Jeep Heritage Museum, USA

Jeep Heritage Museum usa

With a legacy dating back three-quarters of a century, the Jeep is one of the world’s most iconic vehicle platforms.

From the US government’s initial call for a four-wheel drive light personnel carrier in 1940 to pioneering the Rubicon Trail in the 1950s and setting the standard of 21st century off-road capability, the seven-slot grille has a place, not only in the hearts of Americans, but with backcountry enthusiasts the world over.

First drive: Jeep Wrangler JL

During the recent recession when the brand was struggling financially, it closed its museum and, unfortunately, liquidated its inventory. It was an economic necessity at the time, but gone was one of the most comprehensive Jeep collections on the planet.

All is not lost: a few years ago the guys at Omix-ADA (Rugged Ridge/Alloy USA) began acquiring rare models with a plan to create a museum of their own. During the past decade they scoured the World Wide Web in search of well-preserved models ranging from prototype Ford GPs and Willys MAs, to CJ-7s and Jeepsters.

Prior to the passing of Jeeping legend Mark A. Smith, they purchased much of his collection with the promise that the fleet would stay together, have a permanent home, and be shared with the public. If restoration was required, they approached each undertaking with an end in mind: to bring it back to near-assembly-line condition.

Fortunately, the Omix-ADA warehouse is stacked to its 50-foot ceiling with thousands of new and old stock parts. Need an OE 1946 Willys 2A hood or XJ body panel? No worries, it’s probably in stock.

We took a tour of their 250,000-square-foot facility and were beside ourselves with the number of vintage OE parts they carry. As with all articles of antiquity, classic Jeeps should be shared with future generations. Upholding their promise to Mark, and feeding their passion for the seven-slot grille, the collection was assembled and given a dedicated portion of their building.

I recently joined Dave Logan, Omix-ADA’s sales training manager and Jeep aficionado, in Suwanee, Georgia, for a comprehensive tour of the museum. Here are some of my favourites.

MILITARY MODELS

1941 BANTAM BRC 
Bantam Motors was the first manufacturer in the running for what would be a very lucrative US Government contract. It won the bid for its Blitz prototype, but lacked the production capacity and financial liquidity required to support the needs of the government.

Bantam’s initial design was shared with Willys Overland and Ford, who went to task to not only replicate but improve upon the design. Bantam produced several thousand BRCs for the Lend-Lease program, supporting the allied forces in Europe prior to the US entering the war.

Number built: 2605 (estimate)
Engine: Continental BY4112 4-cylinder
Output: 45hp, 86lb-ft torque
Transmission: T84D 3-speed manual
Transfer case: Spicer 18
Axles (front, rear): Spicer 40, Spicer 40
Wheelbase: 79 inches
Length: 127.25 inches
Weight: 2100 pounds

1941 FORD GP
Ford also answered the call for a ¼-tonne all-wheel drive. Its offering was the GP. It was not selected, but some of its features made their way to the final production model. It included a Ford truck instrument cluster and pintle tow hitch, and it could be started with a hand crank.

Number built: 1500 (estimate)
Engine: Fordson N 4.4-litre 4-cylinder
Output: 45hp, 84lb-ft torque
Transmission: Ford GP-7000
Transfer case: Spicer 18
Axles (front, rear): Spicer 25, Spicer 23-2
Wheelbase: 80 inches
Length: 127.85 inches
Weight: 2150 pounds

1941 WILLYS MA
The Willys MA, which was preceded by the prototype Quad, became the primary light personnel carrier during WWII. It’s said the Go Devil engine, which produced 33 per cent more horsepower than Ford and Bantam’s offerings, was the primary reason Willys was awarded the contract. By the end of the war more than 350,000 MBs (MA’s successor) had been built.

Number built: 1555 (estimate)
Engine: Go Devil 2.2-litre 4-cylinder
Output: 60hp, 105lb-ft torque
Transmission: T84J 3-speed manual
Transfer case: Spicer 18
Axles (front, rear): Spicer 25, Spicer 23
Wheelbase: 80 inches
Length: 132.75 inches
Weight: 2315 pounds

1942 WILLYS MB
It’s said World War II could not have been won without the Willys Jeep. The MB followed the prototype MA and served in all theatres of the war including Europe, the Pacific and North Africa. It would eventually be fitted with small machine guns as a long-range desert reconnaissance vehicle, and it would even be fitted with a propeller and converted to an amphibian.

