75 years ago, Willys-Overland won the tender to build 18000 vehicles for the US Army after the USA entered WW2 subsequent to the attack on Pearl Harbour. The Jeep Wrangler was born. Those 18000 vehicles cost the taxpayers $749 per piece and cost a total of just over 13 million dollars. 75 years later, the production line in the Toledo plant, where Wrangler is built now unveiled a one of a kind Wrangler 75th Salute concept to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the original Willys MB military vehicle.
This year marks 75 years since the legendary WWII military vehicle went into production after Willys-Overland was awarded a contract from the US government to build the first Willys MB on July 15, 1941. It all started in July of 1940 when the US military invited 135 manufacturers to bid on the production of a light reconnaissance war rig that would replace the military’s motorcycles and Ford Model-T vehicles.
To get the vehicle it desired, the army developed a list of criteria: a 600lb load capacity; wheelbase less than 75 inches; height less than 36 inches; smooth-running engine that ranged from three to 50mph; rectangular body shape; four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case; fold-down windshield; three bucket seats; blackout and driving light; and a GVM of less than 1300lb. Only three manufacturers met the brief: Willys-Overland (which developed the Willys Quad), Bantam Car Manufacturing Company (Model 40 BRC) and the Ford Motor Company (GP Pygmy).
After testing and further evaluation, the Willys Quad (which became the MA and later the MB) was selected and started rolling into the battlefields when the US entered the war following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
The recently revealed Wrangler 75th Salute concept vehicle encompasses the rugged toughness and authenticity of the original Jeep military vehicles, with the omission of B-pillars and doors. The traditional olive-drab colour scheme evident 75 years ago also adorns the concept. Based on a two-door Jeep Wrangler Sport, the Salute concept features 16-inch steel wheels covered in 32-inch military non-directional tyres, hood latches, a rear-mounted spare, steel front and rear bumpers with tow hooks, and low-back canvas seats. Other features that pay homage to the original include custom wood hood blocks and side mirrors, and bronze commemorative fender badges.
It’s powered by a 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine, mated to a six-speed manual transmission.
The Salute concept was built in Toledo, Ohio, on the same assembly line that has produced the Wrangler for decades! “We are creating this unique Jeep Wrangler 75th Salute concept vehicle in celebration of the brand’s legendary history, and to demonstrate that, 75 years later, today’s iconic Jeep Wrangler is instantly recognisable and clearly connected to the original Willys MB,” said Mike Manley, head of Jeep Brand – FCA Global.
“Since they were first produced in 1941, Jeep vehicles have been the authentic benchmark for off-road capability, having mastered more terrain, led more adventures and provided drivers more freedom than any other vehicle before or since,” he said.
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