At the end of the 1930s - early 1940the United States is in full physical restructuring of their army. Be it at the level of uniforms, of tanks or vehiclesthe main purpose is to modernize their army to prepare for future conflicts. Indeed, the Nazi Germany and the Japan are all-two lively to expand their territory and the US should be ready in case of enemy attack.
In this war looming, they identify two key points, which will be at the origin of the Jeep: The war will win through mobile and mechanized troops.
The army is already developing tanks and heavy vehicles. But none has yet been created to replace the little adapted civilian vehicles or motorcycles with sidecars. This is why, on June 22, 1940, the Ordnance Department composed of members of the infantry, the cavalry and the QMC, established the specifications of what they saw as a vehicle:
-Of 545 kg maximum (increased to 579 kg 1)ER July and subsequently to 595 kg).
-Capable of carrying 273 kg of military equipment in all-terrain operation
-Maximum wheelbase of 1.90 m (increased to 2 m 1)ER (July)
-Maximum height of 90 cm (increased to 1 m 1)ER (July)
-Height 15 cm minimum ground
-Double speed, including a 4 x 4 box, with speed of 80 km/h on road and 5 km/h off-road
-Cal machine gun mounting. 30.
-Departure of 40 ° and 45 ° approach angle
-Seats for 3 soldiers
In height, these specifications were very influenced by the work of the Bantam Motor Car Company, which had prior to 1940 studied the possibilities of creating a model that can be used by the U.S. Army from a civilian car Bantam.
Based on these projects, 135 companies were requested to work on what they called a "light reconnaissance and command vehicle" July 11, 1940. They have 49 days to offer their prototype.
Only 2 companies completed their project for the critical date, July 23, 1940: American Bantam and Willys-Overland. The winner was Bantam, who recorded the first command of 70 vehicles, all for an envelope of 171 185, $ 75 (less than 2 500 $ each). Although the Willys model was cheaper, Bantam was sure to deliver in time, Willys did not.
Bantam engineers worked hard to deliver the first prototype in time: on 23 September 1940. Harold Crist, engineer, who made the first driving test and on 23 September the first journey of 370 km driven Jeep MKI (also known as "") Number One ("or GPV) tests.
Tests were carried out and although some concerns were noted, it was very enthusiastic about the performance of this car. The tests were conducted also under the eye of Willys and Ford, builders who took care to take notes for their future prototypes. The army commanded 69 additional vehicles at Bantam, all would however receive changes in testing. These 69 vehicles were known under the name of "". Bantam Reconnaissance Car model 60 or BRC-60 ", also known as the MKII.
During this time, the lobby of Willys and Fordhelped by wishes to army American does not have a single supplier and also suspicious when the production capacity of small business Bantam, made that army encouraged them to produce prototypes taking into account the specifications and corrections made in the test of Bantam.
Willys then presented their model. Quad pilot model jeep "November 13, 1940 and Ford continued with their Ford Pygmyfirst vehicle with flat radiator at the front. Both models resemblance to the Bantam jeep, and for good reason: Bantam had worked on the project before the army studied a specification. The Army decided that the American Government was the owner of the plans, and thus he could distribute them to competitors. Although the work of the Bantam jeep was copied, Bantam said nothing.
Between July and November 1940, the QMC decided to increase the maximum weight of 1 308 pounds at 2 160 (number) that Ford insisted on adopting, because the three manufacturers could not reach this limit. Even if it were possible on plans to create a vehicle also light, this had equipped it with a very sickly engine and other parts of lower quality. Bantam had therefore a jeep lighter that the other two, Ford is aligned on the 2 160 pounds and finally Willys failed in the war of the weight...
After much wrangling, for studies, lobby for the three manufacturers (who buy? how many vehicles? when?...), 14 November 1940 it was decided to order 1 500 additional vehicles from three manufacturers.
The three models were still analyzed to arrive at the conclusion that none of the three was superior to the other. Each had their advantages and their disadvantages. The Willys engine, called "Go Devil" gave amazing performance, but the disadvantage was its very high weight. All these tests and changes that resulted in were the basic plan for the next 1 500 models.
17 September 1940 Bantam BRC-60 69 additional models arrive at the QMC and are directly distributed to field units. The success was immediate and all can wait the next deliveries to replace the old cars and motorcycles.
1 500 Commissioned jeeps were to be delivered to 7 May 1941 but he y had a few delays.
Bantam delivered its first 52 jeeps on 31 March 1941 and after this date, the company was able to product 65 jeeps a day.
Ford made his first jeep on 28 February 1941 but strikes in the factories of Spicer Axle retarded Bantam and Ford.
Willys, the number one priority was to reduce the weight of the jeeps below 980 kg. It took three months to look for where to reduce weight, from the large pieces to small as the bolts, but also by refining the coat of paint. It spent two layers to a single.
The war in Europe became more fierce and the Government made new commands to help England and the Russia primarily. Bantam delivered 2 642 new BRC-40, Willys 1 553 MA and Ford 4 456 GP. The vast majority of these models were therefore sent to the allies in equipment loan, but a small part equipped the US Army (with Alaska and Hawaii) to new tests. Here again, the idea was to find the benefits and flaws of each model, to create a unique for mass production.
During this time, some companies began the race but failed to catch up to earn a contract (Chevrolet, Davis, Crosley, etc). Bantam made a contract with Checker, to subcontract part of the production in 1941. Thus was born the Checker Bantam, delivered to the army as a prototype.
The war was at the gates of the United States, and it was time to make a decision. What model would be chosen? Ford won the match but strong protests won Government and them. Hegemons, Bantam had created the first drawings and Willys was significantly above other manufacturer... Hence out Ford: corruption? Lobby? In height, the govern American wanted to keep a manufacturer of mass, and Ford was the best. Due to these protests, it is the Willys MA model who was chosen as the standard model, primarily with its more powerful engine. A few changes were made to add to the Willys MA the benefits of other models and create the best jeep.
The contract was signed on 23 July 1941, a few months before the entry into the US war for 16 000 jeeps paid 736,74 $ each. The changes that brought this model were:
-adoption of the American electrical system: 2 H battery, 40 amp generator and lights.
-Ground speed lever and Handbrake at the centre.
-The fuel tank contains 57 litres
-System of military hitch at the rear
-Other amendments from Willys and Ford...
All these changes led to the creation of the Jeep Willys MBalso known as "Truck, ¼ ton 4 x 4.
All of the orders were delivered by Willys before the term of the contract, in October 1941. But demand was such that a second source of supply would be mandatory. In exchange for a guarantee of contracts, Willys gave all plans and method of production to the American Government, which will take care of finding a second source of production.
Ford thus lost the race to design, but its huge production capacity was chosen. On 10 November 1941, Ford signed the contract on the drawings of Willys and these jeeps were called Ford GPW (added W place for Willys, which to the final model). Bantam was finally discarded the production, which is a blow because they were at the dawn of the project and had sufficient production capacity to equip a part of the army. They will thus produce 2 675 jeeps Bantam BRC-40.
As soon as the standardization of Willys MB and Ford GPW jeepspast productions (under 1 500 units) prototypes were sent to the allies or sold as military surplus (including a few models in Chicago, birthplace of the mafia). Today these models have become extremely rare.
During the second world war, Ford built 277 896 jeeps GPW and Willys 335 531 MB jeeps. The contract finished on 30 July 1945, shortly before the end of the war. The last Ford came out of the factory on July 30, 1945 and the last Willys on 20 August 1945 at the Toledo plant.