Willys-Overland MB Jeep put to the test: the mother of all SUVs

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The mother of all SUVs drives so well

Willys-Overland MB Jeep put to the test: the mother of all SUVs-jeeps flooded Europe stayed there

From 20 km / h a storm blows in an open car, from 50 km / h it becomes a hurricane: Willys MB Jeep

Source: Marc Frauendorf

Modern SUVs are big, tall and heavy. But most of all, they are comfortable and convenient. That was very different 75 years ago. Out and about in the first light off-road vehicle – the Willys-Overland MB "Jeep".

D.he steering wheel: thin as a little finger. The seats: as hard as a window sill. For the clutch, the driver needs the calves of a Chris Froome. No sensible heating system warms you in winter, and no air conditioning system cools you in summer. This car doesn’t even have doors or seatbelts.

In return, however, a foldable windshield and brackets for a spade, ax and a rifle. Naked, raw and honest. But above all indestructible. The ideal car for the war. But this car does not stand for violence, but for freedom and democracy.

The Willys-Overland MB, better known as Jeep, first burrowed through the mud in July 1941. Three-speed gearbox, 2.2-liter four-cylinder with 61 hp and selectable all-wheel drive had to be enough to win the war against Nazi Germany. You were enough.

Willys-Overland MB Jeep put to the test: the mother of all SUVs-test

Anyone who drives the Willys MB Jeep has to be prepared for simplicity

Source: Marc Frauendorf

The jeep fought its way through muddy and bombed streets, chauffeuring officers to the front. For four years he supported the soldiers not only in Europe, found many friends and fans – and on the side founded a new, civilian vehicle type: that of the comfortable and comfortable SUVs.

It all started rather martially 75 years ago. Willys-Overland received an order from the US government to build a light, inexpensive, all-wheel drive military vehicle. In total, Willys-Overland and Ford produced around 630,000 vehicles with the name Willys MB from July 1941.

But the off-road vehicle, which was only 3.30 meters long, was quickly given the nickname Jeep. Where it comes from cannot be fully reconstructed today. The most likely explanation: Army contracts were called the Government Project, abbreviated GP, pronounced Ji-Pie.

The concept was ingeniously simple

From this, in the course of development, the engineers at Willys-Overland gave rise to the name Jeep (Dschieep). When asked about the name of the car, a test driver of a journalist is said to have simply answered: "This is a Jeep".

The name and concept prevailed. Because that was ingeniously simple, consisted of a robust motor and switchable all-wheel drive. A novelty in the class at the time. The Wehrmacht’s VW Type 82 "bucket" only drove the rear wheels. The 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine of the Jeep was significantly more powerful with 61 hp and still drives the off-road vehicle up to a top speed of 70 km / h.

Willys-Overland MB Jeep put to the test: the mother of all SUVs-suvs

The Jeep‘s 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine drives the off-road vehicle up to a top speed of 70 km / h

Source: Marc Frauendorf

But from 20 km / h a storm blows in an open car, from 50 km / h it becomes a hurricane. The deflected steering with great play requires a lot of work, the steering wheel has to be constantly corrected. Work that is fun, however. At least when it’s warm and the sun is shining. In rain or snow it becomes more of a torture.

In addition to the simple engine, there was a short and light body and no, absolutely no luxury. The roof, doors and side windows were missing, as was a functioning heating system. What didn’t exist couldn’t break.

The first vehicles only had to last three months – the US strategists didn’t give the war material a chance in Germany any longer. Correspondingly many quirks were carried around by older vehicles and often had to be repaired. First the successor model CJ5 was also sold as a civilian vehicle from 1955, even until 1983.

Today Jeep stands less for military vehicles, soldiers rather rely on Humvee or the successor Oshkosh JLTV. For this, the Americans perfected the former drivable minimalism into lavishly equipped and comfortable off-road vehicles and SUVs.

Willys-Overland MB Jeep put to the test: the mother of all SUVs-willys-overland

The first vehicles only had to last three months – they were intended for use in war

Source: Marc Frauendorf

Instead of a manual three-speed gearbox, machines with eight stages shift today; instead of four-cylinder petrol there are large-volume six- and eight-cylinder engines and diesel engines. Bare sheet metal has been covered with wood, plastic or leather for decades.

SUVs no longer have anything in common with the Willys

And of course, passengers no longer sit on foiled wooden benches, but on thickly padded leather armchairs. The air conditioning is kept at a comfortable temperature, and mugs for cold drinks fit into the center console.

Instead of a map and a compass on your lap, the navigation system shows the direction. No, modern SUVs have nothing in common with the first Willys anymore, absolutely nothing. And yet, even in these vehicles, a feeling of freedom sets in after a few kilometers.

The V6 babbles casually to itself, the steering still requires a bit of correction, and thanks to the all-wheel drive system, you could go off-road at any time. To civil disobedience. If only you wanted to.

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