Not many American Jeep enthusiasts are aware that the Türk Willys facility produced jeeps under contract for the Turkish Army in the early 1950s and 1960s. Today, very few of these Turkish-built Willys survive.
by Bruno Cianci
More than half a million of the original “Jeeps” were built by Willys, Ford and Bantam during WWII. After the war, the design was further developed by Willys, who registered the “Jeep” trademark in 1950. As there were close relations between Turkey and the United States highlighted by plenty of military aid, Türk Willys Overland Ltd was also founded by Mr. Ferruh Verdi in Tuzla, on the Anatolian side of Istanbul in 1954. This event was very important for Turkey’s automotive industry—it was the very first assembly company in the country.
It is not known how many Jeeps have been built in those facilities nor how many have survived. One of these trucks, however, can be seen in a transport museum that is well worth a trip to Istanbul: the Rahmi M. Koç Müzesi.
The Turkish Jeep is actually a CJ-3B, easily distinguished from the WWII models by its much higher bonnet necessary to clear the extra height of the more powerful “F head” engine. This truck was donated to the Rahmi M. Koç Museum 10 years ago, after being stranded and neglected for decades in the facilities of a local Ford dealer. The Jeep had undergone a complete restoration in the museum’s workshops before joining the extensive private vehicle collection.
This Turkish CJ-3B was rescued from an Istanbul Ford dealership where it had been stranded for years.
There are many differences between a standard U.S.-built CJ-3B and the Turkish truck. One obvious difference is seen on the windshield wipers. They are mounted low and driven from within the frame by an electric motor in a bulge at the bottom corner of the windshield. The motor and linkage for the wipers is covered on the inside of the windshield by a shallow box that covers the entire width of the lower part of the windshield frame. Two other unusual features are the leather-style boots on the shift levers and custom-fitted rubber mats covering the floor and side walls.
The dashboard layout includes the parking brake handle mounted high on the dash, a feature introduced on U.S.-built CJ-3B’s sometime between November 1960 and February 1961, suggesting that this specific Jeep was built in the 1960s.
The new military-style canvas top was likely added during restoration, but it may reflect original hardware that was present on the vehicle. The full set of pioneer tools mounted on the front bumper is unusual, and one could speculate that this might have been added by the Turkish army at some point.
One of the characteristics unique to the Turkish-built CJ are the windshield wipers driven by a motor at the bottom of the frame.
In the United States, an original hood without a “WILLYS” stamping on the side would probably indicate a civilian CJ-3B manufactured after mid-1963, but might also indicate an earlier military version. This would probably also apply in Turkey if the Türk Willys facility was primarily an assembly plant using imported parts. The dual horns mounted on the firewall, rather than a single horn on the left fender, are a notable feature. The plastic overflow bottle inside the right fender, where a metal box containing the voltage regulator would normally be, is also unusual.
The Hurricane engine carries Willys engine number 4J20035, dating it from 1953. Given the dashboard configuration that pretty conclusively dates the Jeep from post-1960, it would seem likely that its engine was switched with another Jeep during its military service. The engine specifications are: 4 cylinders in line, 134 cubic inch-capacity, bore and stroke: 3.13’’ x 4.38’’ producing 72 hp. The transmission is a four-speed manual.
Built under contract at a Willys factory in Istanbul, the CJ-3B was equipped with a standard F-head Hurricane engine, number 4J20035.
The recessed tail lights and the solid rear bumper with no holes are both features typical of later repairs or improvements. Just visible on the rear-mounted jerrycan is the stamping, “1013 TUZLA,” another complicating detail in dating the Jeep. The “1013” apparently refers to the post-1972 military designation for the assembly plant in Tuzla. This could suggest that this style of Jeep was still built in Tuzla after that date, or it might simply mean this can is a later addition.
The Rahmi M. Koç Müzesi in Istanbul features more than 90 vehicles and 10,000 transportation and scientific-related artifacts. For more information on the museum, log on to: www.rmk-museum.org.tr
More than 90 vehicles are exhibited at the museum together with some 10,000 items including, motorcycles, airplanes, boats, trains, scientific instruments, tin toys and even a Guppy Class WWII submarine (ex-USS Thornback). There is plenty of interest to North American visitors, including than 20 U.S.-built vehicles, ranging from a 1898 Malden steam car to 1960s Cadillacs and Ford Mustangs. Other non-American cars are also of interest include a 1935 Bentley Derby, a 1965 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III and a 1976 Studebaker that belonged to the late Ahmet Ertegün, founder of Atlantic Records and manager/producer of Ray Charles. Another car, a 1941 Mercedes Cabriolet B230, belonged to the famous spy “Cicero,” whose notorious pro-German activities were featured in a Hollywood movie starring James Mason.
The aviation collection of Koç Müzesi includes a DC-3 Dakota, an F-104S, the front fuselage of a salvaged B-24 bomber, a Dornier Do28 D-2, a Bellanca 7 Citabria and a Bell Cobra AH1S combat helicopter. For more information on the museum, log on to: www.rmk-museum.org.tr
Two unusual features of the Turkish Willys are the leather-style boots on the shift levers and custom-fitted rubber mats covering the floor and side walls.
YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN:
*Military Vehicles Magazine
*Standard Catalog of U.S. Military Vehicles, 1942-2003