At this point, the Army had two possible solutions to the problem of achieving standardization of the jeep given the existence of three types, each having its own virtues. The most satisfactory was to manufacture a vehicle combining the most desirable features in a virtually new machine. The second was to take the best vehicle of the three and graft on to it, as far as possible, the good points of the other two.
In the interest of saving time and money, the latter course was chosen. Incredibly, the Quartermaster Corps elected to give Ford, whose vehicle had placed dead last in the field tests, a negotiated contract for 16,000 units.
The Office of Production Management intervened, however, at the behest of William S. Knudsen. Though the Ford Motor Company vigorously protested, the contract was awarded to Willys-Overland. Willys, in reality, had not only supplied the best of the test vehicles but had underbid Ford by a hefty $640,000. The QMC's stated rationale for favoring Ford had been that the larger firm was considered a more dependable source of supply.
However, critics called the Ford Motor Company "the country's foremost violator of the Wagner Act," citing six Labor Board decisions then outstanding against it. The potential for serious labor problems was as real as it was obvious. In any case, Knudsen, an acknowledged expert in matters concerning production, was convinced that Willys-Overland was a competent source of supply.
A conference took place at the Holabird Quartermaster Depot to consider changes in the design and specifications of the Willys unit, now designated the Model MA. As a result, several modifications were made in the forthcoming Model MB:
- An improved carburetor air cleaner was installed.
- A 40-ampere generator, known as the "QMC Standard Generator," was used with a government-standard voltage regulator.
- A 15-gallon fuel tank replaced the 11 gallon tank of the Model MA.
- Larger (five-inch) sealed beam headlamps were adopted.
- A larger, government-standard battery was used.
- The handbrake was relocated from the driver's left to the center of the car, where the passenger could reach it in case of emergency.
- The gearshift lever was moved from the steering column to the floor. The rationale here was that all Army trucks should have uniform controls, to save confusion when drivers moved from one vehicle to another.
- In order to protect the steering tie rods from damage, they were carried as high above the axle as possible.
- Suitable protection was provided for hydraulic brake hoses.
- A double bow-top replaced the single- bow type, providing increased head room without raising the jeep's silhouette.
- Spring shackles were sealed, to keep out water and dirt.
- Provision was made for the vehicle to carry a shovel and an ax.
- Standardized blackout lights, already used on other government vehicles, were adopted.
- A power take off was recommended and later utilized in operating special equipment used by the Navy and Marine Corps.
The standardized MB jeep ended up two inches longer than the MA. Its weight was 2,450 pounds, a reasonable figure for so stout a vehicle. As time went along, experience with the MB led to further modifications.
Larger (6.00/16) tires and heavier "combat" wheels were added. Electrically, a radio spark suppressor; an extra blackout driving light, mounted on the left front fender; and a taillight connector socket, for use when a trailer was being towed, were specified. For emergencies, a five-gallon fuel can was mounted at the back.
Find out what the Army had to say about the standardized jeep on the next page.
For more information on Jeeps, see:
- History of Jeep
- Consumer Guide New Jeep Prices and Reviews
- Consumer Guide Used Jeep Prices and Reviews