Willys MB & Ford GPW 1941-1945
In July 1941, the War Department desired to standardize and decided to
select a single manufacturer to supply them with the next order for another
16,000 vehicles. Willys won the contract mostly due to its more powerful
engine (the "Go Devil") which soldiers raved about, and its lower cost and
silhouette. Whatever better design features the Bantam and Ford entries had
were then incorporated into the Willys car, moving it from an "A" designation
to "B", thus the "MB" nomenclature. For example, if the gasoline tank was
directly beneath the driver's seat, combining the two main target areas into
one, it would lessen the chance of a catastrophic hit.
By October 1941, it became apparent Willys-Overland could not keep up with
production demand and Ford was contracted to produce them as well. The
Ford car was then designated GPW, with the "W" referring to the "Willys"
licensed design. During World War II, Willys produced 363,000 Jeeps and
Ford some 280,000. Approximately 51,000 were exported to Russia under the
Willys made its first 25,000 MB Jeeps with a welded flat iron "slat" radiator
grille. It was Ford who first designed and implemented the now familiar and
distinctive stamped, slotted steel grille into its cars, which was lighter, used
fewer resources, and was less costly to produce. Along with many other design
features innovated by Ford, this was adopted by Willys and implemented into
the standard WW II Jeep by April 1942.