than two weeks to submit designs the brief was for a 4×4 that could carry a quarter of a ton and with a wheelbase under 80 inches so they could squeeze as many as possible into landing craft and aircraft holes anyway of all the usa’s hundred or so car companies the only one to deliver a bid on time was a little known firm called american bantam until then bantam had been importing tiny british-built austins and giving them new bodies that made them look like clown cars yet somehow their blitz buggy design ticked all the boxes for a tough all-american war machine the problem was they didn’t have the means to actually make it not in the vast numbers required so the government gave their drawings to ford as well as willie’s overland motors in ohio finally after a bit of fiddling willie stood to attention and delivered the goods although ford still played a part in refining and producing the final car what became known as the mb and this is what they made well almost before anyone writes in i should say that this particular model the m38 actually came a little bit later and was built in holland using imported parts anyway the point is america and our allies now had a lightweight no-nonsense off-roader that could be parachuted onto the battlefield and tackle almost any terrain as well as carrying private ryan and his mates it could be fitted with machine guns and shovels and anything else you needed to survive a wartime drive except of course for armor for that you had to make do with a tin hat it was so effective that jeep became code for anything that went off-road whether it was an actual jeep or not overnight the willy’s jeep revolutionized battlefield transport and it was amazingly versatile just a few tweaks and it could be used for desert patrol snow plowing cable laying and saw milling some were turned into fire engines field ambulances tractors and even trains best of all every single one of them could fly for about three seconds there were however a few problems for starters there isn’t much in the way of weatherproofing they haven’t even bothered with doors and you can forget social distancing in a willys privates were quite literally pressed together what else well this gear shift down here is about as slick as a jammed rifle and then there’s the suspension which is constantly trying to throw you overboard on the other hand it was virtually unstoppable off-road forcing its way through shallow waters sand dunes swamps and forests pulled along by a 2.2 liter four-cylinder petrol engine nicknamed the go devil despite mustering just 54 horsepower it was actually quite torquey and you had a two-speed transfer box down here for extra low gears short of an actual tank it was one of the most effective off-roaders of its time so effective in fact that i reckon it could give a modern 4×4 a run for its money there are 80 years between these two cars give or take so what difference has eight decades made to mud plugging progress there’s only one way to find out come on mr 50 grand wrangler let’s see what you got it is oh there he is there he is he’s sticking with it he’s probably listening to him radio 4 in there got his heated seats on doesn’t get more analog than this you’re feeling everything every turn every bump every every puddle got my nice jeans on and everything ah all in all about 630 000 jeeps fought in world war ii it was said general eisenhower himself one of the three most important instruments in securing allied victory along with the douglas dakota and the d-day landing craft general george marshall another us army chief went one step further describing it as america’s greatest contribution to modern warfare but despite all its battlefield glory it was actually during peacetime that jeep really made its name with military models swiftly converted into civilian versions that gradually evolved into the wrangler we know today famously it also inspired another automotive icon at the end of the war an original jeep fell into the hands of a man called morris wilkes chief designer of the rover company using the jeep as a template he came up with a boxy no-nonsense 4×4 to help relieve the burden from britain’s overworked tractors with that the land rover was born and so too was a new off-road rivalry so the jeep might have won the war but in doing so he started another one you

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