Only three companies took up the challenge
Ford Motor company, Willys-Overland, and American
Bantam Car Company. Bantam was the quickest they
submitted blueprints of the proposed vehicle in five
days flat, and this won them the initial contract for
70 Jeeps. However, it must be said here that the Bantam
crumbled under testing by the army quartermaster.
Meanwhile World War II had broken out in Europe, and
there was an urgent need for such vehicles. Prototypes
were accepted from the other two companies as well.
Bantam delivered 2675 units in 1941. A total of 4,458
units were built by Ford and 1,500 by Willys Overland,
the same year.
Some hiccups and modifications later, the Willys model
became universal, but had to use some of the Ford and
Bantam parts on it. In July 1941, these vehicles were
needed in large numbers, and for $738.74 a piece, Willys
won the contract. The other two companies did not have
mass production technology, so they could not be awarded
a part of the contract. However they were asked to build
Jeep trailers and other peripherals. The Willys plant
was producing one Jeep every one-and-a-half minutes.
The extra production was quickly absorbed for haul trailers,
artillery, to operate timber saws, and also to pull
It is said that the history of the Jeep is a "portrait
of American engineering". Its performance in World
War II was extraordinary. According to Lt. Col. Manuel
A. Conley, the Jeep could operate without strain from
three to 60 miles per hour. It could handle a 40 degree
slope, turn in a 30 foot circle, and tilt left or right
on a 50 degree angle without tipping over. It would
"go places where tankers quit and birds would go
back exhausted". He said, "Good Lord, I don't
think we could continue the war without the Jeep. It
does everything. It goes everywhere. It's as faithful
as a dog, strong as a mule, and as agile as a goat.
It constantly carries twice what it was designed for,
and keeps on going. It doesn't even ride so badly after
you get used to it." Another army officer said,
"It can do everything except bake a cake".
"The Jeep became a sign, the emblem, the alter
ego of the American fighting machine," Conley chronicled.
The end of an era came in 1981. The armed forces ended
their orders for Jeeps and a new vehicle was ushered
in. The High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (Hummer)
replaced the quarter ton Jeep in order to keep up with
the new age of computers and technology.
The Jeep had stood the test of time. Jeep expert Michael
VanderPloeg goes as far as to say, "The Jeep's
history certainly makes it eligible for the most valuable
player award, if the army had such an honor."
Civilian Jeeps also found their place in the sun
trekking through mud, and climbing over rock... Without
a doubt, the Jeep had entrenched itself in mainstream