The Willys MB and the Ford GPW made up the bulk of WW2 production in "jeeps".

The Willys MB and the Ford GPW made up the bulk of WW2 production in “jeeps”.

We usually think of WW2 jeeps as olive drab vehicles and pretty much nothing else. But the US Army did camouflage some of their jeeps. The allies, such as the English, practiced this as well.

Side view of WW2 camouflage pattern or paint scheme as used during World War Two. Camouflage patterns were used by relatively few units.

Side view of WW2 camouflage pattern or paint scheme as used during World War Two.

Camouflage patterns were used by relatively few US units. The English seemed to use a “Mickey Mouse” ear pattern

Happy New all!

Camouflage jeeps? Just blend in…

FM 5-21, Camouflage Painting of Vehicles and Equipment, October 7, 1942 provides us with a glimpse of the various patterns available for use depending on location and time of year. A variety of vehicles have drawings that illustrate the “correct” pattern to use but we are mainly interested in the WW2 jeep on . For more info see WW2 Jeep Camouflage.

Jill, The Girl Next Door

Ernie Pyle, the famous WW2 war-time correspondent was credited by Delmar G. Roos, engineering vice president of Willys-Overland for the internal expanding parking brake. Ernie had written about the Willys jeep in April 1943 that, “I don’t think we could continue the war without the jeep.”

Ernie Pyle at Anzio, Italy, 1944. Photo Credit – USAMHI

He went on to say the jeep needed a new parking brake because the then current brake was useless. He said that except for the brake, “the jeep is a divine instrument of wartime locomotion.” An article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times – Apr 21, 1944 entitled, “Ernie Pyle Credited For New Brake On Army Jeeps.”

The American Bantam Car Companys jeep under Army test in 1940. (Photo courtesy of Wesley M Phillippi.).<br />

The American Bantam Car Company’s “jeep” under Army test in 1940. (Photo courtesy of Wesley M Phillippi.)

The president of the company that built the prototype and the very first vehicles that eventually would become known as the “jeep” predicted the wrong future. In an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Oct 23, 1944 found through the Google search tool.

Fenn stated that the jeep then in production by Willys Overland and Ford would not make a successful civilian vehicle after the war. The “purely military” characteristics would “hamper its postwar future as a civilian car.” Mr. Fenn stated that there were no plans for American Bantam Car Company to produces “jeeps” after the war.

Hindsight is most often 20-20 and Mr. Fenn was proved wrong. The Jeep as produced by Willys-Overland was a success. Versions of the Jeep (now owned by Chrsyler LLC) have been in production since 1941. Not bad for a vehicle that would be “hampered” in usefulness to civilians after the war.

JillpicnicFor more about Bantam and the other early jeeps, check out this great book from WW2 – Jeep – Its development and procurement under the Quartermaster Corps, 1940-1942.  This book was written from the Quartermaster Corps’ perspective but draws on numerous resources and documentation to put together a pretty good picture of what happened. The other thing in its favor is that Rifkind’s work was written in 1943. But even by that time the jeep story was clouded over who did what and when. Rifkind covers Bantam’s involvement, Willys-Overland and Ford companies developments, the contracts and other details important to the student of the WW2 jeep! What makes it even more valuable is that Rifkind actually lists the sources he used. So if you can figure out the record system used by the government back then and determine where to find them, you will find a gold mine of information to research. This book includes a reproduction of the original manuscript created by Rifkind. You will even find some pen and ink changes.

Which book to buy depends on what you want to do or are able to do. The most common book is the TM 9-803, 9-1803A and B, if you are going to be doing maintenance and repairs yourself this is certainly the one to get.

You might also consider the electronic version as well! It is so very important to own these manuals because they tell you the basics of what you need to know. What grade oil to use? How do you service the brakes?

