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Published: 1st Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jeeps make great fun classics and you can build one up from scratch if necessary Jeeps make great fun classics and you can build one up from scratch if necessary
Side-valve engines rugged but slow Side-valve engines rugged but slow
Prices for top models can break the £15k barrier - fakes and rip offs not unknown Prices for top models can break the £15k barrier - fakes and rip offs not unknown
Proper accessories are available Proper accessories are available
Basic or what? But that’s the appeal of any Jeep - the trick is to keep it authentic Basic or what? But that’s the appeal of any Jeep - the trick is to keep it authentic
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One of the most instantly recognisablevehicles ever built, which saw active service with the military in numerous theatres of war around the world starting with WW2.

What is a Jeep?

One of the most instantly recognisable vehicles ever built, which saw active service with the military in numerous theatres of war around the world starting with WW2. There’s no question about it, the Jeep has definitely earned the status as one of the top classic vehicles of all time, with over half a million being built. Some sources say the name was derived from GP as in its ‘general purpose’ usage, others say it refers to the G which the Ford Motor Company used to designate vehicles built for the Government, and P stands for Ford’s 80-inch wheelbase reference Interestingly the Jeep name and its concept has gone on to be universally associated with virtually all other 4x4 rugged utility built vehicles ever since! Ownership of a Jeep nowadays is tantamount to being custodian of a piece of military history with vehicles being restored in numerous guises. To add authenticity many owners delight in dressing the part too, by donning period uniforms when displaying at military vehicle shows.


For many years the US Army had wanted a rugged reconnaissance vehicle and the American Bantam company had undertaken much preliminary study from as early as 1932. However, after the outbreak of WW2, on July 7 1940 the US Quartermaster Corps sent an invitation to 135 American car manufacturers to tender for a new 4x4 quarter-ton vehicle, with a prototype needing to be delivered in a seemingly impossibly short time of only 75 days! There were strict guidelines to be followed with the vehicle needing to have a rectangular body with folding windscreen and seating for three people, the engine must haveat least four-cylinders, four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer ‘box and provision for disengaging the front axle, hydraulic brakes, amaximum weight of 1275lbs,capable of 50mph, etc. Only two company’s responded, the Bantam Company were first who delivered its prototype Model40BRC on 23 September 1940 and Willys-Overland Motors Inc who couldn’t meet the 75 day time period, but its Quad prototype wastested on 13 November 1940. Then Ford entered the frame and the Pygmy prototype arrived on 23 November 1940. The Bantam 40BRC was powered by a 45hpContinental engine with threespeed synchromesh T84 Warner gearbox. The Willys Quad had a60hp ‘Go Devil’  engine and T84Warner gearbox, and though much heavier than the Bantam still out performed it. The Ford Pygmy had a 45hp 9N tractor engine with a non synchromesh Ford Model Agearbox, though the engine proved under powered. The chassis were twin rail with cross members, the body was steel, sans doors for added simplicity. While the Bantam 40BRC came out at the cheapest, there was concern whether the company could handle large scale production. After trials of all three vehicles, in July 1941 the contract went to Willys who had lowered its price to $739, but the MA model was revamped and production models became the MB. Ford also got to build Willys Jeeps under licence and these became known as the Ford GPW, with huge parts interchangeability. Production of Bantam’s 40BRC was phased out after 2675 had been built which in due course were shipped overseas for use by the Russian and British Armies, and the company spent the war years building trailers, aircraft parts and torpedo motors. The story of the production of the military Jeep doesn’t quite end here. Following WW2 the Hotchkiss company which had American origins with founder Benjamin Hotchkiss being born in Connecticut in 1826 but moving to France in 1867, built Jeeps between 1955 to 1966 for the French government. These were produced under licence from Willys by SOFIA a subsidiary of Hotchkiss who manufactured Jeeps as Willys-Overland France- WOF. In all some 27,614 were built for the military, based upon the proven MB model, though some 5473 derivatives were built for civilian use.


