Jeep is today a registered trademark; the term dates back to the late 1930s or early 1940s. The term was originally used by the US military to designate a 1/2 ton truck. When a new 1/4 ton truck was introduced into service, it appears Willy's-Overland made a concerted effort through advertising to have the "jeep" name applied to their product. The name stuck, and is now considered synonymous with any 1/4-ton truck.

Canadian Service

As the British Army suffered defeat in France in 1940 at the start of the Second World War, many officers found that the large sedans they were using were not suited for military service, and hard to replace. A requirement was put in place for all officers of the British Army up to and including the rank of Brigadier to be able to ride a motorcycle (or in the case of colonels and brigadiers, to be able to ride pillion). The Canadian Army followed suit with these requirements.

The term "jeep" was in use in the US from before the war; some research indicates that the term was used by Canadian soldiers in 1936 to refer to a Ford-Marmon-Harrington half tracked truck. Colin MacGregor Stevens, curator of the Burnaby Village Museum, has researched this point in his archives and with veterans' accounts.

When the United States began production of the Willy's Overland 1/4 ton 4 x 4 truck, Canada tested both the original production model as well as the Willys MA, the Ford GP, and then ordered 5,000 custom Willys MB jeeps (designated the W-LU 440-M-PERS-1, though also loosely referred to as a Truck, 1/4 ton, 4 x 4, and nicknamed "Blitzbuggy" after the newly coined term "Blitzkrieg"). Additional orders for unmodified Willys MB, Ford GPW and Ford GPA jeeps followed.

It is unclear when "Jeep" entered the Canadian lexicon, but the vehicles themselves were popular, and a standard mount for officers down to sub-unit commanders (in an infantry battalion, for example, the CO and all company commanders had their own jeeps).

After the Second World War, many jeeps were disposed of. When the Korean War started, surplus jeeps of Second World War vintage were obtained from the United States for use in-theatre. The Canadian Army's vehicle data book gives the following information:1

Operational Role: Primary role is personnel carrier but could be fitted with stretchers for use as ambulance. Could also tow light anti-aircraft or anti-tank weapons as well as transport light cargo.

Equipment: Two folding seats in front, detachable roof and side curtains. Windshield could be folded forward to rest on hood. Rear mounted spare tire, towing hook.

Performance Engine Details Dimensions
  • Bridge Class: 1

  • Max Gradability: 60%

  • Turning Circle (minimum): 34 feet

  • Fording Depth: 18 inches

  • Angle of Approach: 45 degrees

  • Angle of Departure: 35 degrees

  • Average Fuel Consumption: 15 miles per gallon

  • Max Speed: 65 miles per hour

  • Manufacturer: Willys and Ford

  • Type: petrol, 4 cylinder, 4 cyls in line

  • Size: bore 3-1/8", stroke 4-3/8"

  • Power: 60 bhp at 3600 rpm

  • Ignition: battery, 6 volt

  • Capacity: 12 gallons fuel, 9 quarts water, 4 quarts oil


The first post Second World War jeep was the M38, similar to the wartime MB/GPW, with the notable exceptions of being higher, with larger headlight protruding from the front of the vehicle (not sunken, like the earlier jeeps) and a one piece windshield.

The engine of the M38 was the same 4-cylinder L-head "Go Devil" design as the earlier jeeps, but was geared lower.

Ford of Canada assembled 2,135 of the M38 model, officially designated M38-CDN, between Feb and Nov 1952, with an average cost of $2600 per vehicle (the cost was $2807 for the first contract of 840 vehicles). All the Jeeps were shipped from Windsor to Hagersville, ON for inspection prior to military service.

The last vehicle produced by Ford was serial number F102135, delivered on 27 Nov 1952.

A separate purchase order program with Ramsey Winch Company was established for the installation of winches.

All the vehicles also had a convoy light installed as a field modification, done upon receipt by the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.


The M38A1 was build by Ford in Canada beginning in the early 1950s, as a replacement for the M38. Some went to the US, others - designated M38A1 CDN - went to the Canadian Army where they would be in use up into the 1980s. In 1967, 800 more were ordered from the Kaiser Jeep plant in Windsor, ON, and these would be designated the M38A1 CDN2. In 1970-71, a third batch of Jeeps were ordered, though the Canadian factory had closed its doors in 1969 and the new batch of about 500 jeeps had to be ordered from Toledo, Ohio instead. The M38A1 CDN3 had some mechanical improvements over the earlier versions, and some CDN2s were also upgraded in 1984, with features such as windshield washers, self-adjusting brakes, and an air filter similar to that found on the M151 MUTT.


