• Jeep pays homage to Willys MB Makes Wrangler 75th Salute Concept

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    willys20160726Seventy-five years ago, the United States military informed automakers that it was looking for a light reconnaissance vehicle to replace the Army’s motorcycle and modified Ford Model-T vehicles. The Army invited 135 manufacturers to bid on production and developed a lengthy specification list for the vehicle, including a 600-pound load capacity, wheelbase less than 75 inches, height less than 36 inches, smooth-running engine from three to 50 miles per hour, rectangular-shaped body, four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case, fold-down windshield, three bucket seats, blackout and driving lights and a gross vehicle weight below 1,300 lbs.

    At first, Willys-Overland and American Bantam Car Manufacturing Company were the only two companies answering the call. Soon, however, Ford Motor Company entered the picture, and competition began among the three over which company would receive the lucrative government contract.

    Each company produced prototypes for testing in record time. The Army took possession of these vehicles in November 1940 at Camp Holabird, Maryland. Each of the three designs exceeded the Army’s specification of 1,300 lbs., but the Army soon realized that limit was far too low and raised it for the next round of vehicles.

    The Army issued the next round of contracts in March 1941. Bantam was to produce 1,500 Model 40 BRC vehicles, Ford would build 1,500 modified and improved GP Pygmies and Willys would build 1,500 Quads. Further testing and evaluation led to the Army’s selection of the Willys vehicle as the standard.

    With modifications and improvements, the Willys Quad became the MA, and later the MB. But the Army and the world, came to know it as the Jeep. In 1941, the Willys MB began rolling off the assembly line straight into the heat of battle and the rest is history.

    In celebration of its 75th anniversary, Jeep crafted the Wrangler 75th Salute concept. It is based on the Wrangler Sport with a six-speed manual transmission. The Wrangler 75th Salute concept is comes in olive green military paint and features body-color fenders as well as 16-inch steel wheels mounted on 32-inch military tires. The look is classic Jeep from every angle. Jeep also fitted the 75th Salute with exposed steel front and rear bumpers, canvas-covered seats and commemorative badging. The concept also has custom wood hood blocks and mirrors.

    However, the concept will just remain as it is, just a concept. Considering that it has low-back front seats, cut bumpers and lack of rollbars, the concept lacks the necessary safety equipment required to be homologated for production.

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