In early 1940, the United States Department of War had determined it needed a light, cross-country, four-wheel drive, reconnaissance vehicle and was anxious to have one in time for, what may possibly turn out to be, America’s entry into World War II in Europe. The U.S. Army solicited proposals from domestic car manufacturers for a replacement for its existing, ageing, light motor vehicles, mainly motorcycles and sidecars, and some Ford Model Ts. Recognizing the need to create standard specifications, the Army formalised its requirements on July 11, 1940, and submitted them to 135 U.S. automotive manufacturers. It’s a matter of history that ultimately two manufacturers were successful, Willys Overland Motors with their MB (US quarter-ton Army truck) and later, Ford with their GPW (in production designated GP.)
Impressively the time taken from conception and tenders being sent out, to the production lines starting to roll, was less than two hundred days, amazing for a vehicle that has stood the test of time and become an unlikely motoring icon. This ability to get things done quickly and well was the deciding factor in America being asked to produce military hardware in vast numbers and build hundreds of ships, arguably influencing the outcome of the Second World War. As the war progressed Willys Overland produced over 300,000 Jeeps and the Ford Motor Co. was drafted in to help boost production and contributed over 250,000 units.
Dubbed “The King of Cool”, Steve McQueen’s persona and popularity throughout the 1960s and ’70s saw him star in a string of legendary films including, The Great Escape, Bullitt, The Thomas Crown Affair, and Le Mans. Known for his love of all things automotive, his collection of cars included. This Willys Jeep, delivered on 7th July 1945 (as stamped on the data plate), was formerly part of Steve McQueen’s vast car collection. This Jeep was sold as Lot 532 at the ‘Steve McQueen Estate Auction’ on 24th – 25th November 1984 at the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, to a lucky bidder, a Mr J. McClughan of New Braunfels, Texas for $6,000, some ten times the going rate for a WW2 Jeep.
It is being sold with the Bill of Sale signed by Kenneth Zifferen, Co-Trustee of the McQueen Children’s Trust, the Certificate of Authenticity from the Steve McQueen Estate Sale in Las Vegas, the original auction Catalogue from the Estate Sale, and the original advertisement flyer. The current vendor purchased this from Mr McClughan’s estate who was the third owner after the US army and Steve McQueen. The original blue Californian license plates are also included in the sale and are dated for road use until 31st October 1980 indicating the Jeep was available for use right up until Steve McQueen passed away only a week later.
Since being imported to the UK, this important Willys Jeep has been renovated and fully recommissioned exactly as it would have been in McQueen’s ownership by marque specialists and leading Jeep experts, Jeeparts-UK Ltd. This fabulous motorcar offers superb provenance and is an unrepeatable opportunity to acquire a significant Willys Jeep once owned and driven by the coolest man in Hollywood.
The car is presented by Silverstone Auctions during the NEC Classic Motorshow Sale 2018. It’s estimated to achieve 80.000 to 100.000 Pounds.