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. This is roughly how it went. Bear in mind that to tell a ‘believable’ tale there must be quite a lot of truthful ‘elements’ to the fake story.I worked for a New Zealand Newspaper called The Truth, way back in my days of innocence. The Truth was ironically named. People who bought the newspaper…
This is roughly how it went. Bear in mind that to tell a ‘believable’ tale there must be quite a lot of truthful ‘elements’ to the fake story.I worked for a New Zealand Newspaper called The Truth, way back in my days of innocence. The Truth was ironically named. People who bought the newspaper did so with no illusions. It was an entertainment. A sort of comic really. No one could ever actually believe the headlines “Aliens ate my baby” or “Satan made me do it.”
Most of the advertisements were for sex or penis enlargement. It was all sex and drugs and rock and roll and no ‘reporter’ on the newspaper took anything seriously. Editorial meetings were great training for budding novelists looking for a neat but hardly believable plot.
So it was a big surprise when some twenty five years after I wrote a story, it came back to me at a party when a gorgeous redhead intent on showing her brilliant intelligence earnestly began to explain to me how the Jeep got its name.
In 1936 Adolph Hitler ‘commissioned’ the Peoples Car known as the Volkswagen . It was cheap to buy, cheap to run, and instantly embraced by Germans young and old. In 1938 the first Volkswagens rolled off the production line, and one of the worlds classic car marques was born.
Franklin D Roosevelt was the United States President in 1939 and he was seriously miffed that Adolf had decreed a Peoples Car. He wanted a better, tougher, cheaper, more economical car, so he told his guys to visit the Bantam company and get to work. The Bantam company was rather small and it gave the design to Willy’s and Ford who took it upon themselves to make a few modifications.
Here was Franklin D’s. brief. “I want you to examine the German car and I want you to come up with a cheap, economical, tough, all terrain vehicle that can be used both for military and civilian purposes. And I want it to be better than that damn German junk!”
It wasn’t much of a brief and the budget was such that the car would sell for UNDER $500. ($495). But before it was released to the public it would spend a year or two exclusive to the US Army.
Creating the car was a rush job for Franklin D. He needed it for the potential ‘war effort’, bearing in mind that the US didn’t actually enter the World War until December 7, 1941 at about 7:55 AM when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Jeep had to be available, ready, and waiting. The actual lead time from start to finish was just 49 days! Yes it really was 49 days! The first Jeep was submitted for testing on 21st September 1940 though the trademark was not actually registered until 1943.
Bantam created the first plans for the Jeep in just two days! On the third day the estimated total cost and the blueprints were submitted and production of the car began using standard off the shelf parts. It was a piece of inspired genius in car building.
In short order the President was informed that the vehicle was ready to roll. It truly was under budget, but only by a couple of dollars. Literally just a couple of dollars.
Franklin D. went for a drive and was pleased as punch with the result. The US would show those darned krauts how to make a car dammit!
During the test drive people milled around. Dignitaries, Generals, assembly line workers gathered to witness the triumph, waving flags, cheering.
It was during that test drive that Walter Lehne, a young assembly worker fell, or was pushed into the path of the car in which the President sat. He suffered several broken bones, and Franklin D. was appalled and angry.
“Dammit man!” He yelled at the driver. “Why did you not sound the horn you fool?”
The young driver, humiliated in front of his peers for his careless driving turned to the President and said. “I’m so sorry sir! I’m so sorry! There is no horn!”
“What do you mean NO HORN?” The President fumed! “Since when did a motor vehicle have no horn?”
Later, a Ford executive was forced to tell the President that the vehicle had no horn because they had totally expended the budget and there was simply no more money to spend. They had gone to the limit of the budget to provide a car for under $500.
A rushed meeting took place and Franklin D. gave the go ahead to spend ‘a couple of dollars a unit” to make the vehicle ‘safe to use’.
A few days later several thousand vehicles, then unamed, were fitted with horns, and a demonstration arranged with the President.
On the second circuit of the test track the President leaned forward, tapped the driver on the shoulder and said “Sound that damned horn soldier!”
He did, and a spindly high pitched burp escaped from the front of the vehicle. It went “JEEP JEEP JEEP!”
And that’s how the Jeep got it’s name.
A quarter of century after writing that story a gorgeous redhead pinned me to the wall and earnestly repeated it to me. JEEP JEEP!