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Prototypes at Fort Custer, Michigan

• CATEGORIES: Bantam-FordGP-WillysMA-EarlyJPs, Features, Old Images, Old News Articles This site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

Fort Custer, Michigan, appears to have been a testing ground for Ford and Willys prototypes. Along with the articles below, there are press photos posted from years passed. You’ll also note that some of the press photos have captions that are printed identically, but pencil-marked up differently. It’s possible someone was selling those as originals when they may not have been.

Here’s an article and a photo showing a couple Ford GPs being run hard, originally printed in the March 09, 1941, issue of the Battle Creek Enquirer:


Clipping from Battle Creek Enquirer -

It didn’t take long for the offload vehicles to become a hit with soldiers. This article appears in the March 25, 1941, issue of the Detroit Free Press:



And, just to set the record straight, at Fort Custer a jeep was a jeep and not a ‘peep’.

Clipping from Battle Creek Enquirer -


These press photos have been gathered from older posts. First, a couple Willys MA photos from eBay:

This was posted on ebay in June 2017: “1942 Photo WW2 Era Fort Custer MI Versatile Jeep Military Push Ball Game RareYou are bidding on an original Press Photo from a newspaper archive. The photograph measures 6×7 inches and is dated 9-25-1942.”



This version was posted on eBay in Feb of 2014:




Next, Three Ford GP photos:

Posted on eBay in April of 2017: “1941- Army engineers at Fort Custer test footbridge by driving Ford GP jeep across it. Photo measures approx. 7″ x 9”



Posted on eBay in August of 2015: “1941- Army engineers at Fort Custer test footbridge by driving Ford GP jeep across it.”



Posted on eBay in February of 2015:  “WWII Engineers Test Bridge in Ford GP Jeep at Fort Custer Original Press Photo”




3 Comments on “Prototypes at Fort Custer, Michigan

  1. Morgan

    I like learning the term ‘jeep’ was becoming popular even before our official entry into WWII. Yet, I’m fascinated that Ford made such a push to name it the ‘blitz buggie’. It simply appears to be so close to the German ‘Blitzkrieg’. Ford and GM both had subsidiary car businesses in Germany thru the 1930’s (maintained throughout the war?). In the mid 30’s, these Ford and GM subsidiaries, were the largest producers of trucks for the German army according to U.S. Army reports. And Hitler explained that he kept a picture of Henry Ford near his desk because he admired Ford’s factory efficiency and he was inspired by some of Ford’s writings. From this post and the posted articles of a few days ago, I had simply not known how frequently Ford was publishing/pushing to name it the ‘blitz buggie’. I’m glad the name ‘jeep’ won that ‘war’.

  2. David Eilers Post author


    I didn’t know it either. I’ve got some upcoming, interesting early articles to post still, but my hope is to aggregate them in a way to see if they tell a slightly different story (or not) vs. Bill Shear’s excellent WarBaby book. I think there’s room for another book about the history of the jeep, but one that takes a deeper look at the jeep against the back drop of the times. For example, right now I’m reading Krakatoa: The Day the Earth Stood Still by Simon Winchester. It’s the type of book about a volcano that holds a reader’s interest whether they like geography or not. It’s more about the history of Indonesia, especially Batavia, a literal foreign world for most Americans, told through the lens of Krakatoa.

    – Dave

  3. Morgan

    Huh?, … I thought The Day the Earth Stood Still was a classic sci-fi film with Gort and Klaatu.
    Ha Ha, Actually, I’m interested in Krakatoa and that part of the world. Tambora too, which was responsible for the 1816 year without summer here in the Northeast (elsewhere too I suppose)
    Thanks Dave
    – Morgan

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