Die-cast: Autoart Willys Jeep
Jeep became an automotive icon as the soldier’s best friend during World War II. Now that the brand is owned by Fiat Chrysler, some may have forgotten it was originally primarily built by Willys-Overland.
Autoart’s 1/18 scale version is of that early Jeep along with a U.S. Army trailer with fuel drum and other accessories. But a model of only the Jeep also is available.
How the Jeep came to be is a lengthy tale, but here’s the short version. First government specs went out in 1940 calling for a 1,300-lb. vehicle with 80-inch wheelbase and an engine generating at least 85 ft.-lbs. of torque.
Out of 135 U.S. automakers, just Willys and American Bantam Car Co., sought the contract, Ford entering the fray later. The government ordered 1,500 from each of the three makers, but later settled on the Willys design while using Ford’s wide, low hood.
Ford’s version was called the GP, but it’s said that nomenclature didn’t spur the Jeep name. Instead many say that mechanics coined the Jeep phrase and then it was repeated when the vehicle was introduced on the steps of the Capital in Washington, D.C. Newspapers picked it up and the Jeep name grew from there.
In any case, the name stuck and although Ford tried suing Willys to gain use of the name after WWII, it lost in court. Willys, then Kaiser, then American Motors, then Chrysler and now Fiat Chrysler own it.
Autoart’s version is a beauty that’s loaded with detail.
Start with the fold-down windshield, giant hood that folds back to expose the powerful (for the time) Willys Go Devil engine with proper wiring and plumbing and then add the serious detachable machine gun that mounts behind the driver’s seat. Its barrel is black metal!
In fact the Army green Jeep is a bit more than 13 inches long and made of 536 parts, of which 208 are metal and 12 are photo-etched plates. The Jeep received 214 free-hand sprays to create a realistic flat military green.
Both the steering and suspension are functional too and the passenger’s seat flips forward, a feature that carried over into many future Jeeps. Seats are cloth.
In addition to the trailer that includes red rear lights and side reflectors, this model is loaded with accessories to give it a realistic look and feel.
There are chains to hook the trailer to the Jeep, plus a wiring harness. Autoart also includes two helmets, two gas cans, a 45-calliber pistol and Thompson submachine gun, shovel and axe that attach to the Jeep’s side and will come off. For the Jeep’s tail there’s communications equipment with a handset and detachable radio antenna that arches over the Jeep.
The underside is well detailed and the sparse interior features a few dash gauges and toggles, plus one main shift lever on the floor along with two for engaging the overdrive that gives it four-wheeling capability, vital when traveling on muddy, rough war-torn terrain.
There’s a rifle mounted on the back of the windshield and appropriate white Army stars on the hood and trailer. Even one on the rifle rack.
This military vehicle moves Autoart beyond its comfort zone of high-end sports and race cars.
Along with this special accessorized version, Autoart offers the Willys Jeep, without the trailer, and at a lower price, $275.90. Its stock no. is 74006. Both versions are stellar..
Stock No.: 74016