If you are not mechanically inclined or understand the wartime technologies you might be interested in the following two books:


Army Jill recommends that if you don’t know how to polarize your generator or have questions on how to trouble shoot various parts of your vehicle that you consider purchasing:

Automotive Trouble Shooting for WW2 Vehicles, Volume 1Automotive Trouble Shooting For WW2 Vehicles, Volume 1
Synopsis:  Automotive Trouble Shooting For World War Two Wheeled Vehicles, Volume 1, is a useful manual for anyone. Do you know what to do when the cranking motor will not crank the engine? Engine fails to start? No spark? Misfiring at high speeds or under full load? Problems with your battery or battery cables? Do you know how to adjust your breaker points? Inspect the coil? Do you know how to polarize the generator? Use a jump wire to test your main light switch? Adjust your headlights? Trouble shoot your carburetor or fuel pump? All these and much more are covered. Put a copy in your truck for those little roadside emergencies!


Automotive Trouble Shooting for WW2 Vehicles, Volume 2Automotive Trouble Shooting For WW2 Wheeled Vehicles, Volume 2
Synopsis: Automotive Trouble Shooting For World War Two Wheeled Vehicles, Volume 2, is a useful manual for anyone and it takes off where volume one ended! Learn about the engine oil system. Do you know what to look for when rebuilding a block? Problems with valves? Find out how to trouble shoot and adjust the valves for wheeled vehicles. Problems with the clutch rattling? Check this manual out! Worried about your transmission or transfer case making noises? Check out the trouble shooting section. Any noises coming from your propeller shafts, universal joints or axles? Its discussed here. Trouble shooting the wheels, hubs, and rims? Chassis. Steering. Do you have brake problems, including Hydro-vac brakes? Its all here and much more. Put a copy in your WW2 truck for those little roadside emergencies! Originally produced by the US Govt, Ordnance School, Aberdeen Proving Ground, August, 1945.Edited by Robert Notman

Buy the parts book ‘Ordnance Catalog SNL – G503, 1944’. There are several other WW2 parts books available but that one is a good start. Why do you need this one? Well, it contains a lot of pictures of the parts so that you can see either what you need to fix. Sometimes it is helpful in figuring out how the pieces go back together! See here for more!

‘All American Wonder” vol I & II and this will give you the tear down and build up sequences. These were the granddaddy books of the jeep restoration “movement”. Ray Cowdery did us all a huge service for putting this information together. When some of us started on are jeeps these were not available and when they become available it was like manna from heaven.

Ren’s book, The WWII Jeep Guidebook is likely the best book to have prior to either buying the jeep (not your case of course) or beginning a restoration. While the AA1 2 and even 3 are wonderful books, I wouldn’t call them restoration guides. More like restoration hints complete with wonderful gems of information and landmines! Forget not having your oil filter connected, bad advice.

You can always ask a lot of questions on the but you really need some basic manuals to fully understand the jeep. Here is some additional advice based on Iowa’s (a G503 reader/poster) comments: Jeep Advice.

What were the jeeps before they were called jeeps?

What were the jeeps before they were called jeeps?

Today we know what a “JEEP” is and can easily recognize it as a product of Chrysler Group LLC. But back at the beginning there was quite a bit of confusion as all these vehicles looked a like to most civilians and military men as well. But there were differences to be sure and in the end only one design could be selected.

Pilots – BRC (”1″), Pygmy, Budd and Quad. These were models required to be tested and accepted prior to production of the contracted order. The Budd was not accepted nor tested by the US Army and was returned to Ford.

Bantam on test.

Bantam Pilot on test

Engineering Models or Educational Order – BRC-60s. An educational order was used to test the merit of the proposed product and to test the ability of the contractor to deliver the contracted item.

Prototypes – BRC-40, GP and MA (orders that started with 1500 each for experimentation and further development – order totalled more than 1500 as requirements increased as the war in Europe progressed.). These were models “rushed” into production and widely tested.

Bantam BRC

Above, is pictured a Bantam BRC-40 (one of the “1500″).

Ford GP

Above is pictured the Ford GP (one of the “1500″)

Willys MA

Willys-Overland MA, pictured above (one of “1500″)

Standardized – MB/GPW (Willys awarded the contract for the first 16,000 “standardized” 1/4-tons and subsequently the QMC negotiated with Ford to be an alternate supplier). The US Army wanted to standardized on one vehicle, reducing the logistical support obligations to one vehicle instead of three very different vehicles.

girl sitting on jeep.

