Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Jeep And Automobile Design At The MOMA- 1951

I’m sure that you’ve heard of the phrase that “form follows function” before. I’m a firm believer in it. The jeep is a perfect example of it. The form of the jeep was derived from the functions that it was necessary to provide for the US Army Quartermaster Corps. When the call went out for the vehicle that was to become the jeep in 1940 it was heeded by very few companies. Very few companies either had the engineering talent necessary to create something from scratch and/or they just didn’t need the contract. American Bantam Motor Car had both. They had Karl Probst, a freelance automotive engineer, who reportedly drafted the design in two days in June of 1940, along with Harold Crist, Chet Hemphling and Ralph Turner. But they also had the need. 
There has been alot written about Bantam’s solvency versus Willys-Overland and the overall strong points of both companies and frankly I don’t know what to believe. But the important point was that Bantam responded to the Army’s unrealistic 49 day time frame for a working and running prototype to be delivered to Camp Holabird, Maryland by September 1940. So while some say that the Army contract saved Bantam for a short while, it was more likely the other way around. Bantam saved the Army’s bacon and helped in a very key way to create a very necessary piece of war equipment. Bantam’s design was aped and copied by the final two manufacturers, Willys and Ford and it was this design that has influenced every jeep made since. From these beginning requirements that the military set down, the form was derived.

- The weight was not to exceed 1200 pounds (increased to 1275 lbs 1 July and then to 1308 lbs).
Carry six hundred pounds of payload in cross country operations.
- Wheelbase not to exceed 75 inches (increased to 80 inches 1 July).
- Height not to exceed 36 inches (increased to 40 inches 1 July).
  1. -Ground clearance of 6.25 inches at a minimum.
- Approach angle of 45° and departure angle of 40°.
- Four wheel drive with a two speed transfer case, geared for up to 50 mph on-road and down to 3 mph off-road.
- A mount for a .30 cal. machine gun.
- A rectangular body and folding windshield.
- Seating for three.
- Blackout lights.
From this humble beginning the jeep was born. And if you’re like me as I’m sure that you are, you appreciate the jeep’s relatively simple boxy design. But it turns out that not only the jeep’s normal fans that were impressed by the little jeep. In 1951, the Museum of Modern Art in NYC decided to hold a series of exhibits that showcased examples of what they considered timeless examples of automotive design. It was the first real example of a new thought along the lines of what constitutes not just auto beauty, but overall auto design. It wasn’t a new idea for the museum actually. Since the early post-war ideas through the mid 1950’s they had begun asking the question of ‘what is good design?’ as regards everyday things from home goods, appliances, furnishings and sporting goods. The shows ranged from coffee makers and cheese graters to Tupperware. And like these humble daily objects the jeep was chosen in its fall show of 1951 for its practicality and purposeful design. 
The jeep chosen was loaned from Kaiser Willys, an M38 and it sat in the museum. I wish that I had been able to find the whole catalogue for it, but instead I have only sections, but at least the page for the jeep is able to be found online. You can see the image at the top of the page and the catalogue entry reads as follows:

“1951 (model first produced in 1941). Manufactured by Willys-Overland Motors, Inc., Toledo, Ohio. Overall length 10 feet 3 inches.
The admirable Jeep seems to have the combined appeal of an intelligent dog and a perfect gadget. It is an appeal so vast that this wonderful tool for transportation has won approval for much more that its practicality, though the engineers who perfected it worked without the concern for style with which other automobiles are designed.
The Jeep looks like a tray, or perhaps a sturdy sardine can, on wheels. Part of the top appears to have been cut open and folded up, to serve as a windshield. From it a canvas canopy can be stretched over some metal struts to the back of the car, thus affording temporary shelter from rain. large wheels dominate the design, and insist rather than suggest that the Jeep’s primary purpose is transportation.
One of the most striking illustrations of its direct design is the front fender. It is composed of two rectangular platforms placed at the best angle for preventing mud splash. The two sections are connected by an overlap, left plainly visible, and the lower section is joined to a small step. The side walls are low enough for passengers to step in, thus eliminating mechanically troublesome doors. Even refinements of contour grow out of practical considerations: the fenders have rounded corners to avoid cutting passengers as they get in.
With its wheels removed and the windshield folded flat the jeep fits into a shipping case. Uncrated and on the road it can maneuver its way through spaces blocked to larger vehicles. It can be stood on end and pushed through narrow passages; it has on occasion been dismantled and carried, piece by piece, over unmanageable terrain, and with suitable equipment it can be driven underwater. Bolts visible on the wheels and the body facilitate either the removal of parts or periodic tightening.
Those who have used the Jeep will recall certain limitations of comfort. Yet there are few automobiles that give their drivers so exhilarating a sense of speed and control. The Jeep substitutes for a deliberate esthetic program the formative principles of construction; its design is unified by the economy, (disdaining the merely decorative with which each part is fitted for its purpose. It is one of the few genuine expressions of machine art.”

