|By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
COLLEGE CORNER, Ohio — Jeeps fascinate most boys and John Ittel was no exception. His first car, at age 16, was a 1948 jeep. He used it in his after-school job at Numaid Farms in New Haven.
“The 1200-acre farm equaled a lot of wagon pulling bringing in the corn, hay, and silage,” said Ittel, the owner of Green Prairie Turf, Inc. “The jeep was much faster than a tractor and more fun because a passenger could ride along.”
“The jeep only lasted one winter,” he said. “It was cold and drafty with the canvas cab. It was hard to pick up girls with those conditions. I traded it for a 1951 Ford.”
Ittel married Phyllis in 1959. Not worried about picking up girls anymore, in 1961 he bought a 1949 jeep.
“For the past 45 years I’ve always had jeeps around; sometimes eight or 10 of them,” he said. “I used them on the farm.”
Ittel has researched the use of jeeps on the farm. According to an article by Fred Caldwell in the July/August 2003 issue of Antique Power in December 1940 there were recommendations to use military jeeps to replace the farm horse.
Actual testing of military jeeps for farm use began in spring of 1942, Caldwell wrote.
R.B. Gray, test chief for USDA said the military jeep would be useful on any farm that also had a tractor to cultivate and do the heaviest work.
Contrary to popular assumption, Caldwell wrote that the civilian jeep was not a late-war development. It was sold to the public on July 18, 1945, nearly a month before the end of the war.
“When it first came out they called it the pre-production farm jeep,” Ittel said. “It was released in 1945 and virtually every jeep that was produced then went either to business or farming.”
“Willys (the company that produced most of the early jeeps) realized that the jeep had potential on the farm because a lot of soldiers were getting out of the army,” Ittel said. “They knew the jeep and they were farm boys; they needed something to drive.”
Tractors were very hard to come by so Willys started working on applications for agriculture, Ittel said.
“They developed power take-off, a three-point hitch and various implements (most made by other companies and endorsed by jeep) to pull behind the jeep,” he said. “It was very successful.”
The Monroe three-point hitch assembly was endorsed by jeep.
However, Stratton and Newgren also made three-point hitches. Ittel has all three hitch types; at a recent jeep reunion in Springfield, Ill., Ittel said the Stratton and Newgren “created quite a stir.”
And, while Ittel did use jeeps on the farm, he and a friend, Jim Keller, were also off-roading - before that term was used - along Indian Creek and the Great Miami River in his 1949 jeep.
“I currently have a 1946 CJ-2A jeep with a grader blade, a 1953 CJ-3B with a posthole digger and a 1963 C-J5 with a one-bottom plow. They are equipped with power take-off, a three point hitch and various factory options.”
“I don’t use them for farm work,” Ittel said. “I’ve got them all cleaned up and I don’t want to get them dirty. I keep them shined up and go to four or five antique tractor shows every summer.”