Ford produced some 4 500 GPs before production stopped. However, realising that the US Army and allies needed large numbers of the little vehicles, Ford co-produced the Willys MB, and so in January 1942, the Ford GPW (GP Willys) saw the light of day, identical to the Willys MB, with all parts being interchangeable. However, Henry Ford was determined that American boys must know they were in a Ford, so every individual component of the GPW was stamped with the Ford ‘F’ script. Both early production Willys and Ford jeeps had the manufacturer’s name stamped on the lower left of the rear body panel. Later a jerry can bracket was fitted there and the stamping deleted. The first 25 000 MBs built were known as flat grilles from the radiator grille made of flat bar. Ford grilles, however, were stamped from sheet metal. From April 1942 Willys incorporated the Ford GPW-style grille on the MB, the grille so familiar today. Between November 1941 and September 1945, 358 489 Willys MBs were built while 277 896 Ford GPWs were manufactured by end of production in July 1945.
Because of limited production facilities American Bantam, having fathered the jeep, was not given further orders for their BRC 40 other than completing another 1 000 for supply to the Russians and Dutch. But the firm did secure a contract to build trailers for the jeep, the MBT, supplying 73 689 by the end of the war.
And the name ‘jeep’? Those who know little declare it comes from the Ford GP, the so-called General Purpose. However, ‘GP’ does not stand for General Purpose. ‘GP’ was Ford’s production code for the vehicle: ‘G’ for Government issue, and ‘P’ the code for 80-inch wheelbase. Another argument is that the jeep got its name from a doglike creature in the Popeye comic which could do anything, go anywhere and never got tired. A number of other versatile pieces of US Military equipment were also known as jeeps – one was a large six-wheel-drive Minneapolis Moline tractor, so too the Dodge 4x4 ½ tonners and a light twin-engined aircraft built by Curtiss.
Jeep, with a capital J is the trademark registered by Willys Overland. The civilian CJ2A, first produced in July 1945, was known as a jeep, but it was only after a long legal battle with Ford over the use of the name Jeep, that Willys won the right in 1948 to use the name with a capital J as their trademark. The Bantam, Ford and Willys Reconnaissance Cars produced during the War and referred to as jeeps, are annotated with a small j.
Bantams were the first jeeps to see action, some serving in 1941 with Dutch forces in Java. A number of captured Bantams were sent to Japan for evaluation, resulting in the military authorities tasking Toyota with building a similar vehicle. The result was the Toyota AK10 of 1942. Powered by a four-cylinder engine through a three-speed box and suspended on quarter elliptic springs, the vehicle needed development but was however the beginning of great things.
The Russians too, got into the action. As a result of the supply of jeeps to Russia, Stalin ordered a similar vehicle to be produced. This saw light of day in 1943 as the GAZ 67. GAZ produced cars and trucks based on the Ford Model A, the tooling bought from the Germans when the Ford Cologne factory began production of the Model B. So the GAZ 67 is little more than a four-wheel-drive Model A in disguise. Powered by the famous Model A 3.2-litre side-valve four, driving through a Model A three-speed non-synchromesh gearbox and modified Ford axles, it is an archaic and basic vehicle but a simple, good performer.
The British also fiddled with jeep-type vehicles, some being lightweight machines powered by motorbike engines, and others based on a standard pickup chassis, but with only two-wheel drive.
The Jeep. So much from the small beginnings of the Belly Flopper.