The Jeep was designed as a very basic go anywhere vehicle, with creature comforts never high on the list of priorities with thinly padded seat squabs and backs. You will feel every bump in the road which is transmitted through the steering wheel, and if it’s wet, they can slide about due to the tyre tread pattern, but they’re greatoffroad! Anyone that has driven aConsul/Zephyr will soon be familiar with using the gearbox which has very similar internal design with synchromesh on second and thirdgears, though some owners like to double-declutch when changing down. Every owner has a different view about driving technique and adjusts to their own particular style. Although equipped with hydraulic brakes, stopping is not one of the Jeeps strongest points so thinkingabout retardation well in advance is the key here. Top speed is about 55mph, but a steady 45mph will result in a more comfortable drive.


During recent years prices of Jeeps has been hyped up due to the many commemorative war time anniversaries with vehicles in demand for attending rallies on the continent etc. Prices have started to settle down again, and entry level for a Jeep will be circa £5000 - £7000 and will probably still need some work. For £9000 you should be able to get an excellent example, free from any significant faults, and for Jeeps with sought after provenance, original specification and concourse, prices will be £10,000 - £12,000, though they have fetched as much as £15,000! Thanks to Colin Cox whose 1942 Willys Jeep is seen in the photographs, also to Tony Sudds who runs Jeep specialist T.S Autos MV Jeep Parts and is hugely knowledgeable othe subject. Tel 01474 703131 IMPS Membership secretary Glynis Rosser Tel 01795 510022, Mobile 07754 112005, Subscription £25, monthly newsletter, quarterly magazine.

What To Look For

  • For the uninitiated going to inspect a Jeep could pose a few problems, ostensibly when it comes to establishing what’s original and what’s genuine replacement or pattern parts? Your first point of call is to join a club like IMPS, Invicta Military Preservation Society who can advise, and better still, get friendly with your local group and get an experienced member to check a Jeep over, if possible. As these vehicles can cost up to £15,000, you want to know exactly what you’re buying.
  • To know whether a Jeep is fitted with the original style combat wheels, these will be split-rim held together by eight studs.
  • The good news about owning and running a Jeep is that virtually everything is still available and you could almost build one from scratch using genuine and pattern parts. Though the Jeep was strongly built to endure a tough life, they do inevitably still suffer from rust. Common areas of corrosion are around the side steps and lower extremities of the tub, the front floor pan, supports for the front floor, and inside the rear tool lockers.
  • Chassis are pretty robust and are not boxed in, so you can easily spot corrosion and see their state of structural integrity.
  • If the tub is beyond practical repair, this is not a problem as a replacement will cost £900. A full body/tub kit is a reasonable £1200.
  • Many Jeeps have been converted from their original 6volt electrics to 12 volt, though they will operate quite happily on 6volt, if it was good enough to go to war with, it’s fine for recreational use at weekends!
  • The side valve engines enjoy reasonable longevity, but listen for timing chain rattle on tick-over which will disappear when the engine is revved. The block can suffer from cracks and water leaks, especially in the areas above and below the distributor unit. An ex-French Army reconditioned engine will cost £1600 for example.
  • The weakest link on the Jeeps drivetrain is the gearbox, which can be quite noisy, leak oil, and if well worn can jump out of second gear, mainly on the overrun. A replacement gearbox and transfer case assembly is £850 and clutch kit is £75.
  • The front axle can suffer from wheel wobble which can be attributed to the pre-load on the bearings on the swivel housing.


A lot will depend on what you want your Jeep for. If you require absolute authenticity and intend getting heavily involved with a club like IMPS then you’ll probably favour a Willys or Ford GPW, the latter of which are arguably more sought after. However, if you just want a fun recreational vehicle, a Hotchkiss built Jeep will be fine, though maybe frowned upon by purists, and with 24volt electrics, starting from cold in particular will be much improved.

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