The original colours of a 1943 Willys Jeep

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The military Jeep of World War II was the result of a 1940 U.S. government request. War was spreading over the world and of the 135 companies approached, only three actually ending up making a prototype four-wheel vehicle.

Through a complicated procedure a vehicle made and designed by Willys-Overland Motors became the official military vehicle, but because of the urgency of the situation both Ford and Willys-Overland were given contracts to build the "Jeep," as it was to be called.

Willys Jeeps

During World War II, Willys-Overland made 360,000 Jeeps for the military, while Ford contributed an additional 280,000. The Willys Jeep was officially known as the Willys MB Jeep. One of the reasons the Willy-Overland received the building contract was because of its more powerful motor that came to be known as the "Go-Devil." This engine had four cylinders, 2.2 litres (134 cubic inches) of displacement and a maximum of 60 horsepower. Although the engine seems small by today's standard, when placed in a small-framed utility vehicle, the "Go-Devil" performed very well.


Contrary to popular belief, the Willys MB Jeep came with several colour options besides the standard olive drab. Still, the olive drab was the common colour for most Jeeps, especially since camouflage did not come into frequent use until after World War II. Moreover, the military did use a desert tan colour in North Africa and an arctic white in the far north. Also of importance is that Jeeps used around an Allied airfield were often painted in bright orange, red, yellow or checkered colours, so they could be seen by friendly aircraft.

Other markings

The Willys World War II Jeeps usually had a large five-pointed star painted on the hood. The star was surrounded by a large circle. The registration number was usually applied by paint and stencil to the passenger's side of the hood, along with the letters USA.