Although the government found all three models to be acceptable, it was not logical to use three separate vehicles for the same purpose. With three different model vehicles comes the need for three times the supply of spare parts and three times the knowledge of repair technicians. Interchangeable parts are of great benefit when repair is necessary. When field repair is necessary, it is much more likely to have a spare part on hand if all of the vehicles are the same. This was the basis for the idea of standardizing the jeep, a name that would not be trademarked and official unti l 1950.11 T he name jeep was popu lar and used by the print media when discussing the vehicle after its introduction.
Throughout history, military technology has evolved from very basic tools to extremely complex devices. Transportation is essential to the function of the military and has been forced to develop at a rapid pace while transforming to meet the needs of whatever s ituation may be at hand. This thesis will look at one of the maj or breakthroughs in mi I itary transportation technology as well as the effect it wrought on civilian transportation. Army chief-of-staff General George Marshall called this breakthrough "America's greatest contribution to modern warfare."
In 1940, the birth of an American legend was about to take place. The American Bantam Car Company had been trying for years to convince the military of the usefulness a small combat vehicle encompassed. The government realized it needed to replace an aging fleet of small vehicles and motorcycles. American Bantam had a chance to prove itself and seized the opportunity. The result was a small , four-wheel drive combat vehicle, an accomplishment that laid the foundation for one of the most well-known vehicles in American history, the Jeep .
The Army decided to use a new type of vehicle to replace the old trucks currently used by the military. Most of these trucks were large, heavy, and not very capable of off-road service. A prototype vehicle capable of carrying two men and several types of guns had already been built and patented by three military personnel, Walter Short, Robert Howie, and Melvin Wilcy. 1 The military tested this vehicle (pictured below) in 1937 and decided that a more practical design was to be sought.2
The Army's Motor Transport Committee came up with many of the vehicles traits. The Army Quartermaster Corps, charged with defining criteria, took these traits into consideration. However, the Quartermaster Corps was only concerned about numbers, not with design and cosmetics. The design was entirely up to anyone who chose to accept the hid invitation.
The specifications that needed to be met were very strict and some were unrealistic. Many manufacturers simply disregarded the invitation. The basic vehicle specifications were as follows: 1,000 pounds maximum weight, 36 i ncb maximum height, 75 inch wheelbase, four wheel drive, 8.5 inch minimum clearance under axles, and four wheel drive. The motor was to have at least 4 cylinders, 85 cubic inches of displacement, 65 foot-pounds of torque, non-aluminum cylinder heads, and run on 68 octane or ]ower fuel. Speed specifications required a maximum speed greater than 50 miles per hour, minimum speed less than 3 miles per hour, and a range of 150 miles at 35 miles per hom.3
The U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps sent out a request to 135 companies soliciting a bid for the production of a reconnaissance vehicle. However, before soliciting bids, several changes were made to the specifications set forth. The height was raised to 40 inches, which would allow a standard-sized passenger vehicle tire to be utilized. The wheelbase was lengthened to 80 inches, allowing room for a transfer case, which is required to direct power to the front axle. The weight limit was bumped to J ,270 pounds, a weight that was still not realizable by any of the manufacturers of the time. The weight restriction was the most likely reason many automobile manufacturers did not respond to the bid invitation. Another challenging requirement was the production of a prototype in 49 clays and 70 additional test vehicles in 75 days.4
Of the 135 companies that received bid invitations, only two companies submitted actual bids: the American Bantam Car Company and Willys-Overland Motors. Ford Motor Company eventually became involved in the bidding and production process. Willys submitted the lower bid and met the required criteria, with the exception of the weight restriction. American Bantam also exceeded the weight restriction. Unfortunately, Willys was not able to produce a test unit in 49 days and therefore American Bantam was chosen as the company to produce the first batch of test vehicles for the military.5
Although American Bantam won the initial contract, it was a small company with only one production plant and this raised concern. The government was worried about 3"Overland Y. Commissioner." LexisNexis. 7 May 1961. USF Online Database.