Of those players in the field leading to the standardized war time jeep, Willys-Overland was the mid level company with a $50,000,000 capitalization. It also had been through financial difficulties and receiverships, had applied to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation for first-mortgage loans dating back to 1939.
Willys-Overland did not win the bid to build the first 70 pilot models. That contract went to American Bantam. It was awarded a contract for 1500 vehicles as where Bantam and Ford. The Willys-Overland net price was $949.41 per vehicle. (This compares with the net prices for the Ford ($925) and Bantam ($946.04). These pre-standardized jeeps were generally succussful, each vehicle exhibiting certain pluses and minuses. The Willys was favored for its’ 60hp engine among other attributes.
“The Willys pilot model arrived at Holabird on November 13. The official inspection report disclosed the total weight of the Willys jeep to be 2520 pounds — 1230 pounds in the front and 1290 pounds in the rear. The gross weight was still higher, totalling 3120 pounds, divided between the front and rear on a basis of 1285 and 1835 pounds, respectively. The gross weights were taken with a payload of 600 pounds including the driver.
Like any other pilot model submitted for test, the Willys jeep took quite a battering from the Holabird course. As an example of the extreme punishment to which pilot models were subjected, the frame of the Willys fractured after 5184 miles of operation; cylinders were badly worn after 5011 miles, and the entire engine was replaced by a used motor taken from a Willys Americar, which also failed after 1316 additional miles, the transfer case main shaft bearings failed; the steering pin mounted on the front axle went out after 1814 miles; spring failure was encountered throughout the test, and several other faults were noted. Willys…was notified through a copy of the report of the deficiencies in its model that would have to be corrected.
The notice to Willys instructing it to proceed with its contract (for 1500) was sent out by Holabird on February 8 and confirmed three days later by another letter.” – from The Jeep –It’s Development and Procurement Under the Quartermaster Corps, 1940-1942 by H. Rifkind, 1943.
A bid was issued for 16,000 jeeps that were to represent a standardized jeep for the US Army. Willys-Overland submitted the lowest bid.
Photos are from TM 10-1103 and the Army Hertiage and Education Center