1944 Willys Model MB Jeep
In its quest for a new utility vehicle, the US Military laid out specifications for a reconnaissance Vehicle, and accepted bids from American Bantam, Willys, and, later, Ford. Although the American Bantam prototype was accepted, the company had neither the financial stability nor the production capacity to produce the volume of vehicles the military required. That’s where the much stronger and larger Willys company came in. Production started in late March 1941 and the volume increased markedly in July. Despite producing more than 360,000 units, Willys still couldn’t meet demand and Ford was contracted to build the vehicle using Willys’ specifications, drawings and engines, ultimately turning out 280,000.
The resulting Jeeps saw service in the South Pacific, North Africa, all through Europe and in a supporting role in the UK. According to the George C. Marshall Foundation, “General Marshall considered the jeep one of the best, if not the best, weapons of the war,” and General Eisenhower is claimed to have said that the Allies could not have won the war without the Jeep. The Jeep may have been critical in winning World War II, but following the war it also won the hearts and minds of millions of Americans, as well as drivers on virtually every continent.