That classic cool feature – Off-road four-wheel drive
Four-wheel-drive was a known mechanical feature by the time the Willys MB, better known as the Jeep, rolled off the production line, but it wasn’t a common feature on cars intended for civilian use. Originally designed to be a combat vehicle for the US Army in World War II, the Jeep was designed to be a tough, go-anywhere people-and-cargo mover – a role in which it excelled.
Why is it special?
In the early days of the motor vehicle, it was expected that a car could drive on dirt tracks, since paved roads were pretty uncommon. That changed with modernisation, though. Cars were built for tarred roads, but the Jeep was an unexpected return to days gone by. In fact, the Jeep improved on those older cars thanks to its full-on 4×4 driving capabilities. It was so capable, in fact, that after it was introduced to the public post-WWII, it single-handedly created a new category of car: the recreational 4×4.
Can you get it today?
Between Ford and Willys, about 640 000 Jeeps were built during wartime, with many surviving the conflict. They’re not impossible to find but aren’t too widespread locally. A Jeep in good condition can cost anywhere between R180 000 and R300 000.
While the original military Jeep didn’t gain too much celebrity attention, it was a common sight in WWII movies, obviously. That said, a few of its civilian variants have been anointed by the rich and famous. Former US President Ronald Reagan owned two of them, one a surprise gift from his wife, Nancy. The Catcher in the Rye author JD Salinger had one as well.