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Artifact Friday: M-38 Jeep



This one is a quarter-ton four-wheel drive military light utility vehicle made by Willy's between 1949 and 1952. It replaced, and succeeded the World War II Willy's MB and Ford GPW models, with a total production of some 50,000 units — less than one-tenth the number of WWII models built. Unlike during WWII, Ford was no longer involved in production.

The M38 was a military version of the then-current civilian Jeep CJ-3A. It differed from the CJ-3A in numerous ways, including a reinforced frame and suspension, waterproof 24-volt electrical system, sealed vent system for the engine, transmission, transfer case, fuel system, and brake system.

The M38 windshield could be folded flat for firing and the body was equipped with a pintle hook for towing and lifting shackles front and rear. The headlights were no longer recessed as on previous models but protruded with a guard wire in front. The entire engine air intake and the axle system were fully vented to allow for operation while submerged underwater. Its full-floating front axle (Dana 25) was supported by the wheel hub, rather than the axle itself, and provided greater load capacity. The rear axle (Dana 44) was semi-floating. Its drivetrain was the L-head 134.2 cu in (2.2 L) with a T-90 transmission and the Dana 18 transfer case. The electrical system was upgraded to a 24-volt system which required dual 12-volt batteries connected in series. Its ignition and electrical systems were waterproof; a valuable feature in rainy environments and where deep river fording was necessary.

A few M38 Jeeps were fitted with a transmission power take-off (PTO) driven winch. This feature was not used in regular production models due to increased weight on the front of the vehicle, as well as additional maintenance requirements. Some M38 jeeps served in the Korean theatre of Operations, but the majority of units used there were remanufactured World War II jeeps. Approximately 2,300 M38 Jeeps were manufactured by Ford of Canada for the Canadian Armed Forces in 1952, designated as the M38-CDN Jeep. The M38 Willys MC was succeeded by the M38A1 Willy's MD in 1952.

By: Hallie Cartwright

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