Classic Jeep

Own Piece of History: The $750,000 Willys


The original Willys was an amazing multi-purpose vehicle, but is it worth $750,000?The Willys is a truly iconic design that helped to win a war, but would you pay $750,000 for one?  How about a fully restored ’41 Willys that is documented to be a gift from Scotland to General Eisenhower after WWII?  Well the seller of this now notorious Ebay listed Willys is hoping someone is willing to put up the cash.

The History

The Willys has a storied past which takes many twists and turns to finally arrive at the Jeep Wrangler JK that is being produced today.  When the US Army was looking to replace their fleet of light motor vehicles which at the time were mostly motorcycles with sidecars, they sent out some requirements and gave companies just 49 days to submit a prototype.  The requirements were that the vehicle must be 4 wheel drive, have a crew of three, a wheelbase of 75 inches or less, track of 47 inches or less, a fold-down windshield, 660 lb payload and have an engine capable of 85 lb-ft of torque.  The vehicle could also weigh no more than 1,300 lbs empty.  American Bantam Car Company, Willy-Overland Motors and Ford Motor Company joined the competition to win the contract and while Willys was the lowest bidder, Bantam was the only one to produce a pilot model in the 49 days allowed.

EngineUltimately Bantam couldn’t keep with demand and was deemed to financially unstable so the Army asked Willys and Ford to produce pilots.  The government gave the the Bantam blueprints to Willys and Ford to speed the process along, claiming that they owned design.  All three vehicles were deemed worthy of use and 1,500 of each vehicle were produced for field testing.  By July of ’41 the War Department wanted a standard design and Willys won the contract to produce 16,000 vehicles mostly due to their more powerful “Go Devil” engine that the soldiers loved along with it’s lower cost and silhouette.  Willys then took any design attributes from the Ford and Bantam vehicles to produce what became known as the “MB”; which stood for ‘M’ilitary and model design ‘B’.  Finally in October of ’41 Willys wasn’t able to keep up with production demand and Ford was also contracted by the War Department to produce the “MB”, however it was designated the “GPW” from Ford.  ‘G’ for government, ‘P’ for their commonly used designation for passenger car, and ‘W’ referring to the Willys licensed design.  During WWII about 363,000 Willys and 280,00 Ford GPWs were produced.

Own Your Piece of History

This particular Willys has been part of a private collection for 40 years and has been completely restored to its original condition.  The pictures show that someone put a lot of time and money into the resto, but the price tag is more-so based on history.  In October of 1946 General Eisenhower was gifted lifetime use of an apartment in Culzean Castle along with this Willys as a thank you for his help and support to Scotland during the war.  The seller has a whole file of letters and pictures to substantiate the story but we’re still not sure it’s worth the asking price.  Then again it’s worth what someone is willing to pay for it, so we’ll see how this one ends when the auction is over.

Source: Wikipedia

Written by Andrew

"You're telling me it's got four wheels, two seats and goes faster than the speed limit? Good, I'm driving."

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