It's true, the mighty jeep turns 70 this year. It's the one that started our hobby/sport/passion/virus/reason for divorce/whatever you want to call it. Sure, there were other 4x4 rigs before the jeep, but the invention of the jeep in WWII and afterwards its introduction to America and the world are why you are reading this editorial right now. It's not because Dodge or Ford or Mitsubishi (oh wait, we took care of the Mitzis back then) or anyone else took up the fight, or the cause, or the patriotism, or the will to win, but the mighty jeep helped our soldiers in the dirt to change the course of the world. Can you say that about yourself? Very few can.
We owe a lot to the jeep, whose humble beginnings came from some brilliant dog soldiers who knew what was coming and what was needed back in the '30s. In the end these guys convinced the Army to solicit bids from 135 manufacturers. Only Bantam was successful in completing and presenting to the Army on time in 49 days the first working jeep-although the jeep name wouldn't be envisioned then or even trademarked for a dozen years after that. Yes, Willys and Ford made the original jeeps in WWII, and then Willys, Kaiser, and AMC produced every variation and iteration after that up to today, when Italian-based Chrysler LLC carries on the tradition of the Jeep brand. But make no mistake: Bantam was the originator, innovator, and true father of the vehicle we owe everything to in this sport.
The town of Butler, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the American Bantam Car Company, is having an incredible event this summer to celebrate the jeep and the saving of the historic plant that produced it, now owned by A.K. Steel. We could fill a whole issue of what the jeep means to the world and to you, regardless of whether you drive a buggy, Bronco, Blazer, Rodeo, or anything else. It all started there in Butler, and I challenge any driver of a jeep or non-jeep to show up and honor the event simply because you would do that for your grandpa.
We plan to have a presence at the Jeep Parade and other goings-on in Butler this summer. Won't you join us for the festivities as well as the thousands of other 4x4 aficionados? For the hot smoke and dope on the event to be held August 12-14, contact the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau at www.bantamjeepfestival.com, or call 724.234.4619. Enjoy Butler this summer along with the sponsors like Quadratec, Meridian Off Road Center, Rousch Creek Off Road Park, Hyline OffRoad, Diehl Jeep, Outdoor Adventure Off-Road Park, and others, along with all the local help that goes into putting on such a grand celebration. Jeep. Just Do It.