Look out, Maw, here he comes again!
While the 4×4 jeep was a new concept in military vehicles, the 4-wheel steer jeep was a wild new concept. The following article is from Army Motors, November, 1941.
There’s a strange new jeep out in the field. Not very many of them but the minute you see one hopping across a meadow, you’ll know it’s something new under the sun.
It’ll be tearing along a perfectly straight course, when suddenly at a flick of the driver’s wrist, it’ll make a right angle turn that’11 make you blink your eyes and look again. At cruising speed it will do an “about face” smartly as a bee stung donkey.
You’ll rush right home and throw the bottle out the window.
Bantam BRC60 4 Wheel Steer. Photo courtesy of Jacco van Snippenberg. The Netherlands.
But you’re all right – you’ve just been watching the amazing performance of the jeep with the Four—wheel—steer.
The four—wheel—steer is another step toward making the 1/4 ton reconnaissance a right-tight little car fully able to scoot out promptly from under the bright face of danger and fly away home. It has no arms (so far) and it has no armor — so it’s got to have git—up—and—go.
The idea is not new — back in the last World War, many a driver gasped and turned pale as the terrifying quad beneath him responded too quickly and too much to the slightest touch on the wheel. Imagine threading delicately in and out of traffic with a truck that answered the wheel like a crazy grasshopper?
But today’s four-wheel—steer has a delayed action on the rear wheels that permits the driver to make all those delicate curves and turns without the rear wheels coming into play. Perhaps an even better device is the declutching arrangement that allows the driver to throw out his back wheel steering.
This is not to say that driving today’s four—wheel—steer jeep is a cinch. It still has keg of dynamite characteristics. Its the closest thing on the ground to piloting an airplane. That’s why every Tom, Dick and Harry won’t be driving one — that’s why, in the final analysis, the four—wheel—steer may not even be accepted.
But if it is, you’ll see some artful dodging that’ll make lubricated lightning look like Grandma Pettibone doing the big apple.
Ultimately, the 4-wheel steer 1/4-ton trucks were not to be built aside from a few built for experimentation. It was not for a lack of interest. The Cavalry was very interested in the 4-wheel steer because of it’s extreme maneuverability which I suppose reminded one of the agility of the horse or Army mule. However, this interest was over-ruled on at least two practical counts. First, agility of the 4-wheel steer was a plus. But in the same breath it was also a negative in that it took greater skill and care to drive the vehicle. Second, manufacturing of the u-joints needed for 4-wheel drive front axles was a bottleneck to production. One of the reasons Ford was asked to produce the Ford GPW. Introducing, the 4-wheel steer “jeep” into production would have effective doubled the bottleneck.
As history played out—the 2-wheel steer, 4×4, 1/4-truck was an extremely effective tool of war.