1945 Willys Jeep Scout. The “First” Jeep

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What is now recognised as the first ‘Jeep’, these vehicles were originally designed by a company called Bantam as a General Purpose military vehicle and were first nicknamed GEEP by 1940, when the US Quartermaster issued the specification for a ‘truck, quarter ton, 4×4’ and awarded contracts to Bantam, Willys and Ford to produce 1500 units each. By the end of production in August 1945, more than 630,000 units had been produced and pressed into military service all over the world.

‘One of the three tools that won WW2’, said General Dwight D. Eisenhower, of the original Jeep and Ernie Pyle, one of WW2’s most famous correspondents, added that it was ‘as strong as a mule, as faithful as a dog and as agile as a goat โ€“ it’ll carry loads twice as heavy as those it was designed to carry, and keep going.’ At 64-years old, almost to the day as you read now, this original little off-roader is still going strong!

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Mohammed Al Budoor (who also owns this Series I Land Rover) imported this last-of-the-line, Willys-produced model in early 2004 having been told about it the previous year. The little truck was a barn find and had been tucked away in storage by an Italian ex-General almost since the day it stopped service. ‘When I first saw it, it was covered in cobwebs and the canvas on the seats had rotted through, but it was all there โ€“ I had to have it,’ enthuses Mohammed, who as you have probably guessed, has a passion for original vehicles.

The car spent the next six months in the hands of Frank Murray at AAA Garage in Rashidiya, Dubai, undergoing a nut-and-bolt rebuild under Al Budoor’s watchful eye. Keeping the Willys as original as possible, right down to the 6-volt electrical system, the car was stripped back to the bare chassis and correct parts sourced wherever they could be found. With an MB chassis number, defining it unquestionably as a Willys rather than a Ford, Mohammed was able to track its history down to a production date between the first two weeks of January 1945, from the Toledo plant in Ohio, USA.

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The later cars, such as this one, had 10-leaf front and 11-leaf rear springs mounted on a simple ladder-frame chassis with channel section side rails. You’ll notice from the front-end view that the little Jeep seems to lean slightly to the left โ€“ they all did, since the engine and transmission are mounted off centre in the chassis and both the driver and the fuel tank are on the same side. Some vehicles had extra leaves fitted to the springs on the left side to compensate for this.

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The fundamental design of these cars has changed little over the years and with the exception of the move to coil springs and obvious updating of safety and power outputs, today’s Jeeps can trace ancestry back to the Ford and Willys workhorses of this original concept.

Even the iconic slotted grille (now just seven slots, compared to the nine here) remains and is a potent symbol of the brand the world over. Try thinking of another car that can claim an unbroken and visually recognisable line through the history of the motor vehicle.


Categories: Road

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  1. As a former Sgt.E-7 U.S.Army I have to say that, that is the most beauitful jeep I’ve ever seen. Just wish I could ride in it.

  2. Hard to imagine what a game changer the invention of the Jeep has been acutally (as well as the Land Rover if we’re nice).

    Not only did it revolutionize military tactics due to the massive increase in mobility of men and firepower (especially when fitted with a machine gun turret) but those cars almost singlehandedly opened the world to the ‘common’ daring man.

    Previously, after you’d travelled to the end of the nearest reailway station of course, you’d have to have been a Thesiger type, riding horses or camels in caravans and whatnot etc.

    So basically, for better or worse, these vehicles could be accused of truly opening up the continents to mere mortal men.

    And, nowadays, their inflatable lilos, coolers, boomboxes and extended families too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Yes, it’s definitely somethign we take for granted nowadays , which is why the original is something really nice to reflect upon during my next ciggie break. So for that, I thank you. Cheers!