January 10, 1942 – Ford awarded WWII Jeep contract

Prior to the US entering WWII the U.S. Army contacted 135 companies and asked for prototypes of a four wheel drive reconnaissance car. Only two responded, American Bantam and Willys-Overland. After American Bantam delivered a working model for testing on September 21, 1941, the Army found it met all of their criteria, except for engine torque. The design was sent by the Army to Willys and Ford, along with a list of hopeful improvements. Following rigorous testing of the Bantam, Willys and Ford models, all which looked very similar and had a four wheel drive chassis from Spicer, the Willys MB design came ahead a winner and received a production contract. As the United States entered the war the Army knew it would need more vehicles than Willys could manufacture. To boost production of what would become known as the Jeep, Ford was awarded a contract to build copycat versions of the Willys design on this day in 1942. The contract required 15,000 Ford GPWs, or General Purpose Willys, to be built at a cost of $14,623,900, about $975 each. The Army believed American Bantam did not have the capacity to produce enough vehicles fast enough, but they were provided contracts for trailers. A Ford GPW jeep named “AL” belonging to Company A of the 50th Armored Infantry Battalion of the 6th Armored Division US (Super Sixth). Taken after disembarking Normandy Beach in June, 1944.Willys Jeep with a trailer that could have been produced by American Bantam. By Joe Ross, CC2.0 https://flic.kr/p/24VxVf https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode