WILLYS JEEP

There are plenty of orig­i­nal Jeeps in the US, but Europe is still a good source for these clas­sic bat­tle wag­ons... pro­vided you check care­fully

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Buying & Selling -

he ar­che­typal Amer­i­can war­time 4x4 spawned de­riv­a­tives all over the world, but where’s the best place to look? Pre­pare your­self for a mine­field...

The orig­i­nal Willys MB and Ford GPW mil­i­tary Jeeps were built in the USA for Al­lied troops dur­ing World War Two and pro­duc­tion re­mained in Amer­ica for the civil­ian-spec Jeep CJ which con­tin­ued through to 1986. So Amer­ica is the best source, right? Well, it’s not that sim­ple.

Early Jeeps aren’t as rot-prone as you might ex­pect, so you don’t have to con­fine your search to dry

TUS states to find a solid ex­am­ple – in fact, Europe is a good hunt­ing ground. The French mil­i­tary used Jeeps pro­duced in France un­der li­cence as the Hotchkiss M201. Made un­til the mid-1960s, they were broadly sim­i­lar to the WWII Jeeps. To­day France is a good source and a key rea­son for the de­cent sup­ply of new-old stock parts – cylin­der head pro­duc­tion con­tin­ued into the 1990s.

The civvy-spec CJ seems most abun­dant in Italy – just re­mem­ber that Ital­ians of­ten drive ‘pas­sion­ately’, so buy with care.

If you’re am­bi­tious (and a lit­tle bonkers), you might con­sider a vari­ant of the CJ pro­duced in Ja­pan by Mit­subishi from 1953 right up un­til 1998. You’ll have some ex­plain­ing to do down the pub, but it’s po­ten­tially a good way to find a right-hand drive model from a for­giv­ing cli­mate – if you do it care­fully via a lo­cal spe­cial­ist. And don’t for­get that im­port­ing ve­hi­cles younger than 30 years old at­tracts much higher taxes.

You get the pic­ture – im­port­ing a Jeep can be com­pli­cated. Vari­ants and mod­i­fi­ca­tions abound so if orig­i­nal­ity is im­por­tant to you, par­tic­u­larly if you want a gen­uine mil­i­tary model, you re­ally need to know what you’re look­ing at. Go­ing it alone and buy­ing un­seen from overseas is not ad­vis­able.

‘My ad­vice would be to talk to sev­eral spe­cial­ists first,’ says Kent­based Jeep restora­tion ex­pert, Nick Jef­frey (Jef­frey En­gi­neer­ing, 01223 770007). ‘ We’ve had cus­tomers bring in ve­hi­cles which are sup­pos­edly fully re­stored war­time Jeeps, and I’ve had to tell them that not one bit of their ve­hi­cle was built in Amer­ica. We oc­ca­sion­ally source mil­i­tary Jeeps from Europe, and other spe­cial­ists, such as AMD Four Wheel Drive in Le­ices­ter­shire (01530 230023), bring them in from Amer­ica.’

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