Jeep® Heritage | 1940 Jeep Willys Quad Prototype

Every legendary story has a beginning. Every icon starts somewhere. The Jeep Willys Quad prototype represents both the beginning of the story and the birth of an icon.


The Jeep Willys Quad was the original Go Anywhere, Do Anything™ vehicle, made to answer the call of the U.S. Army for a light 4×4 reconnaissance vehicle to replace cars and motorcycles with sidecars. The army wanted a brand-new kind of vehicle. What they got, quite literally, changed the world.


The army specified that its preferred vehicle had to have four-wheel drive, a front-driven axle, and a two-speed transfer unit; it had to generate 85 foot-pounds of torque, seat three passengers, and produce 50 horsepower. After submitting a number of prototypes and manufacturing a limited production run, the Jeep Willys vehicle became the de facto vehicle of the army. The prototype turned into the Jeep Willys MA, and the next version, the Jeep Willys MB, became the final production model.


Part of what set Jeep Willys vehicles apart from other companies’ vehicles was its Willys L134 engine, nicknamed the “Go Devil.” It was more powerful than the engines of other companies, which ended up becoming a big factor in Jeep Willys eventually winning the bulk of the army contract. With a “Go Devil” under the hood, the Jeep Willys MB produced 60 horsepower and 105 foot-pounds of torque, well exceeding the army’s desires and the other manufacturers’ top benchmarks.


What really set the Jeep Willys MB apart, however, was its sheer capability and versatility. The vehicles served in every theater during WWII. They were outfitted with machine gun mounts and stretchers to transport the wounded. They helped lay telephone cables and carried generals and presidents. They were so reliable and rugged that they’ve been directly credited for helping the U.S. and Allied forces win the war.


There was once a time when a Go Anywhere, Do Anything vehicle was nothing more than an idea. The idea became a reality with the Jeep Willys prototype, and that reality has turned into a legend featuring the iconic Jeep brand vehicles past and present.


18 Responses to “Jeep® Heritage | 1940 Jeep Willys Quad Prototype”

  1. Stephen Legette

    My father told me that they would modify certain things on motor to make them run faster,he also said they would pull the Devil out of Hell if you could hook a chain to him.

  2. lets not forget Bantam motor works for (original design ) contributions in bringing us the jeep… (it’s a jeep thing)

  3. If it wasnt for Bantam, Willys and Ford wouldnt have anyone to copy!

  4. Wayne Richter

    Am I missing something here?! You totally forgot about the Bantam BR64!- the actual “first Jeep” prototype. Without Bantam’s prototype there would be no Jeep as we know it – and while we’re at it , without Ford’s contribution the Jeep would not have that distinctive we love to this day – the slotted grill. I love the old Willys but let’s give credit where credit is dhe.

  5. After the prototype was built, Bantam was allowed to only build trailers for the Jeep. Ford and others built the Jeep. It was thought that Bantam was incapable with keeping up with the production numbers needed for the war.

  6. Martin Mashon

    Every Jeepster knows that Bantam is the god of Jeep. Willy’s may have raised them (and raised them well, I should say), but the heart and soul was hand crafted by Bantam.

    When I was a salesman I used to love slamming GM (and their illogical H series). There’s a very good reason why they’ve never been involved with the production of Jeep. 😉 Hmmmm…. I just thought of something… Chrysler is now a partially “foreign” manufacturer. Didn’t AMC make a similar mistake? I like the new models, but I don’t like my American Jeep supporting foreign economies more than my own. Just my two cents. 🙂 Oh, and build me a bigger Patriot with a Selec-Trac. I don’t want a Liberty, I want a new Cherokee. 🙂

    • Moabness

      They’ve been partially “foreign” for more than 20 years, and they are better than ever. 

  7. Danger Forward

    There was no “Willy’s 1940 Quad Prototype”. The picture above is of the Bantam Recon Car.
    Bantam designed, built and sold the original jeep to the government. They were the only company that produced a prototype and they were the only ones that had a working model for the trials.
    They had the manufacturing capability to mass produce the jeep (they were going to buy a certain factory in Toledo that was up for sale if they got the contract) but the Army, on orders from the QMC, stole the designs from Bantam and gave them to Willy’s and Ford.
    Quit trying to claim Jeep’s heritage as your own! Give credit where credit is due!

  8. zoomdawg

    That’s a Bantam, not a Jeep! And after further refinements would go into combat as the Bantam 4×4 Truck, 40 BRC.

  9. Gotdinged

    WOW! Great comments on the Original maker of the Jeep! We must not forget the Bantam Company of the UK, for that company did produce the Only Working Model. Bantam could not keep up with the Numbers that the Us Government Needed! So they gave the contract to Willy’s! Willy’s could Not keep up with Numbers needed, So Ford was allowed to Build some of them! I Just Love the way things get screwed up when Time Passes! Don’t post articles unless you have the Story Straight!

  10. gstone

    Ok guys I don’t normally post on these things but here goes.

    Danger Fwd Yes Ford and Willys did deliver prototypes. The Willys Quad and the Ford GP “pygmy”. The plans were not “STOLEN” from Bantam. When Bantam delivered BRC 1001 to Camp Holabird on 9/23/1940 the plans and the test vehicle became the property of the US Army to do with as they pleased. That was part of the deal. No zoomdawd that is the Willys Quad. Gotdinged I dont know anything about a Bantam car company in the UK but BRC 1001 was designed by Karl Probst, Harold Crist, Chester Hempfling and Ralph Turner. BRC 1001 was built at the American Bantam Car Company facility in Butler, PA USA.
    I am not an expert. I have spent almost 20 years studying Jeeps and I have a restored 1942 GPW. I have also been a member of the MVPA for may years. Don’t lash out at me guys…look it up. Have a nice day!

    • WillyB

      Thank you gstone for setting the record straight.

  11. Mojave Johnson

    Way to go, gstone!! It’s amazing how people with wrong or incomplete info get all bent out of shape when someone says something they don’t know about! Bantam and Willys were just two of the MANY companies commissioned to create a proposal for a military vehicle. Willys got the contract because the US military believed them to be able to produce the numbers needed. Obviously, they couldn’t and Ford was brought in to complete the massive orders.

    As for the current Jeep company “trying to take credit”, they technically can’t. The “original” Jeeps were produced (mainly) by Willys, then it became Jeep, then AMC, then Chrysler bought AMC solely to obtain the Jeep brand, which was really the only money maker in AMC’s vehicle production. After a few years, Chrysler dropped the AMC and Eagle lines and kept only Jeep.

    Jeep may be a brand, but as far as I’m concerned, there is only one “Jeep” (OK, there are 10 – MB, BRC40, M38A, M151, CJ2, CJ3, CJ5, CJ6, CJ7, and CJ8). All the other models are just that – other models. For example, a Grand Cherokee is NOT a Jeep – it’s a Grand Cherokee.

  12. gstone

    MY GOD Jeff….look at the pictures in your link and the one above….you think that is the same vehicle?



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