Even the front and rear “black-out” lighting system works. It was required for tactical situations when regular headlamps would attract enemy fire.
It’s not a comfortable vehicle to drive and wasn’t intended to be. The engineering is simple with access of components designed to be repaired or replaced by GIs who weren’t necessarily mechanics.
“The brake and gas pedals are really close together so you have to be careful,” Hill said. “And the clutch is hard to press down.”
There’s an instruction plate on the glove box door for engaging and disengaging four-wheel drive and shifting it into high or low. In two wheel drive it’s a standard three speed. The engine is a 134 cubic inch, in-line four cylinder.
The gas tank is under the drivers’ seat, which you raise to add fuel. There’s a rack for an axe and shovel on the right and a full size spare tire and jerry can of reserve fuel mounted on the rear.
“You might need the shovel and axe to dig a fox hole if the Luftwaffe was coming after you,” Hill said.
The windshield wipers are hand operated by either the driver or passenger. A small set of tools in an interior compartment could be used for most repairs. Except for the windshield and overhead canvas top, driver and passengers are largely exposed to the elements.
Hill was a 12-year-old lad living on a Caldwell County, Mo., farm with his folks when the 1943 Jeep was first assembled.
“I can remember to this day that Sunday afternoon when it was announced on the radio that Pearl Harbor had been attacked,” he said.
His dad was too old for the service and agriculture was part of the war effort.
“We didn’t have television but followed events through newsreels at the movies,” he said. “Some of it was propaganda, even if it was true, and they made us hate the Germans.”