York-Hoover Body and the Jeep
The Body Division of York-Hoover Corporation, on Wheatfield Street in York, PA, was repeatedly recognized for their quality and quantity of truck bodies, and similar units, produced for the Army Signal Corps, Quartermaster Corps and the Navy in the military build up and during WWII. This Pentagon Building Display shows several of the York-Hoover Truck Bodies produced during WWII; while displaying some of the fabrication techniques that had long since earned York-Hoover the reputation for producing robust, durable truck bodies.
H. Dietz Keller, a local historian and former president of York-Hoover Corporation, penned the first two chapters of the book Pictorial History of Pleasure and Commercial Vehicles, Manufactured in York County, Pennsylvania; published in 1977 by Theodore F. Freed and W. F. O. Rosenmiller. Quoting for pages 28-29 of Chapter 2:
During the second world war the Body Division of York-Hoover Body Corporation was deeply engaged in building equipment for the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. The bodies for U.S. jeeps were originally engineered and built in the York-Hoover plant as were bodies for military ambulances, vans, and other vehicles. The part played by York-Hoover and its employees in this regard gained national fame and recognition. On October 19, 1942 the Body Division was awarded York County’s first Army-Navy E award for outstanding achievement in producing war equipment, which was just the beginning of their accomplishments. Four additional E star awards were presented for outstanding production achievements in May and November of 1943 and in June and December of 1944, thereby making York-Hoover Body Division the first company in York County to receive the 4 Star E Award and the first company in the entire Philadelphia Ordinance District of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia to be so honored.
During the military build up, prior to the United States entry into WWII, The American Bantam Car Company, in Butler, PA, was determined to meet the Army’s request for proposals on a lightweight reconnaissance vehicle; which would become the Jeep. Bantam was on the verge of bankruptcy and their plant only had a skeleton crew, so they needed help on several components, such as a body produced to their design layout.
The American Bantam Car Company produced the cowl and hood by adapting tooling from their Bantam Roadster; this produced the easily recognized rounded-nose feature. Bantam subcontracted with York-Hoover Body Corporation to design and produce a custom body, from the firewall to the backend.
A York-Hoover body was in the first 70 Jeeps ever produced; that was in 1940. The 75th-anniversary of the production of those first Jeeps is marked in 2015.
Pittsburgh’s Heinz History Center has, in their recently opened ‘We Can Do It! WWII’ display, the only known original Jeep, of those first 70. The Jeep is on loan from the Smithsonian Institution and is shown in my following photograph. Click on this LINK for a Full View of the illustrations in this post; since the ydr.com site will occasionally cut off important details in the cropping of illustrations.
On the wall behind the “oldest surviving original Jeep” is a photo of the 49-day prototype, designated the BRC Pilot Model. The American Bantam Car Company was the only company to deliver their prototype to the Army by the specified deadline date; September 23rd, 1940. After the prototype was tested and proved itself, Bantam got the approval to complete the remainder of the build of 70; delivering them during November and December of 1940—all these having York-Hoover bodies.
Two other jeep prototypes were delivered, and although late, the Army tested them. The Willys’ prototype was delivered to the Army on November 13, 1940 and Ford’s prototype was delivered on November 23, 1940. Ford had the first design with the signature flat nose, with recessed headlights; one of the key jeep features that figured prominently in the Ford vs. Willys battle over the rights to the “Jeep brand” following WWII.
In 1941, Bantam, Willys and Ford all received contracts for 1,500 next generation “jeep” prototypes for further evaluation and testing. York-Hoover Body Corporation had to turn down making the bodies for the 1941 Bantam “jeeps”, due to many other production commitments; as afore mentioned. The Willys design won out and Ford was selected as the secondary supplier; with Ford building to the Willys design, so that all jeeps had interchangeable parts. The American Bantam Car Company produced a few other “jeeps” in 1941, but none thereafter.
It is noteworthy that the bodies of the first Jeeps ever made were designed and produced at the York-Hoover Body Plant on Wheatfield Street in York, PA. Many of my readers wanted to know more about the Wheatfield Street plant; that will the subject of my next post in this series. For now, here is a circa 1955 aerial view of the Wheatfield Street plant from the collections of the York County Heritage Trust. I’ve annotated the aerial view with features and street names. The large yard, for truck chassis staging, bounded by Mt. Rose Avenue, Prospect Street and Albemarle Street is now the site of Mt. Rose Avenue Plaza.
Links to related posts include:
- Earliest Jeeps Built 75-Years Ago for WWII
- First Jeep was tested in Baltimore
- York-Hoover employees custom built Electric Scoreboard for Memorial Stadium
- McGann Manufacturing Company in Spring Garden Township; Harold L. Smith during WWII
- York WWII Veteran Remembers Okinawa
- WWI & WWII Navy Destroyers Named after York Veteran
- York-built Worn Drive Truck debuted at 1916 York Fair