Jeep Salutes 75th Anniversary with Concept Wrangler

July 15, 2016

Fiat Chrysler (FCA) is marking the Jeep brand’s 75th anniversary with a commemorative, one-of-a-kind Wrangler 75th Salute concept vehicle. The Salute concept rolled off the assembly line on July 15, the same day in 1941 that Willys-Overland Motor Co. was awarded the U.S. government contract to build the first Willys MB.

The “function over form” of the original Jeep military service vehicles is evident in the concept vehicle, according to FCA. The Wrangler 75th Salute concept-a modern interpretation of the Willys MB-is based on a two-door Wrangler Sport and highlights rugged functionality with heritage design cues, including the absence of B-pillars and doors. The exterior features an olive-drab color scheme that was first seen on military vehicles 75 years ago and is present throughout the concept.

Features echoing the original military Jeep vehicles include 16-inch steel wheels wrapped in 32-inch military non-directional tires, hood latches, a rear-mounted spare tire, steel front and rear bumpers with tow hooks and low back canvas seats. Other features include custom wood hood blocks and side mirrors, as well as bronze commemorative fender badges.

The Jeep Wrangler 75th Salute concept vehicle was built on the same assembly line that has produced the Wrangler in Toledo, Ohio, for decades, and is powered by a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine and mated to a six-speed manual transmission.

Jeep Military History 

In July 1940, the U.S. military informed automakers that it was looking for a light reconnaissance vehicle to replace the Army’s motorcycle and modified Ford Model-T vehicles. The Army invited 135 manufacturers to bid on production and developed a lengthy specification list for the vehicle, including a 600-pound load capacity, wheelbase less than 75 inches, height less than 36 inches, smooth-running engine from 3 to 50 miles per hour, rectangular-shaped body, four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case, fold-down windshield, three bucket seats, blackout and driving lights and a gross vehicle weight below 1,300 pounds.

At first, Willys-Overland and American Bantam Car Manufacturing Co. were the only two companies answering the call. Soon, however, Ford Motor Co. entered the picture and competition began among the three over which company would receive the lucrative government contract, according to FCA.

Each company produced prototypes for testing in record time. The Army took possession of these vehicles in November 1940 at Camp Holabird, Maryland. Each of the three designs exceeded the Army’s specification of 1,300 pounds, but the Army soon realized that limit was far too low and raised it for the next round of vehicles.

The Army issued the next round of contracts in March 1941. Bantam was to produce 1,500 Model 40 BRC vehicles, Ford would build 1,500 modified and improved GP Pygmies and Willys would build 1,500 Quads. Further testing and evaluation led to the Army’s selection of the Willys vehicle as the standard.

With modifications and improvements, the Willys Quad became the MA, and later the MB. But the Army, and the world, came to know it as the Jeep. In 1941, the Willys MB began rolling off the assembly line straight into the heat of battle.

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