A Jeep in the backyard: playing around with WW2 history in London

MB would go on to become the military's standardised vehicle.

Fri 03 Mar 23


I remember, as a small boy growing up in London in the 1940s, I would play on a World War 2 Jeep in the front yard.

A six-year-old motoring critic?

The 1933 two-seater, three-wheeler Morgan Aero Sports.

My father, an RAF engineer discharged in 1944 with a ruptured ear drum, had somehow acquired a Jeep Willys MB. It remained at our Acton, west London, home, for quite a while before disappearing just as mysteriously as it appeared.

I learned that some of dad’s Airforce buddies would visit from time to time and one of them, it seems, left the Jeep behind … as a gift?

It was replaced just as promptly by a 1933 three-wheeler Morgan, complete with the iconic European ash wood frame.

The British motor company has been manufacturing quintessentially British vehicles at its Malvern factory in Worcestershire for more than 110 years, and still makes ash wood frames.

What price that Morgan now?

The memory of the Jeep returned when I collected the $115,000 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit for a test last week. So, a bit of history here.

In 1940, the US military asked 135 car manufacturers to submit proposals to design and build a new light reconnaissance vehicle. Willys-Overland was one of three companies to bid on the contract to develop a rectangular-shaped vehicle with four-wheel drive, a smooth engine, fold-down windshield, three bucket seats and wheelbase less than 75 in. (1900 mm).

The Morgan Motoring Co. still uses European ash wood for its car frames and has done so for more than 110 years.

This was the Quad which morphed into the MA and then MB with improvements to better meet the military’s lengthy requirement’s list. The MB would go on to beat the Bantam BRC and Ford Model GP to become the military’s standardised vehicle.

Interestingly, Jeep’s synonymous vertical slot grille was first grafted onto the front of the MB by Ford. The automaker was contracted to manufacture MBs to help keep up with military demands during World War 2. MB production surpassed 368,000 units by Willys-Overland, with Ford building another 277,000.

The principal activity of today’s Jeep brand owner Stellantis is the design, development, manufacture, and sale of cars bearing its 16 brands that includes Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroën, Dodge, Fiat, Lancia, Maserati, Opel, Peugeot and Vauxhall.


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