Friday, July 13, 2012

Jeep Detailed History (Part1)

Birth of the Jeep

Jeep Historical,

In 1939, the army needed a replacement for the aging motorcycle and sidecar from World War l, not to mention the vehicles already in use, like the modified Model T Ford. A list of priorities was dispatched to American carmakers to design and build a prototype for an all-new fast, lightweight, all-terrain command and reconnaissance vehicle. The army requested a working prototype meeting the following guidelines be delivered in 49 days.
·  load capacity of 600 pounds
·  wheelbase under 75 inches
·  height under 36 inches
·  rectangular shaped body
·  three-bucket seats
·  blackout and driving lights
·  capable of running smoothly up to fifty miles per hour
·  two speed transfer case with four-wheel drive
·  fold down windshield
·  gross vehicle weight under 1200 pounds 

Father of the Jeep

 The army had laid out a demanding list of requirements and of the 135 companies contacted only two showed any interest. The American Bantam Car Company of Butler, Pennsylvania and Willys-Overland, but only Bantam met the deadline thanks to engineering skills and patriotism of Karl Probst.

The news of Europe falling to the Germans, of Dunkirk and of little England standing on its own, taking on the might of the Wehrmacht, U-boats and Luftwaffe, motivated Probst to action even though he had originally thought it couldn't be done. With only ten days left to design and build a vehicle to meet the army's deadline, Probst raced to join the Bantam team.

By lunchtime on Wednesday, June 22nd, Probst had arrived and began a marathon session at the drafting table. Two days later on Friday, June 24th, 1940 Probst had done what no one else, not even the big automotive
companies were able to do. Not only had Probst designed a vehicle to meet the army's rigid requirements, he had created a vehicle that exceeded their expectations, a vehicle that would become legendary, a vehicle that would soon be called Jeep. 

 Two modern day pictures from Butler, Pennsylvania.
The historic Bantam car factory (left) and a sign celebrating the invention of the Jeep (right).
Jeep Testing and Approval

Major Herbert Lawes, who had driven just about every army vehicle in existence, was the first driver to test the Jeep. After racing up a 60-degree slop in second gear with no problem, Major Lawes then set about on a 15 minute thrashing over some of the toughest terrain in the area. When he returned he stated, "I believe this unit will make history".

Over the next three weeks the Jeep was subjected to brutal testing. Some of the exercises included driving off a platform 4 feet in the air at 30 mph and repeatedly running full speed down logging trails with tree trunks set into the ground at regular intervals After 20 days of punishment the frame side-members cracked under the strain, but by then it was obvious to everyone that the Jeep had proved itself well up to the job.

One sore spot with the army was the Jeep had come in over the weight limit specified by the army guidelines. Although Bantam had written down 1273 lbs it was actually around 600 lbs heavier then that. However, practicality prevailed when a large cavalry officer managed to lift the rear end of the Jeep off the ground unaided.

It seemed a wonderful success story for the struggling Bantam. They had delivered the first Jeep prototype, which at that time was known as the Bantam BRC. It was exceptional and exceeded expectation, but the army had concerns that little Bantam could mass-produce the required number of Jeeps. Much to the dismay of Bantam, the army provided Willys and Ford with copies of the BRC blueprints and in short order both companies produce their own prototypes. In the end it was a conglomeration of the Bantam BRC, the Willys Quad and Ford Pygmy that came together to make the final production model Jeep.


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