Ford's Production of Jeeps

As described here, each of the three companies providing experimental jeeps during the 1940-1941 development period engaged in some research and development to help the army find a satisfactory design. A Ford report also indicates that Ford had hoped to build its jeeps using some of its own parts that were comparable, but not identical, to those being made or purchased by Bantam and Willys. The U.S. Army, however, was determined that all the parts of all the jeeps be interchangeable, which forced some practices upon Ford that company engineers apparently did not relish. Discussions between engineers of Ford and the Quartermaster Corps concerning jeep engines are illustrative. During the round of contracts in which each company supplied the army with 1500 vehicles. Bantam used a 112-cubic-inch engine made by the Continental Motor Company, Ford used its own 119-cubic-inch engine that it made for Ford tractors, and Willys made its own 139-cubic-inch engine. It was the Willys engine, in part, that put the Willys jeep over the weight limit for that round of production, but the army decided that it preferred the more robust Willys engine. It therefore decided the Willys engine would be standard in all jeeps. Shortly thereafter, though, when the Quartermaster Corps decided it needed to have Ford producing jeeps as well. Ford estimated it would cost $4,000,000 to modify its Rouge plant to manufacture the Willys engine. Ford therefore proposed to use its Ford tractor engine block with larger cylinder bores. Wanting complete interchangeability in its jeeps, the Quartermaster Corps nevertheless insisted that Ford tool-up to make the Willys engines. Willys agreed to provide Ford with all plans and other documents necessary to produce the engines.

By the time Ford was ready to start producing jeeps in large numbers, however, the U.S. was at war, and much of the space at the Rouge plant was taken producing other ordnance for the war effort. Ford therefore proposed that the Ordnance Department allow the company to assemble jeeps at its Chester, Dallas, Louisville, and Richmond branch plants. According to a Ford analysis, this introduced a certain inefficiency to the company's overall jeep operation. The government was asking Ford to make 350 jeeps per day. One of those branch plants could have handled the task, but instead the work was spread among several plants working at less than capacity. Ford acknowledged, on the other hand, the advantage accrued to the government. Most of the jeeps were assembled on the coasts, so the government incurred less cost shipping finished vehicles to port facilities.

Ford's Rouge plant produced the first seventy-seven of the company's jeeps with Willys engines in January 1942. The following month, while the Rouge plant turned-out 1,460 jeeps, Chester, Dallas, Louisville, and Richmond branches got their jeep assembly lines underway. Chester produced 184 jeeps in February 1942, Dallas produced 197, Louisville 107, and Richmond 170. In March, all the plants were producing at about their intended capacity, and the company produced 8,920 jeeps. The following month. Ford set its overall record of jeeps produced in a single month: 11,159 vehicles. The Chester and Richmond plants also set their individual plant records in April 1942: 2,425 and 2,000 respectively. The Rouge plant ceased assembling jeeps in September 1942, with a brief resumption in mid-1943. Chester ceased producing jeeps in January 1943. The Edgewater branch assembled 1,333 jeeps in early 1943. The Dallas, Louisville, and Richmond plants continued assembling the quarter-ton trucks until the Ford contract ended in July 1945. During that period of production. Ford manufactured its own Willys engines, as well as axles, drive shafts, and some of the springs, transmissions, and bodies, at the Rouge and the Lincoln plants. It made the little bits of trim at the Highland Park plant. Ford purchased all the other components of the jeeps it made, including frames, wheels, steering gears, and brakes, from suppliers who also supplied Willys. The following table shows the totals for each of the Ford plants that made jeeps during the war:

Ford Motor Company Jeeps in WWII by plant
Rouge (includes 4,458 experimental 26,017 vehicles before the GPW contract) 26,017