Happy 70, Jeep!
Polistra and Happystar salute the Willys Jeep on its 70th birthday! (Can't find the exact start of production, but it would have been in Oct or Nov of 1941.)
Polistra is driving her Bantam, the mother of the Jeep. Bantam won the contract first with a prototype for the Army's all-purpose vehicle based on the Bantam chassis. Willys contributed the engine and other modifications, and ended up building most of the Jeeps in WW2.A current news story
really justifies this celebration. Chrysler is on the road to recovery now, thanks to great demand for Jeep products. They're adding 1100 jobs to the Willys factory in Toledo, where Jeeps have always been produced.
Jeep has been a preserver
since its birth. It kept many soldiers alive in WW2; kept Willys alive from 1941 to 1953; kept Kaiser Motors alive from 1953 to 1970; kept AMC alive from 1970 to 1987; and now it's keeping Chrysler alive.
In a more subtle sense Toledo has preserved some simple automotive virtues during the periods when Detroit lost its way. Detroit forgot how to make small cars several times; got detoured from floor shift into column shift, which was a bad idea; forgot 4-cylinder engines for a long time. Willys kept those categories running steadily until Detroit returned to its senses. Specifically, the Willys plant in Toledo has been building small 4-cylinder cars without a break
since 1933. Other major automakers abandoned fours during '33 and finally returned (hesitantly and grudgingly) in 1961.
A less important but equally continuous element: the vertical-slot grille. Represented a Jeep in 1941 and still does today, without any pauses. Certainly the longest-lasting 'styling cue' in American autos, one of the longest in all of industry. Only the Mercedes three-point star is older.