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WPC Museum celebrating 70 years of Jeep

by Bill Cawthon on

An original 1941 Willys MA is the focal point of an upcoming exhibition at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum. 70 Years of Jeep, a celebration of one of the automotive industry’s most iconic vehicles, runs April 19 – Dec. 30, 2011.

Featuring a changing array of eight production and concept vehicles, 70 Years of Jeep traces the vehicle’s rise from an army scout car to the transportation of choice in navigating all manner of terrain for millions of adventure-seekers. The special exhibit also features historical images, memorabilia and extensive narrative that chronicles Jeep’s embodiment of freedom and pride for seven decades.

The Museum is showcasing Willys MA78621, one of approximately 45 known 1941 models in the world, an estimated 20 of which are restored. Of the 20 restored vehicles, eight are in the United States. Willys MA78621 is on loan from the private collection of George and Bernadette Hollins of Palos Park, Ill. who have traced the vehicle’s origins back to July 5, 1941, the day it was delivered to the U.S. Army from the Willys-Overland plant in Toledo, Ohio. It is believed to be one of four MA shipped to the 15th Infantry for testing in Fort Lewis, Wash.

MA78621 was discovered rusting away in a farmer’s field near Fort Lewis in 2001 and was restored the following year.

The rotation of heritage vehicles rounding out the 70 Years of Jeep exhibition include: 1943 Jeep MB; 1945 Jeep CJ-2A; 1949 Jeep Station Wagon; 1950 Jeep M38; 1950 Jeepster; 1964 Jeep Gladiator Fire Truck; 1973 Jeep CJ-5; 1984 Jeep Cherokee; 1986 Jeep CJ-7; 1987 Jeep Wrangler; 1991 Jeep Grand Wagoneer; 1997 Jeep Dakar Concept; 1998 Jeepster Concept; “Tomb Raider” Jeep Wrangler; 2001 Willys II Concept; 2003 “Sahara” Jeep Wrangler; 2004 Jeep Rescue Concept;
2004 Jeep Treo Concept; 2005 Jeep Gladiator Concept; 2005 Jeep Hurricane Concept and the 2008 Jeep Renegade Concept.

Visit to confirm the specific Jeep models on exhibit with the 1941 Willys MA prior to visiting the Museum.

The Walter P. Chrysler Museum will also celebrate Jeep heritage with two additional 70 Years of Jeep events coinciding with the July 15, 1941 date the U.S. Army signed the contract that made Willys-Overland the lead producer of the military reconnaissance vehicle:

70 Years of Jeep Cruise Night Wednesday, July 13, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. Jeep will take center stage among all makes and models of cruisers on proud display in the Museum’s parking lot.

70 Years of Jeep Heritage Saturday, July 16, 9:30 a.m. – noon. Part of the Museum’s 2011 Lecture/Workshop Series, avid Jeep history buff and Chrysler retiree Larry Johnson will explore the vehicle’s enduring popularity throughout the decades.

The Walter P. Chrysler Museum is open for self-guided tours 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday and noon – 5 p.m. Sunday. The Museum is closed every Monday, Easter Sunday, July 4, Thanksgiving and Dec. 24, 25 and 31.

Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors (62 and older) and $4 for six – 12 year olds. Children five and under are admitted free; group rates are available. Download two-for-one admission coupons at

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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