.: Tony McGoldrick's Tamiya 1/25th Willys Jeep

Even though the world had seen wide-spread mechanisation of the military during World War I, and the US Army had already used 4x4 trucks in it, supplied by the Four Wheel Drive Auto Co. (FWD), by the time World War II was dawning, the United States Department of War were still seeking a standardized light cross-country and reconnaissance vehicle. As tensions were heightening around the world in the late Thirties, the US Army put the word out to American automobile manufacturers to come up with suggestions to replace its existing, aging light motor vehicles, mostly motorcycles and sidecars but also some Ford Model T's. This resulted in several prototypes being presented to army officials, like five Marmon-Herrington 4x4 Fords in 1937, and three Austin roadsters by American Bantam in 1938 (Fowler, 1993). However, the US Army's requirements were not formalised until July 11, 1940, when 135 U.S. automotive manufacturers were approached to submit a design conforming to their specifications, for a vehicle the World War II training manual TM 9-803 described as "... a general purpose, personnel, or cargo carrier especially adaptable for reconnaissance or command, and designated as 1/4-ton 4x4 Truck."

By now the war was underway in Europe so the rush was on and the Army's tender was quite demanding. Company's bids were to be received by July 22 (just eleven days later). They were given 49 days to submit their first prototype, and 75 days for completion of 70 required test vehicles. The Army's Ordnance Technical Committee specifications were equally demanding: the vehicle would be four-wheel drive, have a crew of three, on a wheelbase of no more than 75 (later 80) inches and tracks no more than 47 inches, a fold-down windshield, 660 lb payload and be powered by an engine capable of 85 ft·lbf (115 N·m) of torque. The most daunting demand however was an empty weight of no more than 1300 lb (590 kg).

Only three companies entered: American Bantam Car Company, Ford Motor Company and Willys-Overland Motors. Though Willys-Overland was the low bidder, Bantam received the bid, being the only company committing to deliver a pilot model in 49 days and production examples in 75. Under the leadership of designer Karl Probst, Bantam built their first prototype, dubbed the Blitz Buggy (and in retrospect "Old Number One"), and delivered it to the Army vehicle test center at Camp Holabird, Maryland on September 23, 1940. This presented Army officials with the first of what would eventually evolve into the World War II US Army Jeeps: the Willys MB and Ford GPW.

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