History - Recovery - Markings Page 1  Page 2  Page 3

History

After World War 2 was over, the French Government acquired around 20,000 Willy's MB & Ford GPW Jeeps to rebuild its army. The Jeeps were a mixture of war surplus, lend-lease and abandoned damaged vehicles. 
 
Only about half of the vehicles were useable, so the La Maltournée works near Paris began to dismantle the damaged units to component parts, and then rebuild new vehicles out of the useable parts.

In the mid 1950's, the French army decided to stick with the Jeep due to the large quantity of spares still available, and soon after, the Hotchkiss company began to manufacture new Jeeps, under the name Hotchkiss M201. They produced over 27,000 M201's between 1957 and 1966.

My Jeep was an early build M201 and as a result, is likely to have a higher proportion of recycled Willys and Ford parts than later Jeeps. It carried the Army chassis number 5792 ( see right ), and its Hotchkiss serial number is 6560. This indicated that is was the 6560th vehicle made, and left the factory in December 1958. When first issued to the Army, it bore the registration 031 026.

   Eight years later, it went to be rebuilt by E.R.G.M.( Etablissement de Réserve Générale du Matériel Automobile) at La Maltournée near Paris. 

It was given the MALT job number 28196, and after rebuild, bore the registration 265-0439, and it is fitted with a rebuild plate dated 3rd June, 1966. I am guessing that this is the date of the completion of the rebuild.

The 265 part of the registration tells a little about the Jeeps history itself. The "2" signifies the arm of the services, ie Armée de Terre / Gendarmerie, but also the decade, the 2 also signifying the 1960's. The "6" signifies the date of last issue to the forces, in this case 1966; and the "5" indicated that the Jeep has been rebuilt. The 0439 is the sequential Army Registration number. 

At some point, perhaps during the factory rebuild, the Jeep received a 'Sahara Jeep' screen. This can be distinguished by the spotlight bracket on the left frame of the screen. A light sanding reveals sand coloured paint below the olive and primer. The Sahara Jeep was not an Army modification, but a production line variant. I later carefully removed the bracket to allow the fitting of doors.

 
The Jeep was also converted at some point to carry radios, and the mounting holes remain in the rear wheel arches showing where the radio trays were attached.

In the following few years, it received a rebuilt gearbox, possibly towards the end of 1969 or early 1970.The gearbox rebuild plate is dated 21/05/69, the work being completed by ERGM in Vannes, on the western coast of France.

 
A compact digital camera, squeezed down the side of the engine allowed me to get a clear photo of the engine data plate, shown below. The engine rebuild was undertaken by yet another branch of ERGM at Clermont Ferrand in central France.

The picture revealed a rebuild date of what appears to be 6/7/87, suggesting the vehicle was still in army service at this date.
 

 
This date seems to fit in with the markings on the jeep as it was found in February 2005. The grey/white circle, with the black broken 'O', on the side of the Jeep was a recognition marking used in the 1980's. Only a few of the Jeeps remaining in French Army service carried this marking.
 
 

 
In the late 1980's or early 90's, the jeep was selected for long term storage, and the engine bay components were sealed to keep moisture out. The Jeep when purchased, only had 13767km on the clock. I don't know if this is the total mileage for the vehicle, or just since the 1966 factory rebuild.

 
It was sold at auction from Toulouse in the year 2000, and was viewable at the Army Camp at Muret, prior to the sale. It may or may not have served with the Army at Muret, but is most likely to have served in that general area. It was lot number 79 at the sale on 27th of January.
 
 
Because of the early build date of my Jeep, it is likely that several recycled WW2 parts were incorporated in the vehicle, ranging from nuts and bolts to much larger components. It is almost impossible to tell what smaller items were used in the manufacture. However, from the 'M201/MB Differences' pages, you can see the major outward differences between the vehicles, so what evidence remains to show possible MB parts?
 
When removing the oil filter housing, the engine number was discovered. The stamped number reads 'MB 465640', showing the engine block to be an original Willys engine. This engine number can be seen in the picture below.

 
The picture below right, has been taken of the lower part of the engine block, viewed past the front shock absorber. Just visible is the casting information, which reads the following...
8-18  638632  W5  NI-CR  N1

From a table of MB engine numbers, I know that the block was made in 1944, and from the beginning of the casting number, it was made on August 18th.
 
After taking a closer look at the grill, and comparing it to other Willys and Hotchkiss grills, it can be seen that it has the deep stamping of the Willys design.

 
While the body tub was factory rebuilt in 1966, and also at some time converted for carrying radios, I suspect that at least parts of the body tub are also Willys. The brace between the rear and side body next to the rear seat is of the early M201 design rather than Hotchkiss.

 
I was also told some time ago that the fit of the shovel on the side of the Jeep was different, and that the original MB shovels didn't fit the Hotchkiss body and bracket so well. Having bought an original shovel, it fits fine. How true this information is I don't know.

 
The front floor pan, on the gearbox fairing, also has the hole for the original floor starter switch, that has since been welded up. This probably happened during the 1966 factory rebuild. 
 

 
Many thanks to Andy Carter for filling in some of the history of the vehicle for me. Andy has a comprehensive site about the M201.

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