In 1940, the US Army asked American automotive manufacturers for prototypes of a light, rugged reconnaissance vehicle. The winning proposal was designed by freelancer Karl Probst and built by the American Bantam Car Company. For certainty of supply, the US Army asked Willys-Overland Motors and the Ford Motor Company to propose their own vehicles based on Probst’s design. Willys-Overland’s Chief Engineer, Delmar “Barney” Roos modified the design to accommodate a more powerful engine. Ford’s vertical-bar front grill was also incorporated. The resulting Model MB final design was approved for production.
Willys-Overland and Ford manufactured about 640,000 Model MB and Model GPW vehicles during WWII. The origin of the name “Jeep” has been debated but its iconic status can be attributed to the enduring visual qualities of the Probst-Roos WWII design. The Jeep has remained in continuous production by successive companies and is offered by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles today.