Original U.S. WWII Willys MB Jeep Front Grille with Radiator Deflector & Headlight Arms with Housings
Original Item: One-of-a-kind. This is a lovely Stamped Steel WWII Production "9-slot" Grille from a Ford GPW "Jeep", with an intact radiator deflector on the interior. It also has the "arms" for the headlights, as well as the "bucket" housings for them. It is in very good shape, having been completely refinished at some point in the past.
The original design made by Willys for the MB had a 13 slot grill made from bent and welded steel slats, which was heavy and expensive to produce. When Ford tooled up for making the GPW, they went with the much improved 9 slot stamped steel type, which Willys then adopted as well. The grilles are more or less identical and interchangeable, however there are a few easy to recognize differences.
The first of these is a stamped "F" on the top of the radiator deflector, however this example was repainted at some point with period correct OD Green, so the F might have been covered. Another way to tell are the hinges on the headlight arms, which have tapered ends on a Ford, but square on a Willys. As this example has square ends, and there are no "F" markings on the bolts, this is almost certainly a Willys. They were however required to be pretty much interchangeable, so the grille should work with either. It weighs approximately 13lbs, and measures 39" x 18 1/2" x 8".
Condition is very good, considering the age and what it must have went through during its life. We can see that there was some surface rust at some point, however that was media blasted away before it was refinished. There may be some small cracks in the steel, very common after this long and also due to the stamping technology at the time. It does not have any of the electronics or other pieces remaining, and is just the grille itself with the headlight arms and buckets.
This might be just what you were looking for to fix up your WWII Jeep, or the perfect addition to the wall of your man cave, office, or a bar!
History of the Willys Jeep:
The Willys MB and the Ford GPW, both formally called the U.S. Army Truck, 1/4 ton, 4x4, Command Reconnaissance, commonly known as Jeep or jeep, and sometimes referred to as G503 are four-wheel drive military utility vehicles that were manufactured during World War II (from 1941 to 1945) to help mobilize the Allied forces.
The World War II jeep became the primary light wheeled vehicle of the United States Military and its WW II Allies, as well as the postwar period; becoming the world's first mass-produced 4-wheel drive car, manufactured in six-figure numbers. The jeep proved both exceptionally capable and versatile, and General George C. Marshall called the squared-off little vehicle “America’s greatest contribution to modern warfare.” After the war, it evolved into the civilian Jeep CJ models, and inspired both an entire category of recreational 4WDs and several generations of military light utility vehicles.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower in his jeep in the American sector during the liberation of Lower Normandy in the summer of 1944. The lieutenant general in the backseat could be Omar Bradley. Many sources claim that Eisenhower considered the jeep one of the Four Tools for Victory in World War II.
The design of the World War II jeep was the result of a long process, involving the contributions of both U.S. military officers and civilian engineers, the latter mostly tied to three companies: Bantam, Willys and Ford, and has repeatedly been called a design by committee. In fall 1941, Lt. E.P. Hogan of the U.S. Quartermaster Corps wrote: "Credit for the original design of the Army's truck 1⁄4-ton, 4x4, may not be claimed by any single individual or manufacturer. This vehicle is the result of much research and many tests." Hogan credited both military and civilian engineers, especially those working at the Holabird Quartermaster Depot.
Pre-war tests and conceptualization
Advances in early 20th-century technology resulted in widespread mechanisation of the military during World War I. The United States Army deployed four-wheel drive trucks in that war, like the Jeffery / Nash Quad, and trucks from the Four Wheel Drive Auto Company (FWD). Immediately after World War I, its use of motor vehicles was considered only a prelude of much greater application in future armed conflicts — as early as 1919, the US Quartermaster Corps recommended the acquisition of a new kind of military vehicle, "..of light weight and compact size, with a low silhouette and high ground clearance, and possess the ability to carry weapons and men over all sorts of rough terrain." For years the U.S. Army started looking for a small vehicle suited for reconnaissance and messaging; while at the same time searching a light cross-country weapons carrier.
At the same time, a great need for standardization was felt. By the end of World War I, the U.S. forces overseas had a total of 216 makes and models of motor vehicles, both foreign and domestic, to operate and no good supply system to keep them running.
Various light motor vehicles were tried. At first motorcycles with and without sidecars, and some modified Ford Model Ts. In the early 1930s, the U.S. Army experimented with a bantam weight "midget truck" for scouts and raiders — a 1050 lbs, low-built car with a compact pick-up body was shown in a 1933 article in Popular Mechanics Magazine. After 1935, when U.S. Congress declared World War I vehicles obsolete, procurement for "remotorization of the Army" gained more traction. In 1937 Marmon-Herrington presented five 4×4 Fords, and American Bantam delivered three Austin roadsters in 1938.
By 1939 the army began standardizing its general-purpose trucks' chassis types by payload rating, initially in five classes from ½-ton to 7½-ton. But in 1940 the categories were revised. For the first time, a quarter-ton truck chassis class was introduced, at the bottom of the range, and the ½-ton category was supplanted by a ¾-ton chassis.
By the eve of World War II the United States Department of War had determined it needed a 1⁄4-ton, cross-country reconnaissance vehicle. Anxious to have one in time for America's entry into World War II, the U.S. Army solicited proposals from domestic automobile manufacturers. Recognizing the need to create standard specifications, the Army formalized its requirements on July 11, 1940, and submitted them to 135 U.S. automotive manufacturers.
Development – 1. Bantam Reconnaissance Car
By now the war was under way in Europe, so the Army's need was urgent and demanding: Bids were to be received by July 22, a span of just eleven days. Manufacturers were given 49 days to submit their first prototype and 75 days for completion of 70 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 in (191 cm) – that was later upped to 80 in (203 cm) – and track no more than 47 in (119 cm), feature a fold-down windshield, 660 lb (299 kg) payload and be powered by an engine capable of 85 lb⋅ft (115 N⋅m) of torque. The most daunting demand, however, was an empty weight of no more than 1,300 lb (590 kg).
