Although forever associated with Willys-Overland, the original Jeep military vehicle was developed by American Bantam, formerly American Austin. Designed to meet the US Army's requirement for a rugged, go-anywhere, four-wheel-drive vehicle capable of surviving on the barest minimum of unskilled maintenance, Bantam's prototype was up and running by 1940, meeting the Army's requirements apart from the engine, which was deemed insufficiently powerful. The Pentagon though, doubted Bantam's ability to meet the military's post-Pearl Harbour demands so the major contracts went to Willys and the Ford Motor Company, which would be responsible for the Jeep's trademark slotted radiator grille. Willys made various modifications to take advantage of a revised maximum weight requirement, which meant it was able to use its relatively heavy but adequately powerful 'Go Devil' engine. It was in this revised form that the Jeep would enter volume production. Willys-Overland's final production version was the Model MB, Ford's being designated the Model GPW. Produced by the million, the ubiquitous Jeep saw service in every theatre of WW2 and continued in military service with armies world-wide for several decades thereafter. Today the Jeep remains highly sought after by discerning military vehicle enthusiasts.
This Jeep's data plate shows a delivery date of 21st April 1944 while the V5C document records the date of first registration as 1st January 1944, an obvious mistake as, being a military vehicle, it would not have required civilian registration. Its history from 1944 to 2008 is not known.
On 1st July 2008 the Jeep was acquired for his own use by David Roe, an experienced restorer of military vehicles. It was then that it was first registered in the UK. Mr Roe restored the bodywork and rewired the electrics using period-correct cabling, converting the system to 12 volts. After the vendor acquired the Jeep in August 2015, the gearbox failed and was rebuilt by Jeep specialists Jeffrey Engineering. It was then discovered that the cylinder block (dated 1942 and probably a service replacement) was frost damaged and unserviceable. Jeffrey Engineering then completely rebuilt the engine using another 1942 block, and also fitted a new carburettor. Since then the Jeep has been used regularly, proving trouble free. It is painted in the markings of the US Eighth Air Force, which was based at Goodwood for part of WW2.
Offered with restoration invoices (only for the work done under the current ownership), this expertly restored Jeep would be ideal period transport for next year's Goodwood Revival meeting.