Postwar picture of one of the thousands of 1/4-tons built by Ford. It is a GPW built under license by Ford to Willys specifications. Willys-Overland had the primary contract and built the majority of 1/4-tons (Model MB) for the war.

In my example, as far as I know only the BRC and Pygmy were “accepted” and led to further production under contract. Well, this is not exactly true–Willys submitted the Quad in Nov 1940 and according to Senate testimony it failed…but because of weight (no mention of engine failures or requiring three engines here). The Willys “pilot” was not accepted until June or July 1941! It was not fully tested according to testimony but was examined.

We see an example of “pilot” in the contract language I listed earlier. Interesting enough, the testimony by Mr. Fenn (Pres of American Bantam Car Co.) on August 6, 1941 indicated he built 70 pilot models! During the hearing those 70 are also referred to as an “educational order”.

Further testimony during the Senate hearings from a Col Van Deusen indicates at least the QMC position. The orders (1500) from Bantam, Ford and Willys were “test purposes”. Originally, it was supposed to be 500 from each supplier. “The 1,500 cars were to be as experimental development type for service tests, quantity tests in service…” A Mr. Fulton on the committee, “And that was because you wanted to experiment further before standardizing your specifications?”. Van Deusen, “That is true.” This really sounds like “prototype” to me.

For more about the early jeeps you might be interested in my book: BANTAM, FORD AND WILLYS-1/4-TON RECONNAISSANCE CARS. Another good book covering the early jeep history is by H. Rifkind, Jeep – Its development and procurement under the Quartermaster Corps, 1940-1942.

The subject of using silicone versus regular brake fluid comes up several times a year among old vehicle collectors.


What is it about brake fluid that makes grown men act so crazy?

Regular brake fluid can be a good paint remover. Of course, if you plan ahead for a spill, it isn’t that big a deal. But is silicone brake fluid the be all, end all cure for poor paint surfaces and poor maintenance technique? Consider that while silicone will not remove paint, it can lead to what is called “cupping” where paint will not adhere to the surface being painted. So it could be a concern if you have to do any touch ups at a later time.

Which to use? Appears to settle upon a few factors:

1. If your preventive maintenance skills are lax then the use of silicone is likely your best bet. If you are capable of changing your brake fluid every couple of years then perhaps glycol is best for you.

2. If you can’t fill the master cylinder without spilling it all over your painted surface then perhaps silicone is the way to go. However, be forewared that while silicone doesn’t eat paint it keeps it from adhering to the surface and leads to “cupping”.

3. If you have more money then time then silicone is perhaps best for you. In most places the same quantity of silicone is several times the cost of glycol. But on the flip side you will need to replace your glycol several more times than silicone.

4. Do you drive your jeep thru water, wet roads when it rains? The jeeps’, like many brake systems are open to the atmosphere. Glycol is designed to absorb moisture and has inhibitors designed to reduce corrosion. Silicone is not designed to absorb water. Moisture will pool in silicone and can lead to corrosion.

5. Spongy feeling. Silicone has a higher compressability then glycol which can lead to a spongy brake pedal sensation. Silicone has a slower pour rate (higher viscosity) than glycol. This may explain why it can be difficult to bleed the air from silicone equipped brakes. Once air is mixed into silicone (bubbles) it can take a long while to bleed it out.

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I love my jeep

I love my jeep.  But how did it get it’s name?

There’s a book by Paul Dickson, “War Slang: American Fighting Words and Phrases Since the Civil War, Second Edition“” that says the jeep is “1, a small, low, khaki-colored car in general use in the Army. 2, a rookie; a recruit.” OR you could go with his quote from another source, San Francisco Call-Bulletin, November 22, 1941, “Do you know why those swift little army cars are called ‘jeeps’? It’s Model G-P produced by that automobile manufacturer–and G-P easily becomes ‘jeep’.” In 1941 Ford was producing a vehicle for the Army that was a model GP. The vehicle pictured in this blog below is actually a 1941 Ford GP.

The unfortunate thing is that the War Slang book does not mention the jeep term being used during WWI or the inter-war period.

If you are interested in finding out more about WW2 era jeeps then you might want to check out my book on the subject: BANTAM, FORD AND WILLYS-1/4-TON RECONNAISSANCE CARS.


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