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.

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.



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.


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.