M38A1 at RV '81, Gagetown, NB, 1981. Ed Storey Collection.

As the wartime Willy's and later M38 were intended, the M38A1 was also a general utility truck, capable of employment in many roles and used by many different branches, including military police, signals, reconnaissance and medical applications (a longer vehicle known as the M170 was a purpose built ambulance capable of carrying a driver and three stretchers, or six seated passengers and was produced between 1954 and 1962) in addition to carrying personnel and cargo. The M38A1 was capable of operating completely submerged.

Cosmetically, the M38A1 differs from early Jeeps in having rounded fenders. Mechanically, there were several major differences as well. The Willy's L-head engine was replaced with an F-head "Hurricane" powerplant with a top speed of 60 miles per hour. Stronger axles were also used on the M38A1.



The M151 MUTT (Military Unit Tactical Truck) replaced the M38A1 in the US Army; this 1/4 ton truck was designed by Ford but eventually built also by Kaiser, AM General Corporation, and General Motors. While slightly bigger than the early Willy's/MB Jeep, the vehicle weighed the same. It had a longer wheelbase, was wider, and sat lower than the M38A1. However, it had a early type of independent coil suspension that gave the vehicle a tendency to roll. US modifications (a change to the rear "A" arms on the coil spring, allowing it to pivot front and back) helped reduce the rolling tendency, and vehicles so altered were designated M151A2. Canada only used the M151A2 model (all built by AM General Corporation), and installed a roll bar kit in each vehicle.

Canadian MUTT, photographed at RV'83 in Wainwright, AB. Ed Storey Collection.

The MUTT was replaced by the Iltis in the 1980s, though the M38A1 had never been replaced by the MUTT in Militia units. In the US, the MUTT was replaced by the M998, also known as the HMMWV (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle), pronounced "Humvee" by soldiers, and "Hummer" by everyone else.


By 1981, it was apparent that the Canadian Forces needed to replace their aging fleet of M38A1s. Germany's production of the Iltis ("Polecat" in English) was coming to an end, and Bombardier of Canada negotiated to obtain a production license. German tooling was shipped to Quebec, and a $68 million contract for 2,500 new vehicles was made. The vehicles were provided between 1983 and 1986, with some modifications to the German design, including a brush guard, extra stowage space, and Michelin directional tires. Ambulance, MP and signal vehicles were produced, and armoured reconnaissance units utilized the vehicle with a GPMG mount for the passenger. The latter were necessitated by a shortage of armoured vehicles for Regular Force units, who reclaimed Cougar AVGPs from the Militia.

The vehicle had a 75 horsepower gasoline engine, felt by some to be underpowered, though the VW engine was reliable. The vehicle could also ford deep water without special preparation. Other drawbacks of the vehicle were a barely adequate cabin heater in winter (with odd plastic covers over the blowers that were usually removed) and a lack of stowage space - partially compensated for by the use of a light trailer.

At right, Canadian UN marked Iltis at Drvar, Croatia, 1993. Photo by Ed Storey.

CJ and YJ

In 1981, as the Iltis began phasing out the M38A1 and M151, Reserve Recce units suffered from an immediate shortage of vehicles, and so 1981 model CJ-7 Jeeps (of an unknown quantity) were purchased. These vehicles had 6-cylinder standard 4-speed transmissions and 12 volt electrical systems. A DC 24-volt inverter had to be mounted to permit military radios to run. Non-directional commercial tires were used, though some units in western Canada may have had wider tires for cross country mobility. One source cites a total number of perhaps 100 vehicles were used until Iltis vehicles were available for issue, after which they were surplused off.

Military additions to these vehicles included:

  • tow loops
  • wire cutter
  • radio mount

Apparently some YJ models were also used, with 5 speed transmissions.

In 1983, 60 CJ7 Jeeps were issued to Militia Reconnaissance Regiments to replace older jeeps then in service.2


  1. These descriptions and information from the "Vehicle Data Book" published by Canadian Military Headquarters in Mar 1944. (Reprint of the Vehicle Data Book with explanatory notes by the Canadian Military Historical Society (Quad Publications Inc., Paisley, ON, 1978). No ISBN.)
  2. Some information from Robert Grieve's article in the OMVA CMP Magazine Issue No. 13, May 1996. 1999-present