Willys MB Jeep

Few vehicles are more synonymous with a national war effort than the American Jeep.


Join me for a brief look at an iconic light vehicle.

The Jeep has a somewhat convoluted development saga,  its first form was delivered in 1941 by the Bantam company.  In a move that STILL causes tempers to flair, the US Army felt Bantam was neither big enough nor stable enough to meet production needs, so Willys-Overland was ordered to produce the vehicle.  Funny thing is, this actually happens a lot; when a prototype is built for any branch of the military, the military OWNS that design and can do with it as they please.  Its how we wound up B-29s built by Boeing, Bell and Martin during World War II.


But little Bantam felt they were ruined by this government decision.  They actually survived the war years as a component manufacturer.  But of course the Jeep story continued without them.    Shortly after Willys started production the Army decided they needed more than even they could build, so Ford also started Jeep production.  As far as corporate legacy goes, Willys became Kaiser-Jeep in 1963 and was purchased by AMC (American Motors Corporation) in 1970.  Chrysler then purchased all of AMC in 1987 and through all of Chrysler’s ownership changes that’s were we stand today.  As a part of Fiat-Chrysler, Jeep is their top selling brand.


But of course modern day Jeeps have little to do with the Willys MB of World War II. Immediately post war Willys offered a “CJ”, a civilian version of the light truck.  While by the 1950s they were on to a “MC” for the military and a long evolution was underway.  The modern Jeep Wrangler may be the spiritual decedent of the MB, but look at them side by side, they truly have little in common and the size difference is huge.  The most obvious similarity may be the slatted grill; which is a Jeep trademark stamped on every steering wheel, and ironically, was first introduced as a Ford expedient to mass production.


The origin of the name “Jeep” is actually a bit of a mystery.  I’ve seen it called a phonetic of GP for “general purpose”…   which was never an official part of the Jeep’s designation, at least not the Willys produced vehicles…   or simply a slangy “thingamajig” sort of reference.  Armored divisions apparently called their Jeeps “Peeps”.


Jeep with Kurogane (Japan) and Kubelwagon (Germany). Similar light utility vehicles.  The Jeep stood out for its reliability and ease of maintenance.


Jeep with General Motors 2.5 ton truck and Ford Sedan.  Common American wartime vehicles.

This is the Hasegawa kit.  It is a little fiddly, but builds into a nice representation.


Jeep with M8 Greyhound at left and M4 Sherman behind.  Jeep and Greyhound were both used for recon.  The Sherman, well, it could crush the Jeep…

About atcDave

I'm 5o-something years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I was an air traffic controller for 33 years and recently retired; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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20 Responses to Willys MB Jeep

  1. jfwknifton says:

    “when a prototype is built for any branch of the military, the military OWNS that design”. WOW!! What a way of upsetting lots of people in a very short time. Whatever the ins and outs though, it is indeed an iconic vehicle which gave us a new word in our language.

    • atcDave says:

      I don’t believe it is still done that way, but through WWII there were numerous examples of designs being shuffled between manufacturers. The military does actually PAY for the design, but then the manufacturers start their sales pitches to build as a separate process.

      Definitely an odd, and often very political process!

      • atcDave says:

        Oh and the British, Germans and Japanese all did something similar! Possibly only as a wartime expedient, but I’m sure I’ve read that Gloster actually built more Hurricanes than Hawker did!

  2. Nice models. What brand is your greyhound? A very tricky kit to find! And i dont want to do diecast……… Cheers Will

  3. GP Cox says:

    Good to see you back around, Dave.

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah I’m getting things going again. The B-29 project is huge, and discouraging. And then the shop was completely down for over six months with other stuff going.

      But it sure felt good to have another completion!

  4. Ernie Davis says:

    My hometown is Butler PA, home to the American Bantam Car Company and the original Jeep. Locally a lot is made of being the original home of the Jeep, including a 3 day Jeep festival each summer. In addition, my father worked as driver for Bantam just before the war, so he was around when the first Jeep prototypes were made and delivered. Bantam was in hard times, and a contract with the Army to build Jeeps was their attempt to save the company. In the end the army gave them enough work to sustain the company through the war, but they failed quickly after that work dried up.

    • atcDave says:

      Obviously it was a sad story for Bantam and it’s employees.
      But hey, they fared better than Brewster! Okay, maybe that’s setting the bar too low.
      I know it’s a sore subject for many, but that’s an interesting, if usually overlooked facet of World War history.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      In the end the army’s decision was the right one. Bantam couldn’t conceivably meet the required production numbers. It’s often said that the reason Bantam never disputed the Army’s decision was partly because they couldn’t afford a legal team to make their case.

      • atcDave says:

        That sounds like dark comedy!
        I have a friend nearby here who also has family Bantam ties, the subject always makes him grumble a bit. It’s tempting to wonder if the situation could have been worked out better for Bantam, but no doubt such concerns were not the Army’s top priority.

  5. The Jeep is certainly an icon of the Second World War. Famed around the world it’ll be one of those vehicles that goes down in history. It certainly had an interesting development.

  6. Ernie Davis says:

    I meant to mention when you talked about the B-29, that would be a build I’d be very interested in seeing documented in addition to the final product (i.e. two posts out of one build?) if it is still possible.

    • atcDave says:

      No not still possible. Besides, it would loose something without all the colorful language I won’t post…
      Now the good news is, I have at least one more kit of it, so maybe someday.
      Maybe someday when I feel less of that “life’s too short” sort of attitude!
      It is funny, I know many modelers love the challenging kits. And I do enjoy some more involved builds. But endless “fill, sand, repeat”, occasionally interrupted by “fill, sand, paint (!)…. grumble, grumble, fill, sand…” ooof. I’m too stubborn to have a “shelf of doom” that many modelers speak of, but that build has tested my resolve!

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Well I thought it worth a mention. I’ve always enjoyed documented builds, if for nothing else, seeing other’s techniques. I do understand though that for anyone other than a paid professional it is a big extra investment of time and effort.

      • atcDave says:

        There are a number of much better modelers than I who post their builds, and I also enjoy watching their process and techniques.
        But you know, it’s really the love of the history that motivates me here, so that will always get most of my attention.

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I get it. For me it was all about the technique and process, to the point that most of my builds were cannibalized at some point to facilitate another build. I loved the history too, insofar as my goal was to re-create an accurate representation of something, but the process of doing so was always my main interest.

      • atcDave says:

        Always interesting that we are so alike and so different at the same time!

        I do enjoy puzzzling out the process of assembly, painting and finishing. That is the part I find relaxing and fun. It’s the more mechanical and repetitive steps I don’t enjoy so much. Like road wheels on a tank! I can’t even imagine doing individual links, even if I know it would have more “realistic” sag and tension. Or in this case, filling and sanding. You would not believe some of the crevices on those big Superfortress pieces!

      • Ernie Davis says:

        I think we already knew some of this to some extent. But then I like to work in a larger scale, where small things are sometimes of more importance to me even though they occasionally distract disproportionally from the larger project.

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