Initially, only American Bantam and Willys-Overland entered the competition – Ford joined later. Although Willys was the low bidder, Willys was penalized for requesting more time, and Bantam received the contract, as the only company committing to deliver a pilot model in 49 days and production examples in 75. Bantam solicited freelance Detroit designer Karl Probst, who turned down Bantam initially, but responded to an Army request and began work on July 17, 1940.
Probst laid out full design drawings for the Bantam prototype, known as the Bantam Reconnaissance Car or BRC, in just two days, and worked up a cost estimate the next day. Bantam's bid was submitted, complete with blueprints, on July 22. While much of the vehicle could be assembled from off-the-shelf automotive parts, custom four-wheel drivetrain components were contributed by Spicer. The hand-built prototype was completed in Butler, Pennsylvania, and driven to the Army vehicle test center at Camp Holabird, Maryland, and delivered on September 23, 1940. The vehicle met all the Army's criteria except engine torque. The Bantam pilot (later also dubbed the "Blitz Buggy" or "Old Number One") presented Army officials with the first of what eventually evolved into the World War II U.S. Army Jeeps: the Willys MB and Ford GPW.
Development – 2. Enter Willys and Ford
Since Bantam did not have the production capacity or fiscal stability to deliver on the scale needed by the War Department, the other two bidders, Ford and Willys, were encouraged to complete their own pilot models for testing. The contract for the new reconnaissance car was to be determined by trials. As testing of the Bantam prototype took place from September 27 to October 16, Ford and Willys technical representatives present at Holabird were given ample opportunity to study the vehicle's performance. Moreover, in order to expedite production, the War Department forwarded the Bantam blueprints to Ford and Willys, claiming the government owned the design. Bantam did not dispute this move due to its precarious financial situation. By November 1940, Ford and Willys each submitted prototypes to compete with the Bantam in the Army's trials. The pilot models, the Willys Quad and the Ford Pygmy, turned out very similar to each other and were joined in testing by Bantam's entry, now evolved into a Mark II called the BRC 60. By then the U.S. and its armed forces were already under such pressure that all three cars were declared acceptable and orders for 1,500 units per company were given for field testing. At this time it was acknowledged the original weight limit (which Bantam had ignored) was unrealistic, and it was raised to 2,160 lb (980 kg).
For these respective pre-production runs, each vehicle received revisions and a new name. Bantam's became the BRC 40. Production began on March 31, 1941, with a total of 2,605 built up to December 6. As the company could not meet the Army's demand for 75 Jeeps a day, production contracts were also awarded to Willys and to Ford.
After reducing the vehicle's weight by 240 pounds, Willys changed the designation to "MA" for "Military" model "A". The Fords went into production as "GP", with "G" for a "Government" type contract and "P" commonly used by Ford to designate any passenger car with a wheelbase of 80 in (203 cm).
Full production – Willys MB and Ford GPW
By July 1941, the War Department desired to standardize and decided to select a single manufacturer to supply them with the next order for 16,000 vehicles. Willys won the contract mostly due to its more powerful engine (the "Go Devil"), which soldiers raved about, and its lower cost and silhouette. The design features in the Bantam and Ford entries which represented an improvement over Willys's design were then incorporated into the Willys car, moving it from an "A" designation to "B", thus the "MB" nomenclature. Most notable was a flat wide hood, adapted from Ford GP.
By October 1941, it became apparent Willys-Overland could not keep up with the production demand and Ford was contracted to produce them as well – exactly according to Willys blueprints, drawings, specifications and patents. The Ford car was then designated GPW, with the "W" referring to the "Willys" licensed design. During World War II, Willys produced 363,000 Jeeps and Ford some 280,000. Approximately 51,000 were exported to the U.S.S.R. under the Lend-Lease program. Ford and Willys faithfully produced jeeps with fully interchangeable parts and components, in part facilitated by using components from common sources – frames from Midland Steel, wheels from Kelsey-Hayes, axles and transfer-cases from Spicer, for instance.
On 7 April 1942, U.S. patent no. 2278450 for the WW II jeep, titled "Military vehicle body" was awarded to the U.S. Army, which had applied for it, listing Colonel Byron Q. Jones as the inventor on the patent, though he performed no work on the design of the vehicle. Filed on 8 October 1941, stating in the application that "The invention described herein, if patented, may be manufactured and used by or for the Government for governmental purposes without the payment of any royalty thereon", the patent relates to a “small car vehicle body having convertible features whereby it is rendered particularly desirable for military purposes” and describes the purpose of the vehicle is to essentially create an automobile equivalent of a Swiss Army knife:
Initially, Ford and Willy's embossed their brand names in some of their jeeps' panels, like the rear – but the U.S. government forbade this in 1942.
"One of the principal objects of the invention is to provide a convertible small car body so arranged that a single vehicle may be interchangeably used as a cargo truck, personnel carrier, emergency ambulance, field beds, radio car, trench mortar unit, mobile anti-aircraft machine gun unit, or for other purposes."
A further roughly 13,000 amphibian jeeps were built by Ford under the name GPA (nicknamed "Seep" for Sea Jeep). Inspired by the larger DUKW, the vehicle was produced too quickly and proved to be too heavy, too unwieldy, and of insufficient freeboard. In spite of participating successfully in the Sicily landings in July 1943, most GPAs were routed to the U.S.S.R. under the Lend-Lease program. The Soviets were sufficiently pleased with its ability to cross rivers to develop their own version of it after the war, the GAZ-64.
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