Production years: 1941-45 
Number built: 
361,399
Engine: Go Devil 2.2-litre 4-cylinder
Output: 60hp, 105lb-ft torque
Transmission: T84J 3-speed manual 
Transfer case: Spicer 18
Axles (front, rear): Spicer 25, Spicer 23
Wheelbase: 80 inches
Length: 132.75 inches
Weight: 2315 pounds

1943 FORD GPA AMPHIBIOUS 
The Ford GPA Amphibious was a marvelous idea that simply didn’t work. Based on the GPW chassis, it was encapsulated with a steel hull so it would float, given a PTO-driven propeller and rudder out back so it would move, and be called a boat.

Unfortunately, thousands of young soldiers piled into GPAs with rucksacks, arms, and ammunition only to find the vessel could barely stay afloat. It sat low in the water, and anything more than light water would flood the cockpit and send it to the bottom of the sea – which is where most GPAs found a final resting place. This rare example was part of Mark A. Smith’s collection.

Number built: 12,778
Engine: Go Devil 2.2-litre 4-cylinder
Output: 60hp, 105lb-ft torque
Transmission: GPW 7000 3-speed manual
Transfer case: GPW 7700
Axles (front, rear): FPW 4001, GPW3001
Wheelbase: 84 inches
Length: 181.8 inches
Weight: 3400 pounds

1944 FORD GP “SAS”
During World War II, Ford built the GPW under license by Willys Overland. Specifications were technically the same, allowing for interchangeability of parts in the field. Specific for the campaign in North Africa, vehicles were stripped of all non-essential parts to allow them to carry additional fuel, water and ammunition.

Known as the Long Range Desert Group, which was made up of New Zealanders, members of the British SAS (Special Air Services) and volunteers from Southern Rhodesia, they performed deep-penetration reconnaissance missions and monitored enemy transport caravans. On occasion, they would slip into an Axis airfield under the cloak of darkness and set the crosshairs of their Browning and Vickers machine guns on parked enemy aircraft, wreaking havoc and disabling or destroying dozens of planes.

Production years: 1941-45 
Number built: 
278,000
Engine: Go Devil 2.2-litre 4-cylinder
Output: 60hp, 105lb-ft torque
Transmission: GPW 7000 3-speed manual
Transfer case: GPW 7700
Axles (front, rear): GPW 4001, GPW 3001
Wheelbase: 80 inches
Length: 132.75 inches
Weight: 2315 pounds

1951 WILLYS M38
The M38 entered the scene in 1950 with the build-up for the Korean War. Considered a light tactical vehicle (based on the CJ-2A), it included a pintle tow hitch, one-piece windshield, larger tyres, 24-volt electrical system, and more durable suspension and frame.

Production years: 1950-52
Number built: 
45,473
Engine: Go Devil 2.2-litre 4-cylinder
Output: 60hp, 105lb-ft torque
Transmission: T90
Transfer case: Spicer 18
Axles (front, rear): Spicer 25, Spicer 44
Wheelbase: 80 inches
Length: 133 inches
Weight: 2750 pounds

1952 WILLYS M38-A1
THE M38-A1 was the first Jeep to have rounded fenders and hood. It was designed for military use and served as the standard light personnel transporter through the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Production years: 1952-71
Number built: 
101,488
Engine: Hurricane F-head 4-cylinder
Output: 72hp, 114lb-ft torque
Transmission: T90 3-speed manual
Transfer case: Spicer 18
Axles (front, rear): Spicer 25, Spicer 44
Wheelbase: 81 inches
Length: 138.5 inches
Weight: 2660 pounds

CIVILIAN MODELS

1946 WILLYS CJ-2A
Following WWII the American public, ready for some rest and relaxation after years of war, embraced the Willys for its ability to access backcountry camp, fishing and hunting spots. It was light, capable and became synonymous with overland travel.

As greater America realised the utility of the Jeep as a farming tool, dozens of implements were designed, attached and run off a PTO from the transfer case.

