“Jeep in the crate.” In our hobby, that one phrase causes more eyes to roll than Kelly’s Heroes’ Oddball declaring, “Always with the negative waves Moriarty, always with the negative waves.”
Yes, Jeeps were produced and packed this way for shipment to U.S. forces and countries like England and the Soviet Union. At the Ford Motor Company assembly plant in Richmond, California, about 70% of production was boxed due to their close proximity to the San Francisco port.
But not being one who wants to stir the negative waves, let me simply state: If WWII jeeps are still in the crate, they are sitting on the bottom of the Atlantic or Pacific.
Okay, okay, so the “jeep in a crate” is a bit of an urban legend. Yes, jeeps were shipped in crates. Yes, those crates were warehoused. And yes, even some of them may have been sold after the end of WWII.
But mention that you heard about a secret warehouse stacked with endless rows of Willys MBs or Ford GPWs and you won’t get a diehard military vehicle guy or a militaria collector to put down his McMuffin and look you in the eye. Most folks in the hobby recognize that the “jeep in a crate” is more myth than fact.
The WWII Jeep in a Crate is a Unicorn — or even a Big Foot!. Everyone has a story about seeing or hearing about one, but no one can just present hard evidence an original, crated WWII Jeep being sold for $50. In fact, there has been a long-standing reward offered for concrete evidences of a unassembled, direct-from-the-factory Jeep in a crate that was sold as surplus for $50. To date, no one has been able to claim the $10,000 reward.
However, the 21st Century does offer a new version of this story—and this one is more reality than urban legend. For years, the U.S. military has been selling big trucks—2½-ton “deuces” and 5-ton cargo trucks—for a fraction of what the trucks originally cost. Today, someone wanting an “army truck” can search the government auctions and, for a couple of grand, come away with a heck of a deal.
For example, at Iron Planet auctions, a drivable M939 series 5-ton 6x6 cargo truck sell for as little as $10,800. The U.S. government paid more than $80,000 in 1985 for each of these! Maybe a 5-ton is a bit bigger than a jeep, but that is a lot of truck for the money!
All that said, don’t let me deter anyone from looking through those warehouses for crates of military surplus. It’s still out there.
Keep chasing those unicorns and opening those crates...if you find some goodies that have been forgotten to history, drop me an email. We all love those “jeep (or any other militaria) in a crate” stories!
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