Jeep prototype has York County World War II roots

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Several years ago, Ted Jenkins stood in bed of and talked to visitors in the “Liberation of New Oxford.” This was the Jeep he rode in while serving in World War II. The Jeep’s design came from York-Hoover, maker of bodies for a variety of government vehicle uses, in the late 1930s. Also of interest: Check out these stories and photos of products Made in York.

The Hercules recovery vehicle made famous by pulling down the statue of Saddam is not the first well-known military icon with York roots.

That Hercules vehicle, “Renegade,” was assembled in West Manchester Township’s BAE plant.

Before World War II, the York-Hoover Body Co. produced a prototype for a military vehicle that could navigate all types of terrain. The company then successfully completed orders for 69 more vehicle bodies.

But, alas, York-Hoover turned down another order for 4,500 sturdy vehicle bodies because it had pledged its resources elsewhere.

In ‘Made in York,’ Georg Sheets wrote: “In the late 1930s, York-Hoover was asked by a contractor for the federal government to build the prototype for a new vehicle to be used by military forces. William Sechrist, chief engineer of York-Hoover, designed a vehicle which would maneuver in the toughest conditions.”

Sheets went on to explain that after the 70 vehicles were shipped to Butler, Pa.’s, Bantam Company, the customer, York-Hoover gained a contract to construct a large number of horse vans.

The Bantam Company made their deadline with the Army and competitors Willys Company and Ford Motor Company were late, Sheets wrote.

“The Army made up its own drawings of the York design, making minor adjustments. The Army then asked York-Hoover to produce 4,500 additional vehicles. Because York-Hoover’s resources were committed to horse van contract, company officials had to turn down the order for additional jeeps,” Sheets wrote.

Future work on the Jeep, with the York-made design and minor modifications, went to Willys Co. and the Ford Motor Co.

If you want to know more, visit the Jeep exhibit at the York County Heritage Trust’s Agricultural and Industrial Museum.

*Edited, 6/14/14

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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4 Responses to Jeep prototype has York County World War II roots

  1. Pingback: York-Hoover All Terrain Prototype | eWillys

    • Jim McClure says:

      The post didn’t exactly say that. I believe the exhibit features a Jeep, but not a prototype. There’s a description of that exhibit of York’s missed opportunity to secure the Jeep contract, such as is in the post./Jim

  2. Dick Bono says:

    Jim…Just today there was a Tom Wolf add on his iconic jeep, which claimed that the first jeep was designed and produced in Butler, PA. Is this right? I wonder if someone ought to get to Tom, and give him the real scoop on the origins of the Jeep. Maybe he needs votes in Butler?….Dick :-)

    • Dick … York-Hoover Body Corporation designed and produced the first prototype Jeep BODY; not the whole Jeep.

      The details:

      With entry of the United States into WWII appearing likely, the U. S. Army asked 135 companies for working prototypes of a new four-wheel-drive recon vehicle meeting a stringent set of Army criteria. The schedule the Army demanded was nearly impossible to meet; 49 days! The American Bantam Car Company of Butler, PA was the only company that met the 49-day deadline; delivering their prototype to Camp Holabird, Maryland on September 21st 1940.

      How did Bantam do it; when bigger, better-financed companies, such as Ford, could not. It probably helped that Bantam was bankrupt and their plant only had a skeleton crew. It was a desperation move. Bantam used a single freelance designer, Karl Probst, to do the complete design layout in 2-days and relied almost entirely upon off-the-shelf and readily purchased parts.

      The two long-lead items had to be a custom four-wheel drivetrain and a body designed and built to Probst’s layout. Spicer designed and produced the custom four-wheel drivetrain within the tight schedule. Likewise, York-Hoover Body Corporation designed and produced the custom body within the tight schedule; they also produced 69 additional bodies for Bantam to complete the contract.

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