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
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.’