Driving into War

With the auto industry in America doing well, things were looking good. Things did get rough in the 1930’s with the depression, because nobody was able to buy any cars. But that was soon to be the least of their problems. The fierce competition of the early 20th century soon gave way to World War 2. The allies needed supplies, and the auto industry was looked to for their expertise in manufacturing. During this time, it really didn’t matter whether a vehicle was a Ford or a Chevy; the important thing was that the war supplies were manufactured. Because of the massive demand, automakers began to put aside their competition and work together. Cadillac engines were found in tanks, while Ford made V12 engines that “were installed in British Mosquito and Lancaster bombers” (historynet.com). By far, the most memorable vehicle from WW2 is the Willys Jeep.

Thinking about cars up to 1940, most of them had very thin tires, were not very powerful, and were semi-durable, but the warzone environment was far to brutal for the normal, civilian cars. Soldiers needed something that was lightweight, reliable, and could conquer anything that the environment threw at it. “This requirement went out to some 135 possible suitors with only three responding – American-Bantam (Bantam), Willys-Overland (Willys) and Ford Motor Company (Ford)” (militaryfactory.com). Enter, stage right, the Jeep. The Jeep is a perfect example of how multiple companies had to have a common goal. Granted, there still was some competition, but they all were supplying for the war effort rather than just for sales. “With the three designs now finalized and all meeting the US Army criteria, 1,500 examples were requested from all three players for active evaluations by in-the-field units” (militaryfactory.com). Competition? Yes, some. But that wasn’t the point. Even with different companies trying to “win” the Jeep wars, all three had the exact initial order by the government. So the next time that you see a classic Jeep at a car show, it may be a Willys, or it may be a Ford. Regardless of who it is built by, the tough little Jeep was able to withstand pretty much any environment anywhere in the world.ford jeep  Ford GP

ford jeep 2

1941-willys-jeep-4   Willys MB

1940-bantam-jeep-brc-1007-front-three-quarter Bantam BRC

The iconic Jeep did not begin life being called a Jeep, however. Ford initially called it the “GP”, which stood for government pygmy. Willys called theirs the “MB” for Model B, and Bantam called their example the BRC, which stood for Bantam Reconnaissance Car. The Jeep name came from the Ford version, of which some examples had GP painted on the side. Some soldiers turned the pronunciation of “GP” into “Jeep”. The name has stuck ever since, and the Jeep brand (although now owned by Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles and having very little in common) is still one of the most iconic American brands. Another interesting fact is that Willys is actually pronounced Will-is, not like Will-ees as so many people think.

Automakers made just more than Jeeps. A perfect example of how the automakers collaborated is with the manufacturing of the B-29 Superfortress. During manufacturing, “Dodge built the engines, Frigidaire Division of GMC built the propellers, Hudson built the rear fuselage assemblies, Fisher Body Division of GMC supplied the engine nacelles, the outer wing sections (Note on the different color of aluminum on the last third of the wing starting at the ailerons.  That is the section built by Fisher Body.) and the tail assembly while Chrysler built nose sections and wing leading edge and cowling assemblies” (usautoindustryworldwartwo.com). Teamwork was the key, and a rugged product had to be produced in a short period of time. Men’s lives were depending on it, and as a matter of fact, the entire world was depending on it.

World War 2 brought out teamwork that the automakers had not had before. They knew the best on how to manufacture war supplies quickly, efficiently, and how to make things that would withstand the war environment. Protecting the planet was not so much the concern, but protecting men’s lives was, so manufactures did what they had to do. Never fear though, because once the war was over, the automakers would return to their usual competition against each other, and they would use the new knowledge about machinery to make cars better than anyone has ever seen.

B-29-107w-15  B-29








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