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Hardworking Vehicles

Versatile, go-anywhere vehicles, such as the US military’s Jeep, were initially developed for wartime use. After the end of hostilities, the Jeep found a ready civilian market in agriculture, construction, and emergency services, and some people even drove them just for fun. At the same time, the pick-up emerged as a new class of strong and adaptable purpose-built vehicle. It became a familiar part of the US automotive scene that is still very much with us today. Saloon cars were being made more practical, too, with extra seats and conversions to “station wagons” that offered plenty of space for passengers and luggage.

Willys MB Jeep 1943


Engine2,199 cc, straight-four
Top speed60 mph (96 km/h)

Willys, Ford, and Bantam competed for the US Army contract to build a light, four-wheel-drive reconnaissance vehicle. Willys won with the MB, and Ford also built it as the Ford GPW. More than 600,000 were made, and the US military continued to use them well into the 1960s.

Vital information

The dashboard was strictly rudimentary but it gave the driver all of the information needed to ensure that the vehicle was running properly. In addition to a speedometer, instruments included an ammeter, a fuel gauge, and engine oil level and temperature gauges.

All action, all terrain

True to its military purpose, the Jeep’s interior was functional. Doors were superfluous and the windscreen could be removed. An instruction panel explained how to use the gear-shift and transfer box, and a rifle holder sat prominently behind the steering wheel.

Citroën 11 Familiale 1935


Engine1,911 cc, straight-four
Top speed65 mph (105 km/h)

The longest of the innovative front-wheel-drive Citroens was over 15 ft (4.5 m) long with a huge turning circle. Ideal for the larger family, or as a taxi, it had three side windows and three rows of seats, and it could carry nine people.

Volkswagen Kübelwagen 1940


Engine985 cc, flat-four
Top speed50 mph (80 km/h)

Ferdinand Porsche’s Beetle-based military transport served in all land-based fields of war, despite being only two-wheel drive. The flat underside slid over tough terrain and the engine, located over the driving wheels, aided traction. A remarkable 50,435 of these were built from 1940-45.

Ford F Series pick-up 1948


Engine3,916 cc, V8
Top speed70 mph (113 km/h)

Ford’s first all-new, post-war, product was a purpose-designed pick-up that was “Built Stronger to Last Longer”. Proving an instant success, the 1948 F-Series powered Ford truck sales to their best year for almost two decades. The F-Series’ descendants have become America’s most popular vehicle, outselling every car or truck for 34 straight years.

Willys Jeep Jeepster 1948


Engine2,199 cc, straight-four
Top speed60 mph (96 km/h)

Designed by Brooks Stevens, the Jeepster was an attempt to create a fun sports car from the basic wartime Jeep idea. It was available as rear-wheel drive only, with more equipment and chrome decoration to distance it from its utilitarian forebear. It was on sale for only three years.


It is a quote. The Classic Car Book – The Definitive Visual History 2016

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