This well-preserved example includes a Ramsey winch, Westinghouse PT-1 air compressor, 200amp welder, side-arm mower, Canfield tow boom, Newgren buzz saw, and a Novi governor to adjust engine and PTO speed. It also featured Canfield overload springs and dual wheels fore and aft. It is a rare sighting in the Jeep world.

Production years: 1945-49
Number built: 
214,760
Engine: Go Devil 2.2-litre 4-cylinder
Output: 63hp, 105lb-ft torque
Transmission: T90 manual
Transfer case: Spicer 18
Axles (front, rear): Spicer 25, Spicer 41
Wheelbase: 80 inches
Length: 122.75 inches
Weight: 2137 pounds

1947 WILLYS CJ-2A FIRE TRUCK
THE Howe Fire Apparatus and Boyer Fire Apparatus companies converted a small number of Willys CJ-2As into fire trucks. With four-wheel drive and a diminutive size, the 2A could access wildland fires in terrain that thwarted conventional fire trucks of the day. This example (a Boyer conversion) was part of Mark Smith’s collection in Georgetown, California.

Production years: 1945-49
Number built: 
Unknown
Engine: Go Devil 2.2-litre 4-cylinder
Output: 63hp, 105lb-ft torque
Transmission: T90 3-speed manual
Transfer case: Spicer 18
Axles (front, rear): Spicer 25, Spicer 41
Wheelbase: 80 inches
Length: 122.75 inches
Weight: Unknown

1949 WILLYS VJ JEEPSTER

In an attempt to attract a younger demographic, Willys Overland developed the sporty VJ Jeepster convertible sedan. Early versions were equipped with the standard Go Devil engine, but in 1950 the company offered the Hurricane F-134 and Lightning L161. It was only available in two-wheel drive and did not gain traction (pun intended) with the general buyer. The VJ was phased out in 1951.

Production years: 1948-51
Engine: Lighting 148-cubic inch 4-cylinder
Output: 70hp, 118lb-ft torque
Transmission: T96
Axles (front, rear): Dana 23
Wheelbase: 104 inches
Length: 174.8 inches
Weight: 2392 pounds

1959 FC-150
The FC, or Forward Control, is a bit of a unicorn in the Jeep World, in that the cab sits directly over the motor and the motor sits between driver and passenger. There were numerous versions offered (FC-170, FC-180, FC-180 DRW and so on) but, for various uses, the common denominator was that they all had a utility bed out back.

The much-loved FC was put into service as farm trucks, tour buses and even motorhome conversions. Driving one is like operating a school bus, but you’ll receive loads of looks, smiles and raised thumbs.

Manufacturer: Willys Motors, Kaiser Jeep
Production years:
 1957-65
Number built: 
16,251
Engine: Hurricane 134-cubic inch 4-cylinder
Output: 75hp, 114lb-ft torque
Transmission: T90 3-speed manual
Transfer case: Dana 18
Axles (front, rear): Dana 25, Dana 44
Wheelbase: 81 inches (this vehicle)
Length: 147.5 inches
Weight: 3273 pounds

1960 WILLYS DJ-3A SURREY
With a frilly ragtop, side-steps and pinstriped seats, the Surrey was ready for mint juleps and leisurely drives on a Sunday afternoon. It was designed with the hotel and resort client in mind, trotting guests from the hunting lodge to sundowners by the lake. As such, many were shipped to Hawaii and the Caribbean for the aforementioned high rollers and use as rental cars.

Production years: 1959-64
Number built: 
1100
Engine: Go Devil 2.2-litre 4-cylinder
Output: 63hp, 105lb-ft torque
Transmission: T90 3-speed manual
Axles (front, rear): Dana 27
Wheelbase: 80 inches
Length: 136 inches
Weight: 1819 pounds

1964 CJ-5
The CJ-5 was essentially the civilian version of the M38 A1 military Jeep. With a 29-year tenure, it claimed the longest production of any vehicle. It was available with a variety of engines, transmissions, transfer cases and axles, as well as in models such as the Renegade, Golden Eagle, Tuxedo Park and Super Jeep.

