Earlier today the United States Patent and Trademark Office tweeted a note reminding us that on this date 75 years ago the original Jeep patent was issued.
Issued on April 7, 1942, United States Patent No. 2,278,450, is titled Military vehicle body. The ‘450 patent generally relates to a “small car vehicle body having convertible features whereby it is rendered particularly desirable for military purposes.”
The patent describes the purpose of the vehicle is to essentially create an automobile equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife. The patent explains:
One of the principal objects of the invention is to provide a convertible small car body so arranged that a single vehicle may be interchangeably used as a cargo truck, personnel carrier, emergency ambulance, field beds, radio car, trench mortar unit, mobile anti-aircraft machine gun unit, or for other purposes.
The inventor listed on the patent is Byron Q. Jones, a Colonel in the United States Army, although it seems that Colonel Jones was likely not the actual inventor.
When it became clear that the United States would likely be forced at some point to enter World War II the government sent out a request for proposals to 135 companies. The government was looking for a multi-purpose four-wheel-drive vehicle. Only American Bantam Car Company responded to the request within the given time, which was just 49 days to produce a working prototype. The government was impressed with Bantam’s design and shared the blueprints with several other companies, which not surprisingly soon followed with their own very similar designs. Adding insult to injury, the government applied for a patent in the name of Colonel Jones, as the inventor, despite the fact that he did not work on the design of the vehicle. See Helping to Win WWII and Getting Little Credit; see also Byron Q. Jones – Wikipedia and Jeep – Wikipedia.
Who was the person who truly invented the Jeep? The real and true inventor was almost certainly Karl Probst, who was brought on by Bantam to assist with the design project in 1940. Probst is said to have designed the first Jeep in only two days time.
For more on the history of the original Jeep please see The Incredible Jeep.