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Jeeps in the Early Years

Jim Shorkey Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram is a proud seller of the Jeep brand. But today’s Jeeps wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the unique history from where they came. Jeep has an amazing history and it might be a shock to find out it was built in Butler, PA.  Today we will talk about the early history and how this little company from Butler, which is not very far from our Jim Shorkey Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram store, made one of most iconic vehicles that we still love to drive and buy.

In 1940 Germany was taking over Europe and North Africa with lightweight vehicles. The Allied forces needed a vehicle to compete.  The US contacted all automobile manufacturers for a running vehicle that could do all the task the US military needed and be done in only 49 days.

The Us Army’s specifics were:

  • four wheel drive
  • wheelbase of no more than 80 inches
  • tread of no more than 47 inches
  • ground clearance of at least 6.25 inches
  • handle a load of 600 pounds, cooling system that would prevent engine overheating at sustained low speeds
  • vehicle weight of approximately 1,300 pounds, which got changed in the process to be no more than 2,160 pounds

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The American Bantam Car Company of Butler, Pennsylvania, decided to submit a bid in hopes of changing their direction in the car industry.  With such an ambitious project, they decided to hire a new designer to the company. They hired freelance designer, Karl Probst from Detroit to make designs within five days before the bids were due.  Luckily, working nonstop, the American Bantam Car Company designed the nation’s first four wheel drive, all-terrain vehicle.

Jim Shorkey, History of Jeep

Bantam did have an advantage. At the time Bantam already had ties to the US Army streamlining previous models for army testing in 1938. In 1939, the Pennsylvania National Guard started to take a real interest in the company and the Army technicians toured Bantam’s plant and tested its products.

History of Jeep, Jim Shorkey, CDJR

Bantam finished their Jeep prototypes two days before the US Army’s deadline.  With a paint job and a few adjustments, the Jeeps were ready for the US army to test the new vehicles.  In 20 days of automotive trails the Jeep did everything the Army asked it to.  The Army was so pleased they ordered 70 for battle training with Dwight Eisenhower.  In March 1941, the Army ordered 1,500 more Jeeps, most of which were shipped to the Soviets to fight Germany.  With the War ramping up, more Jeeps were needed.  Bantam then faced an issue that was unforeseen.  The Jeep blueprint was owned by the US Government and didn’t believe Bantam had enough production space.  The US Government gave contracts to other auto companies like Ford to produce 16,000 Jeeps.

After the war many companies started to claim to be the creator of the Jeep. Eventually the courts ruled that the Jeep was made and born in Butler, Pennsylvania by the Bantam Company.  This fact helped the originator Bantam to sell more jeeps to the public and changing the fortunes of the company.  Still every year the city of Butler has a Jeep festival to remember where it all started.


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