The Lightweights: Ford, Crosley, Willys, Kaiser, Chev, Nuffield, & Jeep
During World War II, trying to get vehicles, especially Jeeps, onto the ground where military personnel could use them was of paramount importance for obvious reasons. But, how to accomplish that goal was less clear. A variety of strategies were used. One idea that was opened up to bids by companies was a program to create an air-droppable Jeep, a lightweight jeep-like vehicle known as extra lights (EL) or lightweight jeeps or jeeplets that could be boxed and flown into areas where they were needed.
Similar to the original jeep prototype program, where multiple companies (in that case Bantam, Ford and Willys) submitted prototypes and pilots for review and testing, during World War II the military announced their lightweight jeep program and welcomed designs from a variety of manufacturers.
AFTER DEVELOPMENT of the full-sized military Jeep by American Bantam and Willys (see SI A #31), the L government became increasingly interested in much smaller, lighter versions that could be airlifted into war zones.
Specifications were drawn up early during WW-II, when it wasn't yet certain that large gliders would indeed be practical to transport the conventional Jeep. When glider size and capacity became big enough, regular but stripped Jeeps were flown into such battle zones as Normandy and Arhnem, at which point the search for the Junior Jeep ebbed.
But before that could happen—in early Nov. 1942. the Office of Chief of Ordnance approved the purchase of 36 Crosley CT3 "Pup" vehicles. These Extra Lightweight (EL) Pups were extensively tested at several U.S. locations, including Camp Mackall, N.C.; Camp Hale, Colo.; Wright Field, Ohio; and Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
Six Pups supposedly went overseas for the war. Crosley Pups were found lacking, though, in carrying capacity, power, speed, maintenance reliability, and cold-weather starting. These factors, in fact, plagued some later Chevrolet, Kaiser, and Willys mini-Jeeps, as did problems with weak suspensions.
One Crosley Pup survives today in the Transportation Museum at Ft. Eustis, Va. Actually Crosley was very active in other areas of the war effort and designed a series of lightweight snow tractors (T28, T28E1, T30, T30E1), along with a motorcycle with single-arm front and rear forks and a gas tank that doubled as the rear fender. Crosley also designed and built two types of 3-wheeled, motorcycle-based reconnaissance vehicles, plus a 4-passenger recon car based on the 1940 Crosley convertible sedan.
Then in Apr. 1943, designs came in from six companies for seven different vehicles, this in response to the Chief of Ordnance's call for an EL '/$-ton truck. Weights of these concept vehicles ranged from 1000 pounds for the Chevrolet and Willys Air Cooled (WAC) to 1600 pounds for a stripped version of the standard Willys MB Jeep.
Ordnance put the submitted designs into First-, Second-, and Third-Choice categories, the intent being to contract for prototypes of the First- and Second-Choice designs only. As it turned out, not all the First- and Second-Choice designs actually got built, but one of the Third-Choice vehicles did. As a matter of record, the designs selected by the Office of the Chief of Ordnance were: First-Choice Designs: Chevrolet came through with a central backbone chassis. I could find no credits to Porsche nor Led-winka, but GM had also pioneered this concept in the mid-1930s. The Chevy design specified a front-mounted Indian motorcycle engine, transverse springs, and "semi-conventional independent suspension."
Willys countered with a rear-mounted, 2-cylinder Harley-Davidson aircooled motorcycle engine. This vehicle was apparently never built, though.
Second-Choice Designs: Kaiser submitted a rear-mounted, 2-cylinder, Continental aircooled engine design with "torsion-type wheel suspension." This vehicle was likewise stillborn. Kaiser concurrently proposed another mini-Jeep with a front-mounted Continental aircooled engine and indepently suspended wheels.
Ford retaliated with a front-mounted design carrying a 71-cid, 4-cylinder Ford water-cooled engine, conventional chassis, and normal suspension. This became another no-show, though. Third-Choice Designs: The Crosley vehicle, with an aircooled, front-mounted engine, did get built.
There was also a Canadian-American entry, with a water-cooled engine up front. Although this version was apparently never produced, Canadian-American did get involved in at least two other projects for the U.S. military: wooden-bodied Jeeps
|A||NUFFIELD GUTTY||THE LIGHTWEIGHT CROSLEYS||FordXLW||CHEVROLET EXTRA LIGHT (CEL)||WILLYS WAC||Extra Lightweights Kaiser||AMC Mighty Mite|
|2||The tests of this NUFFIELD were successful, though it was deemed unnecessary by the time it was completed in 1944. .||CT-3 Pup: According to Hemmings, 36 Crosley CT-3 Pups were built during 1942 and purchased for testing in several locations. of the 36, 6 of these would make the trip to Europe.||The U.S. Army wanted the Jeep to be as lightweight as possible, and though Willys and Ford got the contracts to produce the MB and GPW, the Army didn’t abandon the idea of an even lighter Jeep. So in 1942-1943, prodded by the brief test program for the Crosley Pup, the Army began a search for an extra-lightweight Jeep, a search that Major Fred Crismon covered in SIA #40.||Chevrolet Extra Lighweight (CEL) vehicles were built, each using the Indian 90-degree V-2 engine mounted up front. This engine was an adaptation of the one used in the Indian shaft-drive military motorcycle of that period. The CEL had an integral transmission and transfer case. Its central tubular backbone frame carried front and rear differentials plus inboard drum brakes. It had independent suspension with a transverse leaf spring as its upper support, then wishbones as the lower supports, and a 72-inch wheelbase. Although differential and steering problems cropped up, the Chevys's general per-formance was rated "good." Cross-country travel suffered from limited suspension flexibility, but the CEL could ford streams||Willys 'A-ton models. Two versions existed—the WAC, with constant 4wd, and the "Jeeplet," with 2wd or 4wd. Otherwise, though, they were identical. The aircooled, opposed, 2-cylinder engine mounted in the center of these cars, an adaptation of the Harley-Davidson engine then used on H-D's shaft-driven military bikes. It had a 3-speed transmission and 2-speed transfer mounted as a unit under the middle seat. The driver sat ahead of the riders, nearly in the center of the WAC. The Willys had conventional frames, independent front sus¬pension with double transverse springs (probably Barney Roos's planar setup as used by Studebaker and Willys passenger cars), and a solid rear axle with semi-elliptic springs For the Extra Light Utility Vehicle Project in 1943 Willys-Overland offered a stripped down version of the standard MB called the MB-L.||Kaiser 1/2-ton models. The only report available to me refers to Kaiser Lightweight and Kaiser Extra Lightweight(KL and KEL) vehicles as two separate types.||In 1953 submitted M422 AMC Mighty Mite . Prototype|
|Found! Ford’s “junior Jeep” prototype still exists|
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