The Mighty Jeep

PrintPrintEmailEmail

The wartime performance of the jeep had naturally stimulated interest in its potential postwar uses. Before the fighting was over the Department of Agriculture had already begun publicizing alluring jeep solutions to farm labor problems. The Agriculture people had concluded that the jeep could plow, harrow, or disc; plant corn or cotton, all on one gallon of gas to the acre—claims that were later far exceeded in practice. As a result, civilian desire to own a jeep was widespread by the time the first combat-weary vehicles were put on the market in November, 1943.

These original jeeps have gone on performing. From time to time the Egyptian Army has dug up a jeep from the desert sands where it had been buried ten years or more, but nonetheless has quickly put it in combat condition. Only a short time ago a sergeant in the 37th Infantry motor pool in Aschaftenburg, Germany, traced a low-number engine in one of his jeeps back to the North African campaign fifteen years earlier. The body had only been through the Korean war and was therefore practically brand new.

The day of the jeep is still not over. Today it is faster and more powerful than ever. About 100,000 a year are produced in the U.S.A. alone, and they may be found nearly anywhere. The United Nations Children’s Fund, for example, has put about 2,500 in service on lour continents. During the international Geophysical Year jeeps operated successfully in Antarctica, the only wheeled vehicles in the Navy’s expedition. In India during the 1957 elections, the Nationalist party in one state where the outcome was doubtful scored a coup by cornering for its candidates all available jeeps. Jn Mexico on several haciendas where animals are bred for the bull ring, durable jeeps are used instead of perishable horses to test the fighting qualities of the young bulls.

But the jeep’s military outlook is not bright. U.S. Army orders have trickled away to nothing. For some years the Army had been after Ford to develop an improved quarter-ton four-by-four, and in June, 1959, production orders were finally issued. The new vehicle has already been nicknamed, with something less than inspiration, the Mutt—which stands for Military Utility Tactical Truck, it is undoubtedly more capable, more comfortable, and more admirable in many respects, but it isn’t the jeep—and those of us who loved that venerable vehicle will not be fooled, or comforted.