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New Vanguard 117: Jeeps 1941-45

by Steven J Zaloga, illustrated by Hugh Johnson

Published by Osprey Publishing Ltd, ISBN 1-84176-888-X, 48 pages

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This is one we’ve all been waiting for, the story of the Jeep. The book begins with the US Army’s search for a lightweight motor vehicle in the early 1930s, at first for reconnaissance and messengers then later also as a carrier for men and weapons. Several intriguing prototypes were built in this period, none very successful, so in 1940 the Bantam Company’s light passenger cars were investigated as a possible solution. After tests the Army drew up specifications for a light vehicle with 4X4 drive and military features. The result was the first Jeep, the Bantam. Willys and Ford were also interested in the contract competition, and both produced prototypes that were tested alongside Bantam’s. The end result was a combination of desirable features from all three vehicles, though varying quite noticeably at first according to which maker built it. The differences are described here, allowing simple identification of the different early Jeeps - later ones are much harder to tell apart in photographs unless specific small details are visible.

The amphibious Jeep, the Seep, is here too together with other Jeep variants. These are not just the well-known ones with machine gun mounts or those with added armour, but include ultra-light Jeeps, rocket-firing Jeeps, tracked Jeeps, 6-wheeled Jeeps and even the flying Jeep or Rotabuggy with its autogyro rotor. In this short book there is not space to go into all of them fully, but the bones are here and there’s an excellent bibliography for those wanting further and more detailed accounts. There’s a good selection of photographs – even a Jeep with no body and a motorcycle engine built for the ultra-light requirement!

The colour plates are not so interesting, only three of the nine vehicle shown displaying their markings for modellers’ benefit, and those three including the Rotabuggy that would need detailed plans for a model project. Despite this the book is a great introduction to the subject of Jeeps with as already mentioned a very good rundown on their genesis, development and variations.


John Prigent

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