The so-called Army jeeps were in fact the first-ever jeeps to be built. Back in the 1940s when ‘jeep’ came into existence it was for military purposes. It was these jeeps that were adapted to civilian requirements after the Second World War and were called ‘Civilian Jeeps’ or CJs. Here’s a look at all the military jeeps that have served the military for more than six decades now.
History of the Army jeep
Post World War I the army chiefs realized the need for a sturdy vehicle that could traverse difficult terrains. In July 1940 the Quartermaster Corps laid down the specifications and invited 135 U.S. automobile manufacturers to bid. Bantam, Willy-Overland, and Ford were each chosen to deliver 1500 units of their Bantam 40 BRC, Willys MA, and Ford GP respectively.
Based on the feedback and information gained from testing these units in the field the Willys model was modified and renamed the Willy MB. Both Willys and Ford were given the contract to manufacture the Willys MB. Ford called it the GPW – many believe that GPW was later condensed into ‘Jeep’ and that’s where the Jeep got its name. The rest as they say is history!
1941 Willys MA
1500 MAs were ordered by the military to be used as Army jeeps. With a column shift and the basic drive train of the prototype Quad, it was definitely the first army jeep ever. Most of the Willy MAs were sent to Russia and only about 30 of the original 1553 are known to still be around.
1941 Ford GP
Ford built 4456 units of the GP. The misconception that GP stands for General Purpose was because Jeep was perceived to be an all-purpose or general-purpose vehicle. However, GP actually stood for Ford’s mechanical terms. ‘G’ was for government and P for the 80″ wheelbase. Almost 200 GPs are known to be still around.
1941 Bantam BRC-40
Bantam built 2605 units of the BRC-40. This jeep was extremely light to handle and easy to maneuver as well. About 100 of the original BRC-40s are still around.
1942 Willys MB Slat-Grille
Differentiated from the later and more popular Willys MB jeep, the initial 25,808 Willys MB jeeps came to be known as slats. They featured a welded steel grille and had Willys written on the rear panel. 200 slat grille army jeeps continue to exist today.
The hero of the army jeep, 335,531 units of the Willys MB were produced during the War period. With longer wheelbases, 6×6 drive trains, skis, armor plating, railway wheels, and mounts to carry all kinds of weapons. These jeeps served the allies in every way imaginable. There are many MBs in good condition and continue to have a great fan following.
1942-1945 Ford GPW
As cherished as its counterpart – the Willys MB, these jeeps were also very popular during the war. Since Ford’s GP was modified to the Willys pattern the letter ‘W’ was added to the new model. However, minor differences separated it from the Willys MB. The front cross member is a U channel instead of a circular one and the letter ‘F’ is embossed on smaller parts. The back storage compartment also differs a bit. 277,896 GPWs were built by the end of the war.
1942-1943 Ford GPA Amphibious
12,778 GPAs were built by Ford but due to the rushed nature of the job they never really became popular as amphibious army jeeps. The concept was great but the execution poor. A squarish hull, interiors similar to the famous GPW, and a power take-off propeller failed to make it a success.
1944 Jungle Jeep MLW2
Designed for use in the marshy lands of the SW Pacific, this jeep was characterized by a long-wheelbase (LW) of 92 inches. With a Go-Devil engine and T84J transmission, this rig was also had several new features in the body. A tailgate, side-mounted spare tire holder, and closed toolboxes under the seat were a few of them.
Used primarily during the Korean War and overseas about 61,423 units were built in the first three years of production. The M38 army jeep was modeled after the civilian CJ-3A with a few modifications like a sturdier frame and suspension and a 24-volt electricity organization. The M38s built from 1953-1955 had some more military additions like headlight guards, blackout lamps, and provision to carry tools on the body of these jeeps.
Blackout lamps, headlamp guards, skirted fenders, and a unique front clip were just some of the military-friendly characteristics of the CJ4M. This was also the start-off point for the design of the M170 army jeep ambulance.
Also known as the MD this army jeep was one of the most popular and showcased the first-ever round fender jeeps. A rock-solid chassis, GI instruments, and 24-volt electrical system were possibly what accounted for the success of this model. 101,488 models were produced in the first round of production and 18,543 more were built by 1968.
These were specially modified MD army jeeps designed to transport 105mm and 106mm recoilless rifles. While some units were sold without the ammunition, a distinctive feature of this model was a windshield that has a gap in the middle to allow the barrel of the rifle to rest on it. There was also special storage created to allow easy access to shells in the rear and an M75A1 or M79 mount.
1953 BC Bobcat & 1959-1962 M422 Mighty Mite
The BC Aero Jeep was originally intended to be a 1500-pound lightweight combat army jeep that never went into production. Instead, it emerged in 1959 as the Mighty Mite army jeep. It was designed to be easily airlifted and manually handled. An aluminum body, differential-mounted brakes, and an AMC V-4 air-cooled engine were some of the other features. The M422 was however a bit on the expensive side and hence only a few thousand were built.
1954-1964 M170 Ambulance Army Jeep
The military counterpart of the CJ6, only 6500 odd of these were built. Most were used as ambulances in the field. Some were also used as easy carriers for 6 troops. The adjustment made to these army jeeps was that the spare was moved from the tailgate to inside the body on the passenger side. This allowed stretchers free space to extend over the tailgate without being blocked by the spare.
1955 USAF DJ Air Force Dispatcher
These Dispatcher jeeps were designed primarily for non-combat maintenance works and delivery requirements on the various military bases.
1959-1978 M151 MUTT
These Military Unit Tactical Truck jeeps were the backbone of the military in the Vietnam War. The initial production units had a 4W independent suspension, which made it a bit unstable on bends. Later versions had a semi-independent rear suspension that was designed to improve stability. Extra MUTTs were stripped by the Army and used for parts.
A few heavy-duty additions were made to the CJ3B and designated M606. Most of these were shipped abroad with modifications like blackout lamps on the front fender, blackout tail light covers, and a trailer hitch. The M606 tag was used only for army jeeps exported for the purpose of military aid.
With such a glorious history the army jeep has served an incomparable role in the U.S. Armed Forces. By the 1970s however, the army jeeps of yore were found to be incapable of keeping up with the changing needs of the armed forces. The advent of the HUMVEE in the First Gulf War was a new chapter that slowly saw the end of an era in the history of the army jeep.