Well said, the only part that I disagree with is calling it a ‘car.’ I just wish that Jeep still designed at least one of their vehicles this way today.
As recently as last year the jeep has found its way into a museum space with the last MOMA exhibit, Born Out Of Necessity, which is as good a way of any of describing the genesis of the jeep. Though this time the jeep featured was a 1952 M38A1. The jeep rubbed shoulders with a 1959 VW Bug and a 1961 Jaguar E-Type and made its way into the MOMA’s permanent collection in 2002.
 Here are a couple of good write-ups on the series of exhibits (though not specifically jeep related...) here and here and for more on the last exhibit, Born Out Of Necessity see here and here. I also found a magazine article from an undated copy of ‘Auto Sport Review.’ It talks about the various vehicles in the exhibit with no mention of the show at the MOMA itself. I think that I can forgive the article writer for misdating the M38 as a 1941 as he/she hits the mark by identifying the jeep as having an “appearance and its purpose” that are the same. Again, its very true and what endears the jeep to millions. There’s nothing frilly or unnecessary about it.
 You can download and read a PDF of the magazine article here- Auto Sport Review-WIGD.pdf, the MOMA’s press releases may also interest you here- 1951 MOMA Press Announcements.pdf as well as a PDF of the catalogue cover and the page on the jeep itself.
 Come back next week. I haven’t an idea right now of what I’m going to write about, but I also said that last week and then realized that this was something that I had wanted to put the time into researching for some time now. Hope that you enjoyed it and see you next week with more of the best of the jeep since 1940!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A New Era, The YJ

This is going to be the first time that I’ve written or presented anything related to the YJ at For a long time I simply didn’t like the looks of them- the new sorta funky and modern looking dash that was a long ways from the simple flat dash that generations of jeeps had succeeded in just being awesome machines with, the padding everywhere, the just plain... modernity of the YJ that truly set it apart from any of its predecessors. But worst of all were the square headlights that replaced the familiar and comfortable face of every jeep since 1940. But in reality, those were some of the things that have allowed the jeep to continue until today. It succeeded by adapting as we all must evolve. Nowadays, a couple of years back I had the realization that I sort of liked the YJ, it was finally become ‘classic’ looking in the intervening years! And so today, we have the last of the brochures from the car enthusiast website, a “web magazine/blog” Lov2xlr8.
On May 13, 1986 the newly named moniker of ‘Wrangler’ made its debut. Aside from the newly designed front end sheet metal that carried the square headlights there were many other details that were subtly new. The rear gate was new as was the swing away tire carrier. The hood was now beveled with rounded edges that was supported by the new front grill. Little touches like flexible fender flares and built in splash shields that wrapped back from the front fenders were added. The soft top was entirely new making it a truly better design that incorporated half doors and soft uppers. As well now you could remove the side and rear windows for a bikini top.
The AMC 258-6 was still doing the power chores as an option for the YJ with the 4 cylinder 2.5 liter as the standard. Also, the Sahara edition showed up as a special edition with leather wrapped wheel and heavier carpeting and other khaki trim. It all went for a base price of $8795. As far as it was from the original CJ2-A that debuted in 1945 with two color choices, the 1987 YJ Laredo also had a mere two color choices available- Olympic white and Classic black (though other additional colors were available as extra cost add-ons...)
The YJ went on with small changes here and there, but the biggest to come was the introduction of the new 4.0, the newly designed high output 180 horsepower fuel injected straight six that replaced the AMC design, the 4.2 liter/ 258 cu. inch six. The YJ went on along with the begrudging respect from Jeep fans eventually gaining standard stuff today like OBD II systems and anti-lock brakes, a newly designed cage and third eye brake light. It continued until 1997 when it was replaced the all new TJ, which is a whole other story! One little detail that I didn’t know until I was doing the research for this article was the fact that there was no actual 1996 YJ. It continued instead an ‘old’ tradition of retitling the previous year’s 1995 built jeeps as a 1996.
Well, this wraps up the 1980’s and other than a few miscellaneous ads, the end of material from Lv2xlr8. I’m not sure right now what I’ll present next week, but I’ll figure out something. Or drop me an email or at our Facebook page with a suggestion. Tell a friend about us too and Like us. We’re nearly at 1,000 likes! Have a great summer weekend and come back for more of the best of the jeep since 1940!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Jeep In 1985

