Why I Love...

Lo­tus and Mclaren de­signer Peter Stevens acts up in a Ford GPW Jeep

Classic Cars (UK) - - Contents -

It was 1964 and I was driv­ing along Lon­don’s Kings Road in an MG KN Mag­nette, which had be­longed to my god­fa­ther, when a drunk driver hit the car and wrote it off,’ re­calls Peter Stevens. ‘I was dev­as­tated.’ ‘With the MG writ­ten off, I bought a copy of Ex­change

& Mart. In­side was an ad­vert for a Jeep, which had just re­turned from the Arc­tic Cir­cle. I thought, “if it can achieve that...” and bought it for £100. It was a 1943 model and a plaque on the body listed its en­tire mil­i­tary his­tory, in­clud­ing be­ing based in Italy.’

Peter had al­ways had a pas­sion for Ford’s Willy’s Jeep. ‘Sim­plic­ity has al­ways had a place in my world of de­sign so I felt an em­pa­thy. The story goes that a group of young engi­neers got to­gether in a small rented of­fice in Detroit to shape a ba­sic mil­i­tary ve­hi­cle in 50 days; lack­ing proper tools they drew round cups and plates to cre­ate the right curves.’

The Jeep has many in­no­va­tive touches, such as ro­tat­ing head­lamps that can be un­bolted and moved to shine into the engine bay, and a driv­ing po­si­tion that can ac­com­mo­date al­most any­one with­out ad­just­ing the seat.

How­ever, as a mem­ber of the CND move­ment Peter had mis­giv­ings about his ex-mil­i­tary ve­hi­cle, with its proven wartime prove­nance. ‘As a com­pro­mise I painted the bon­net white. When I was 22 I used it to visit Egypt, part of a drive round the Mediter­ranean. My grand­fa­ther worked for Thomas Cook and I’d drive into Cairo where he’d made ar­range­ments for me col­lect my mail and de­posit my let­ters for home. Be­fore set­ting out from Eng­land I bought some fine-look­ing cheap tyres. Un­for­tu­nately, the rub­ber was so poor they ex­ploded in the heat, so old WW2 ‘bar tread’ tyres bought in Libya kept us go­ing for the rest of the trip.’ In 1966 Peter worked as an ex­tra in the fea­ture film

Blow-up, which starred David Hem­mings. ‘I ar­rived in the Jeep and the di­rec­tor said, “Great, we’ll have that in the film.” But un­for­tu­nately, his as­sis­tant sug­gested a Bri­tish-built Austin Champ would be more ap­pro­pri­ate.’ Sadly, Peter’s love af­fair with the Jeep was to be cut short. By this time val­ues of Jeeps had grown markedly, and in 1970 his beloved ma­chine was stolen and al­most cer­tainly bro­ken up for parts and sold abroad.

‘I did buy an­other but the love just wasn’t there.’

‘When I was 22 I used it to visit Egypt. Be­fore set­ting off around the Mediter­ranean I bought some fine-look­ing cheap tyres. Un­for­tu­nately, the rub­ber was so poor they ex­ploded in the heat’

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