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Jeep prototype has York County World War II roots

Several years ago, Ted Jenkins stood in bed of and talked to visitors in the “Liberation of New Oxford.” This was the Jeep he rode in while serving in World War II. The Jeep’s design came from York-Hoover, maker of bodies for a variety of government vehicle uses, in the late 1930s. Also of interest: Check out these stories and photos of products Made in York.

The Hercules recovery vehicle made famous by pulling down the statue of Saddam is not the first well-known military icon with York roots.

That Hercules vehicle, “Renegade,” was assembled in West Manchester Township’s BAE plant.

Before World War II, the York-Hoover Body Co. produced a prototype for a military vehicle that could navigate all types of terrain. The company then successfully completed orders for 69 more vehicle bodies.

But, alas, York-Hoover turned down another order for 4,500 sturdy vehicle bodies because it had pledged its resources elsewhere.

In ‘Made in York,’ Georg Sheets wrote: “In the late 1930s, York-Hoover was asked by a contractor for the federal government to build the prototype for a new vehicle to be used by military forces. William Sechrist, chief engineer of York-Hoover, designed a vehicle which would maneuver in the toughest conditions.”

Sheets went on to explain that after the 70 vehicles were shipped to Butler, Pa.’s, Bantam Company, the customer, York-Hoover gained a contract to construct a large number of horse vans.

The Bantam Company made their deadline with the Army and competitors Willys Company and Ford Motor Company were late, Sheets wrote.

“The Army made up its own drawings of the York design, making minor adjustments. The Army then asked York-Hoover to produce 4,500 additional vehicles. Because York-Hoover’s resources were committed to horse van contract, company officials had to turn down the order for additional jeeps,” Sheets wrote.

Future work on the Jeep, with the York-made design and minor modifications, went to Willys Co. and the Ford Motor Co.

If you want to know more, visit the Jeep exhibit at the York County Heritage Trust’s Agricultural and Industrial Museum.

*Edited, 6/14/14