Back on Aug. 2-4, 2012, at the Tippecanoe Steam & Gas Power Show in West Lafayette, Ind., there was a rare sight: John Haan with his 1961 Jeep FC (forward control) 170 DRW. This particular model is basically a truck, which was produced first by Willys then by Kaiser Jeep.
The model was built between 1956 and 1965. John’s Jeep looks a lot like a Volkswagen van with the cab-over design. The FC 170 DRW model came as a one-short-ton, dual-wheeled rear axle model with a 120-inch load bed and a gross weight of 8,000 or 9,000 pounds.
The story behind the truck is an interesting one; the Jeep was originally purchased in May 1961 from Prentiss Truck Sales of Lafayette by Paul Booker, of Romney, Ill. “Paul Booker was a farmer. The bed was placed to take feed to livestock,” John explained.
“It had a nine-foot stake side bed, originally.”
Booker had the original bed removed, modified the vehicle and had a new bed and hoist installed at Linden, Ind., by Clark Body.
The box bed was removed and Clark Body – an outside supplier of specialized Jeep bodies – fitted the vehicle with a dump body.
The DRW means dual-wheeled rear axle, a feature that allows Jeeps to move easily over fields, which worked well for Paul when he delivered feed to his herd. This is just one example of a Jeep being used in a farming environment; in fact, Willys’ involvement with farming and tractors started long before the Jeep was ever developed.
Right after World War I tractors began to replace the horse on the farm and John N. Willys, along with several partners, purchased the Moline Plow Co., and Willys-Overland produced, then went on to build, the Universal Tractor. This plow/tractor was a little over 12 feet long and four feet wide, and weighed in at more than 3,000 pounds. John Willys sold out in 1920 to his partners.
World War II was the impetus for the production of the Jeep for military use, but it was being tested on the farm as early as 1942.
According to the CJ3A Information website, on April 13-15, 1942, the USDA tested two military Jeeps as light tractors performing several farm tasks. It was determined the vehicle would be highly useful on the farm, but was not suitable for cultivation, since the Jeep was not tall enough to pass over the growing crops and the track width did not properly align with rows.
Although this model was often manufactured overseas, Paul’s 1961 FC spent its working life in Indiana, not far from Brookston, where John Haan grew up. The Jeep remained on Paul’s farm until John purchased it in 2010 from an estate sale. When he bought the Jeep, it had only 17,300 miles on it.
He found the vehicle in the corner of a shed; the auctioneer stated the transmission was locked up, but that wasn’t an issue for this talented farmer. John explained, “I said I could fix that.”
After taking it home, he replaced the brakes, wheel cylinders, re-cored the radiator, cleaned the fuel system, rebuilt the generator and cleaned and painted the frame.
John said although he is a farmer, he didn’t need the Jeep as a farm vehicle – he saw it as a recreational purpose vehicle.
“I use it as a toy. I had a street rod and Model T Ford I sold over the years, and now I needed something to play with,” he pointed out.
Readers with questions or comments for Cindy Ladage may write to her in care of this publication.