July 15, 1941 saw Willys-Overland land a U.S. government contract to supply the military with the small yet reliable Willys Jeep which saw heavy use during World War II. After more than 70 years, the utility vehicle lives on in the form of a 4x4 that is suited for both on- and off-road use.
In celebrating its 75th anniversary, Jeep recently revealed a one-off Wrangler that celebrates the marque’s military heritage. Called the Wrangler 75th Salute Concept, the unique 4x4 highlights the vehicle’s rugged capability.
Based off a current Wrangler Limited Sport, the concept vehicle takes styling cues from the Willys MB as it has no B-pillars and doors. In addition, it has steel bumpers that are fitted with tow hooks as standard. In further highlighting its military roots, it gets the same olive-drab paint, fender badges in a bronze hue, 16-inch steel wheels wrapped in 32-inch military non-directional tires, hood latches and the distinct rear-mounted spare tire.
Powering the unique 4x4 concept is the familiar 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that is mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox. No modifications were done on the engine as it still delivers 290 PS and 347 Nm of torque.
In review, the original Willys Jeep came to be after the U.S military announced to the automakers that they were looking for a ‘light reconnaissance vehicle’ that will replace the Army’s motorcycle and Ford Model-T vehicles back in 1940.
The military’s original specifications stated that it should have a gross weight of 590 kg, capable of carrying nearly 275 kg of gear, a 1,905mm wheelbase, a maximum height of 914mm, have a top speed of 80 km/h and be fitted with a fold-down windshield as such.
Out of a thousand entries, Willys-Overland's design was selected. After a few modifications and undergoing further military testing, the Willys-Jeep was ready for World War II and the rest was history.