JEEPS RETURN TO DUTY

After 25 years of retirement, this classic utility vehicle heads back to the frontlines.

jeep-j8

The Jeep J8 shown here in the general purpose utility con­­figuration, is a militarized version of the Wrangler Unlimited but can also be fitted out for other missions including armored patrol with weapons mounts.

Ask almost anyone to name a military motor vehicle, and you’re likely to hear “Jeep.” Nearly 650,000 ¼-ton Jeeps served in WWII around the world, handling every conceivable transport mission. In addition to the archetypal Willys MB, Ford also produced nearly comparable quantities of Jeeps designated GPWs. In 1950, the U.S. armed forces replaced them with improved M38 and M38A1 designs. These newer vehicles were so similar to the original that many casual observers assumed they were identical. At the same time, the Jeep CJ (Civilian Jeep) entered the consumer market, building with its follow-on models more than a half-century’s worth of loyal drivers, including this author.

The M151 MUTT (Military Utility Tactical Truck), in production from 1959 to 1982, retained the Jeep’s dimensions and appearance although it featured horizontal grill louvers instead of the Jeep’s iconic vertical slots. Only in the mid-1980s, with the adoption of the larger, heavier, wide-track HMMWV, did Jeep derivatives finally conclude their long and distinguished American military careers.

After a 25-year retirement from U.S. forces, however, the Jeep may be ready to get back in uniform and resume service as a light multi-purpose vehicle. A variety of operational and cost considerations have contributed to this interesting situation. Standard HMMWVs—without armor to protect against improvised explosive devices and roadside ambushes—cost at least $65,000, and armor protection may nearly double that already high acquisition cost. Nor are HMMWVs cheap to operate and maintain.


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