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With Germany’s successful defeat of militaries across continental Europe and England suffering from a savage bombing campaign, the United States Military knew that it would not be long before they would have to engage German forces to liberate their allies. To do this however, the United States needed to rebuild its military quickly and to provide the best possible mechanized support platforms to assist in their activities. The Roosevelt administration put out a call across the country for vehicle designs that were rugged, stable, and versatile, yet easy and quick to produce.
The American Bantam Company was a small car manufacturer in Pennsylvania that was competing for the contract, and with the deadline looming, they called upon the talents of an engineer and designer with decades of experience in automobile manufacturing, named Karl Probst. It is said that he completed his drafts of the vehicle in only 18 hours, and out of his drawings the jeep was born.
Unfortunately for American Bantam, the US military lacked confidence in their ability to mass-produce the vehicle and passed its designs onto Ford and Willys-Overland. They were allowed to make modifications, as they deemed fitting, and together produced over 600,000 jeeps. American Bantam produced only about 2,600 jeeps; most of those vehicles going to British reconnaissance units and Russian forces.
After the war, jeeps were kept in production for both military as well as civilian use and have evolved from those heady days to be a premier, off-road sport vehicle for the modern consumer.
About the Author: Lance Speck is the Vice President and General Manager of Pervasive Software, Inc., and an avid Jeep enthusiast.