Ex-Earl of Shrewsbury 1943 Willys Jeep 'Woodie' Station Wagon Coachwork by Willenhall Coachcraft Chassis no. MB265149
Although forever associated with Willys-Overland, the original Jeep military vehicle was developed by American Bantam, formerly American Austin. Designed to meet the US Army's requirement for a rugged, go-anywhere, four-wheel-drive vehicle capable of surviving on the barest minimum of unskilled maintenance, Bantam's prototype Jeep was up and running by 1940. The Pentagon, though, doubted the firm's ability to meet the military's post-Pearl Harbour demands, so the major contracts went to Willys and the Ford Motor Company. Produced by the million, the ubiquitous Jeep saw service in every theatre of the Second World War and continued in military service with armies world-wide for several decades thereafter. Today the Jeep remains highly sought after by discerning military vehicle enthusiasts.
This Willys Jeep was purchased in 1947 from a military surplus sale by Willenhall Coachcraft, who converted the vehicle to its current configuration and sold it to the Earl of Shrewsbury in June 1948. There were 95 conversions of this type carried out by Willenhall and this is the only known survivor. In 1961 the Jeep was sold to Victoria Garage in Stoke on Trent, who then sold it on to one Harry Hughes of the same town. It later changed hands, passing to an A D Broom of Norwich where it lay in a shed, eventually becoming derelict. In late 2004 the Jeep was discovered by Fred Smith, a prominent Jeep collector, who sold it to the current owner for restoration in 2005.
Between 2005 and 2012 the Jeep underwent a painstaking restoration, including complete remanufacture of all woodwork, returning it to the exact specification in which it left Willenhall Coachcraft in 1948. All work on the timber frame, engine, and chassis was carried out by the current owner. The paintwork was entrusted to Andy House Body Repairs of Liphook, Hampshire and the chromium plating to Silvabronz of Alton, Hampshire. Jeff Mussell & Son of Godalming, Surrey re-trimmed the interior. Described as in generally excellent condition, this almost certainly unique Jeep variant is offered with a photographic record of the restoration, original buff logbook, a history of Willenhall Coachcraft, MoT/tax to November 2013 and Swansea V5 document. It should be noted that the registration 'NRF 9' is being retained by the vendor.