Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Forward Control Across The Web

The Forward Control was an idea that really has it admirers, but despite the love for it, it wasn’t one of Jeep’s most successful vehicles. It was introduced midway through 1956 for the following model year and only lasted until 1965. Nine years is a short life span for many of the jeep’s cousins. The FC had a mystique and sort of big ugly Saint Bernard charm. In its forward over operating setup the driver and passenger sat over the front axle. Its designer Brooks Stevens took styling cues from truck designs of the time and it had a lasting influence in the later design of the modern day minivan. 
The Forward Control began its humble life based upon a simple CJ-5 chassis, the T90 and F Head, but a year later gained a stretched cousin, the FC-170 and engineering improvements of its own. It was also available in fire engine, dump and tow bodies as well as with a pickup and stake bed that stretched the appeal of its useful design. It also saw short term use as a military vehicle as the M676, 677, 678 and 679. But as wide spread as the variants for the FC were, it never saw wide use or real acceptance.

Though its promise never fully came to fruition in the states, the FC achieved a more lasting influence overseas where it was produced under license by Mahindra in India and Viasa in Spain. It was also in Spain that a concept, the WideTrac FC saw the light of day. The WideTrac appears to have come about as a result of an design for the IVI (the International Vehicle Investigation program...) that looked for ideas for low-cost vehicles for third-world countries. I couldn’t find too much supporting info on the WideTrac, but it seems that it was designed at least in part once again by Brooks Stevens for Kaiser and produced by the Crown Coach Corporation that was in the  business of building buses. The WideTrac was built in 1960 with an all-aluminum body possibly for military consideration, but its pointed out that based on the looks of it in photos that it was strictly meant for civilian use. Who knows? And unfortunately, who knows where it may be or if it even still exists.

The WideTrac may have been influenced by the rendering on the top of a proposed FC facelift by Brooks Stevens. On the bottom, the WideTrac.

It was at about the same time that the Kaiser subsidiary VIASA (Vehiculos Industriales y Agricolas, S.A.) that produced jeeps under license in Spain started building the SV, a small cab forward van that was available in van, pickup and minibus configurations. The SV saw production lasting until 1980!
Stevens was also busy designing a van type concept of the FC which in 1958 incorporated a sleek and modern look. The picture below shows the 1958 Commuter in its natural environment that was identified as Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which was also near where Stevens called home. You can read and view alot more photos of it at the FC Connection here-

And so, the FC soldiered on until it was dropped from Kaiser’s lineup after the 1965 model year.

PS. Anyone have any info on this articulated FC? I have only come across this one photo of it, with no supporting info other than it is believed to be a 1959 FC.
Check out the full album here and come back next week for more from the rarely seen archives of jeep photos from across the internet!

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