Jeep builds WWII-themed Wrangler concept for 75th birthday [UPDATE]

Rugged concept highlights Jeep’s legendary history.

UPDATE: The commemorative 75th Anniversary Jeep Wrangler rolled down the assembly line in Toledo, Ohio today. With its roll bar, doors, and rear seat removed, it really does pay fitting tribute to the classic Willy military models of the past. The 419 area code stenciled on the bumper and date on the hood look period appropriate. Well done, Jeep.

It's difficult to pinpoint exactly when the Jeep Wrangler was born, but the automaker claims the legendary off-roader as we know it today was officially created in 1941. On July 15th of that year, the US Government awarded Willys-Overland with a contract to build the Willys MB, which quickly got the nickname "jeep". To commemorate its 75th anniversary, Jeep has created a WWII-themed Wrangler that pays homage to the Willys MB. The gorgeous concept most likely won't see the road, which is a shame as the rugged one-off yanks at the heartstrings of truck enthusiasts and historians alike.

Based on of the current Wrangler Sport, the olive-drab Wrangler 75th Salute concept imitates the original Willys MB to the tee. The concept has no B-pillars, no doors, no roll bars and honors the "function over form" styling of the original military vehicle. The concept rides on 16-inch steel wheels that are wrapped in 32-inch non-directional tires and features vintage-looking hood latches, steel front and rear bumpers with tow hooks, and low back canvas seats.

The Salute concept will be built on the same assembly line in Toledo, OH that has produced the Wrangler for decades. In addition to putting out an image of the concept, Jeep also touched on the rich history of the original Willys MB, which you can read below.

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In July 1940, the U.S. military informed automakers that it was looking for a "light reconnaissance vehicle" to replace the Army's motorcycle and modified Ford Model-T vehicles. The Army invited 135 manufacturers to bid on production and developed a lengthy specification list for the vehicle, including a 600-lb. load capacity, wheelbase less than 75 inches, height less than 36 inches, smooth-running engine from 3 to 50 miles per hour, rectangular-shaped body, four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case, fold-down windshield, three bucket seats, blackout and driving lights and a gross vehicle weight below 1,300 lbs.

At first, Willys-Overland and American Bantam Car Manufacturing Company were the only two companies answering the call. Soon, however, Ford Motor Company entered the picture, and competition began among the three over which company would receive the lucrative government contract.

Each company produced prototypes for testing in record time. The Army took possession of these vehicles in November 1940 at Camp Holabird, Maryland. Each of the three designs exceeded the Army's specification of 1,300 lbs., but the Army soon realized that limit was far too low and raised it for the next round of vehicles.

The Army issued the next round of contracts in March 1941. Bantam was to produce 1,500 Model 40 BRC vehicles, Ford would build 1,500 modified and improved GP Pygmies and Willys would build 1,500 Quads. Further testing and evaluation led to the Army's selection of the Willys vehicle as the standard.

With modifications and improvements, the Willys Quad became the MA, and later the MB. But the Army, and the world, came to know it as the Jeep. In 1941, the Willys MB began rolling off the assembly line straight into the heat of battle and the rest is history.

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