The 1980’s were a tumultuous time for the world and for Jeep. In 1985 the CJ was nearly ready to end production. At this time the CJ-5 was no more and the CJ-7 was the lone survivor in the CJ camp. But it went on proudly through its final year in 1986 after the decision was announced by Joseph Cappy, the executive VP of operations in November of 1985. Another old veteran, the Gladiator was scheduled to be phased out in 1987. In ’85 their lineup was pretty slim with the J-10 not being manufactured (but for some reason it made its triumphant swan song return in its final year, 1987...). The J-20 with a 131” wheelbase was the only offering in its base level or the Pioneer package that for an additional $475 gave you floor carpeting, fabric door panel inserts, a wood grain instrument cluster overlay, decals, wheel covers and an Extra Quiet Insulation Package that included a custom headliner and dash insulation along with other sound deadening materials for that rumble of the 258 inline 6 or AMC’s 360 V-8.
But as the 1980’s were about the fear of nuclear mutual assured destruction they were also about hope for the future and this was embodied in the Cherokee and the Commanche pickup. The Cherokee had been remodeled the year before in 1984 and it was a hit. The Cherokee had been named 4 Wheel & Off Road magazine’s “4 X 4 of the Year.” It was an exciting new step in the right direction and as the brochure illustrates the “Innovation and Technology Only In A Jeep.” The new Commanche expanded Jeep’s marketplace footstep into a new area, that of the burgeoning market for the smaller and more affordable import pickup truck. It debuted officially as a 1986 model and if you look carefully, you’ll realize that its basic design was taken from the Cherokee sans enclosed rear. It never quite developed a following in the day and by 1992 after some 164,000 units made it ended its run.
But like any jeep that had seen better days, a new star was on the horizon, about to shine and where we end up next week will be the first glimpse of that star.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

1982 CJ, Scrambler, Wagoneer And Select-Trac Brochures

Welcome back and this weekend brings us to the end of the 1982 Jeep brochures. I hope that everyone had a good Fourth of July holiday weekend. The early 1980’s were a pivotal time in the history of the jeep. The last days of AMC ownership saw the jeep evolve once again firmly into a role that saw it as a recreational as well as practical vehicle. Gone were the days of just three decades ago under Kaiser ownership that stressed the role of work horse. The jeep was still a work horse, but increasingly the focus was on play, efficiency and reliability as AMC saw the market getting more and more crowded from domestic and foreign competition.
One of the innovations that came about in this decade was the era of the CJ-8, the Scrambler. Debuting in 1981, it was a stretched wheelbase CJ that saw its best sales in that very same first year. In the days of the larger modern stretched four door jeeps, this seems prescient, but 33 years ago this was daring. Approved as a model in 1979 the first CJ-8 rolled off the assembly lines in January 1981 and began sales in March. It was America’s only roadster pickup truck in soft top form and equipped with a five foot pickup truck bed, the wheelbase went from 83” in the CJ-5 to 93” in the CJ-7 and 103” in the CJ-8 (even longer than the CJ-6’ 101”!).
In 1985 the last Scrambler rolled off the lines in Toledo. They weren’t as accepted as AMC had hoped for (despite Ronald Reagan famously owning one on his ranch in California...) making them one of the rarer finds nowadays. They were also AMC’s next to last new model before the Commanche thundered out in 1986 as a challenger to imported pickups that picked up steam in the late 1980’s.
Come back next week, we’re winding down the 1980’s and things are changing! Click here to be taken to the full album of brochures from 1982 and click here to view a supplemental brochure on the Select-Trac.
I also wanted to take the time to promote our friendly, helpful forum over at If you’re looking for a new jeep forum to post on, show off your ride, ask questions, advice, etc... or just plain look at our projects this may be the one for you. Check us out!