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Half-Ton MLW-2 Jeeps

By Mark Askew (©2008)

The idea for the Jeep was to be a light-weight 4x4 vehicle, yet Willys designers kept coming up with other ideas for the world famous Jeep. The MT TUG 6x6, Half Track, Mimi Jeeps etc. Then they came up with the idea of a ½ Ton version. As far as we know, they only ever built two prototypes and as to there whereabouts today, no one knows – if they ever appear, please do let me know – Mark Askew.

In September 1943, Headquarters, Army Air Forces, received a request from the South West Pacific for a truck with payload and mobility over mud and swamps of jungle terrain, superior to that of the quarter ton Jeep. Some Jeeps had been modified locally with 18 inch pickup body extension to increase cargo capacity, but more trucks were needed and fast. On September 12th 1943, Ordinance Research at Aberdeen Proving Ground tested a standard Jeep on which they installed a set of 7.50-20 tyres which worked well, although the power was not as good. Ordnance then contracted with Willys Overland to design and build two prototypes with 7.50-20 inch tyres with maximum parts interchange ability with the MB and a ½ ton payload.

Because these pilot models were built under a government contract, their number began with ‘M’ and because its wheelbase was 92 inches, Willys gave it the designation ‘LW’ which then became MLW (Military Long Wheelbase) and the second version became the MLW-2.

The overall length was 142-7/16 inches, about 10 inches longer than the MB. Width was the same as an MB at 62 inches. The track of the MLW-2 was 54 inches, 5 more inches than the MB. Due to the 7.50-20 inch tyres it was 3 inches taller than the MB. The engine and T84J floor shift transmission remained the same.

The MLW-2 used two different transfer cases, each having the 2.43 low range gear ratio, used earlier on the 6x6 MT TUG Jeeps. The tailgate also came from the 6x6 MT TUG.

Many thanks to Fred Coldwell and Fred Crismon for sharing some of this information and some of these photos.

The Willys MLW-2 was a prototype built in 1944, to carry a load of 500 kg. Wheelbase was lengthened by 30.5cm. There were two versions made, differing only by the types of axles and tyre size, either 7.50 x 20 or 7.50 x 16. This photograph was taken on the 12th of January 1944. Note complete canvas top, spare tyre behind the seats and spare tyre mount on the side.
In this photo taken the same time as the one at the top of page, here you can see the rear side mounted tool box, a tailgate leading to the open top storage box compartment in the rear. Note this one has open sides and a rear door worked into the canvas, and also fitted with half canvas doors.

The bonnet had been widened and also cut down, and under the bonnet lies the standard Willys engine that developed 54 bhp. The gearbox and transfer case were also standard, although the axles where bigger and stronger Spicer models. Note this one was tested in late 1945 near Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland USA.

This shot below clearly shows you the MLW-2 without canvas top and bows. Note spare tyre now mounted on the side, and you can also see the top of the box-type rear cargo compartment.
The front wings had been raised and widened to take the larger tyres, the rear wheel openings are higher and more angular. The spare tyre could be either fitted on the side mount or in the rear tub, just behind the driver. Note this shot was taken in late 1945 on an auto test.
Here you can see the Capstan winch and half cab-top canvas.
Another side shot of the same MLW-2, not the best photo either!

These two shots,(A) showing the body tub, before fitment. Note, folded down seats (similar to the MT-TUG). (B) , top inside view, showing the fuel tank, storage area for the hood sticks on the rear wings and the spare wheel mount wedges in the rear compartment.

B This body off chassis shot shows you the drivetrain of the MLW-2. Note Capstan winch and mount, longer prop shaft, rear exhaust location and reinforced centre crossmember.
A US Navy unit tests out the MLW-2 on sand dunes. Note large r sand tyres and a crew of eight men. Exterior-access tool compartments had been built in to the rear corners, and a large rectangular fuel tank had been installed between the front seats as you can just see in this shot.
Another shot taken in sand dunes, again with larger sand tyres.  
Even though it weighed 1/2 a ton and had the standard Willys motor, it could still climb hills, although the axle ratios had been modified.
The axle track became wider than the standard 49 inches by 5 inches. A gear-driven Capstan winch was added to the front chassis for self recovery. As with a lot of the photographs on this website, this one was taken at Aberdeen Proving Testing Grounds in 1949, just before all the tested/experimental prototype military vehicles were sent to the scrap yards!!
This very rare photo, shows you the MLW-2 with Willys factory staff and as you can see from the person leaning against the front wing, the MLW-2 is a lot taller than the standard Willys MB! The caption on this original photos says ‘W.O. ENG. NO. 1849-1-12-44.

A video/DVD entitled ‘The WW II Jeep - a History’ which will include action film footage of rare Jeeps is also available please contact: Jeep Promotions Ltd, 5 Chestnut Ave, Wheatley Hills, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, DN2 5SW, UK. Tel 01302 739000


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