Sunday, August 18, 2013

Willys-Overland Industrial Equipment Book, Part Ten- A Short History Of The Winch

Today I want to present the final section of the 1952 Willys-Overland Industrial Equipment Binder. Its dedicated to the winches available in the day. There were two big ones in those years, Ramsey and the King Winch by Koenig Iron Works, the Houston based company best known for their hardtops. But while Ramsey and Koenig were the best known they were not the only names out there. There were companies by the names of Fairey, Link-Belt, Aeroparts, Braden and even Willys own winches. But these were not the familiar style of winches that we see on the front bumper of many a jeep today, but were capstan winches.
But let’s back up a bit. Winches have been around long before the jeep. In nautical history, the winch isn’t exactly a ‘winch,’ but instead a capstan and the first capstans were seen in use way back in the 4th century B.C. A capstan is a winch that has a drum mounted vertically and applies force on a rope or cable usually for sails on ships. The winch evolved from the nautical windlass, basically a winch as we know it, but man powered by a crank or a belt system rather than electricity to move a weight. The drum or fulcrum of the windlass was mounted in a horizontal fashion and from there we have the basic look of what we are familiar with as the winch today. While capstans are still found on sailing ships, the term ‘winch’ is now generally regarded as a mechanical device usually powered by electricity rather than by hand power.
Capstans were pretty simple, you just loosely wrapped the rope around the top bollard (the top post that turned via clutch driven power from the front crankshaft...) but it required the driver and possibly helpers to tug on the rope and the friction of the rope then increased and grasped the turning bollard. Capstan winches were found throughout WW2 and seemed to be a response to the jungle fighting in the Pacific theater where the little 1/4 tons were frequently bogged down in heavy mud.
As a helping hand, winches were pretty useful in getting a jeep unstuck, but along with a bit of ingenuity their uses were expanded. As this page from a 1959 Ramsey catalogue shows, their C7R capstan winches came in handy for a variety of tasks. Images courtesy the CJ3B Page.
Eventually the design of the capstan was replaced by a conventional style winch mounting the cable on a horizontal drum enabling the user to control the winch from inside the jeep as well as equipping the winch with more pull. These early winches that we see in the Equipment binder are controlled by a PTO set up that could sometimes be a bit complicated. With a long drive shaft that had to be routed either to the front or back from a power take off mounted on the transfer case to the winch itself there was plenty of driveshaft. Before they were replaced by the electric winch these were the common set up in the jeeping world and now are sought after by collectors and restorers. You still see a great deal of interesting combinations and winch mounting locations that gave you both front and rear as well as a bed mounted winch that could be used as a wrecker.
While there two listed in the binder in 1952, there are a whole slew of winch manufacturers today all battling for the lucrative recreational 4X4 market share. Ramsey is still out there after a beginning as a tool and die company that manufactured parts for Douglas Aircraft during the war. They designed the Model 101 in 1945 and renamed themselves as Ramsey Bothers Winch Co. two years later. Koenig and their King winches don’t exist any longer. At least not exactly. According to they yet exist as RKI due to a merger. Where was Warn in all this as they are now the world’s largest manufacturer of winches? Well, back when they were incredibly diversified and according to their company history they made everything from beer keg tops to aircraft parts, they began to sell Belleview winches made by Belleview Manufacturing starting in 1959. The Belleview’s design was later acquired by Warn and became the builder of the iconic Warn 8274. But in the early 1950’s they were primarily making the free wheeling hubs that started out this binder. Sort of ironic that they’ve gone from making the hubs showcased in the first few pages (and that are still made, but have nowhere as near a demand for as their winches) to having taken over the product that their closest competitors in the final pages were known for.
Thanks for hanging in there and I hope that you’ve enjoyed this piece of jeep history. I think that it shed a valuable light on the sheer versatility of the early days of the jeep. Kaiser inherited a very large and important piece of history when they acquired jeep from Willys-Overland. This binder dates from the final year of Willys ownership and the beginning of the stewardship by Kaiser. I think that Kaiser did a fine job in making the jeep as marketable as they possibly could in the beginning while helping to create a new ‘breed’ of 4X4 with the Wagoneer and early Cherokee models. Kaiser also brought the jeep out from the slightly stodgy 40’s with the 1960’s Buick oddfire 225 V6. They continued to allow the jeep to evolve from the 2A to the 3A, the 3B and the legend that is the CJ-5. They built the Forward Control models This transitionary phase is evinced by this binder and shows a peek at what is sure to come.
Come back next week for more from the legendary jeep! I hope to have some new t-shirt designs as well as a few other products in the Zazzle online store soon!

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