Manufacturer: Willys Motors, Kaiser Jeep, AMC
Production years:
 
1954-83
Engine: 
Hurricane 134-cubic inch 4-cylinder
Output: 
75hp, 114lb-ft torque
Transmission: 
T90 3-speed manual (this vehicle)
Transfer case: 
Dana 18
Axles (front, rear): 
Dana 25, Dana 44
Wheelbase: 
81 inches
Length: 
135.5 inches
Weight: 
2469 pounds

1966 WAGONEER
The SJ Wagoneer, successor to the Willys Wagon, appeared in 1963 and was the first luxury four-wheel drive wagon, or SUV, offered by the company. During its two-decade production run it was fitted with everything from the Tornado inline six-cylinder to a 401 cubic-inch V8.

A manual transmission was available in some models, but more common was the Turbo-hydramatic 400 and Torqueflite 727 automatic. This particular vehicle was purchased from the second owner with only 17,830 original miles.

Manufacturer: Kaiser Jeep
Production years:
 1963-83
Number built: 
Unknown
Engine: Vigilante 327-cubic inch V8
Output: 250hp, 340 lb-ft torque
Transmission: THM400 3-speed automatic
Transfer case: Dana 20
Axles (front, rear): Dana 27A, Dana 44
Wheelbase: 110 inches
Length: 183.7 inches
Weight: 4514 pounds

1967 CJ-6
The “6” was the long-wheelbase version of the CJ-5 (adding approximately 20 inches). The US Forest Service and foreign enthusiasts gravitated toward the CJ-6 more than domestic buyers. This example, which is in stellar condition, was used as a volunteer ambulance in Troy, Michigan. It has the original tyres, an optional Ramsey PTO winch, and the odometer reads a scant 14,000 miles.

Manufacturer: Kaiser Jeep
Production years:
 1955-75
Number built: 
50,172
Engine: Hurricane
Output: 75hp, 114lb-ft torque
Transmission: 
T90C 3-speed manual
Transfer case: Spicer 18
Axles (front, rear): 
Spicer 25, Dana 44
Wheelbase: 
101 inches
Length: 
155.5 inches
Weight: 
2431 pounds

1971 “HURST EDITION” COMMANDO
With the muscle-car generation’s foot firmly on the skinny peddle, and Commander sales falling off, AMC joined forces with Hurst Performance Products to inject some adrenaline into the Jeeping world. The Hurst Edition features a custom hood scoop (yes, designed with a swale in the middle) and GTO-style tachometer, Dual Gate shifter, custom Goodyear tyres, roof-top luggage rack, and a stylish (for the day) graphics package. The example here is one of only 100 built.

Production years: 1966-71
Number built: 
57,350
Engine: Dauntless 225-cubic inch V6
Output: 160hp, 235 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 
THM 400 3-speed automatic
Transfer case: Spicer 20
Axles (front, rear): 
Spicer 27, Spicer 44
Wheelbase: 
101 inches
Length: 
168.4 inches
Weight: 
2966 pounds

1973 CJ-5 “SUPER JEEP”
The Super Jeep, offered in 1973, was the result of a shortage of the classic 70s-style aluminium slot mag wheels needed for Renegade models. It featured a groovy graphics package, white soft top and custom upholstery. Only 300 were built.

Manufacturer: AMC
Production years:
 
1955-83
Number built: 
300
Output: 
125-150 hp, 220-245 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 
T15
Transfer case: 
Dana 20
Axles (front, rear): 
Dana 30, Dana 44
Wheelbase: 
83.5 inches
Length: 
138.9 inches
Weight:
 2469 pounds

1983 CJ-8 “SCRAMBLER”
The CJ-8 was technically a stretched CJ-7. It featured a removable half cab and a short pick-up bed out back. The Scrambler designation was derived from a model that included a graphics and wheel package. In South America it was sold as the CJ-8 Overlander, which included a full-length hard top.

Manufacturer: AMC
Production years: 1981-86
Number built: 27,792
Output: 115 hp, 201 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 4 or 5-speed manual, 3-speed automatic
Transfer case: Dana 300
Axles (front, rear): Dana 30, AMC 20
Wheelbase: 103.5 inches
Length: 177.3 inches
Weight: 2650 pounds

Get the latest info on all things 4X4 Australia by signing up to our newsletter.