The 1950s saw the rise of the recreation vehicle, as well as engineering superiority. Grass-roots enthusiasts helped launch Jeep® Jamborees and took the original freedom machine to new heights in sales thanks to seven unique models.
Essentially a combat-ready version of the CJ-3A, the M38, or Willys Model MC, was the first post-WW II military Jeep® Brand vehicle. The M38 included several key changes including: stronger frame and suspension. It could be driven completely submerged thanks in part to a new waterproofed 24-volt ignition system (replaced the CJ-3A’s 6-volt system), and a unique vent tube system that connected the fuel tank, transfer case, transmission, and engine to the air cleaner.
The 1950 Jeep® CJV-35/U, a derivation of the M38, was the first production Jeep 4x4 with factory-included deep water fording capability. The CJV-35/U was made primarily for the U.S. Marine Corps. (Not shown).
Later models would add black out lamps, headlight guards, and ability to carry tools on the side of the M38 similar to the original Willys MB. The M38 is known by many as, “the best of the flat fenders.”
The M38 served honorably in the Korean War, all along the 38th parallel, and was popularized as a “supporting actor” in nearly every episode of the popular TV series M*A*S*H.
The M-38A1, also known as the MD, the design would later be the foundation for the classic CJ-5. The M-38A1 featured a two-piece windshield, longer wheelbase, softer ride, more powerful engine, and new, more rounded body. The “round-fender” Jeep® Brand vehicle would eventually become the foundation for the CJ-5. The M-38A1 was one of the most enduring military Jeep Brand vehicles. Some called it the last “true” military Jeep vehicle.
In 1951, Museum of Modern Art declared the Jeep® Brand 4x4 as a cultural icon and saluted it as one of the world’s eight automotive masterpieces. In 2002, a 1952 Willys M-38A1 was added it to its permanent collection of significant vehicles, describing it as “the best Jeep ever built".
The M-38A1C (not shown), a specially modified Army Jeep® Brand 4x4 produced through 1971, was designed to transport 106mm and 105mm recoilless rifles. A unique channel opening in the windshield allowed the barrel of the rifle to rest on the front hood. What was the most “powerful” Jeep vehicle ever built? Some would say the M-38A1D—it was equipped with a Davy Crocket missile launcher that could fire tactical nuclear weapons. The user could launch the 279mm 1-Kiloton-yield atomic projectile to a range of 2,000 meters from its 120mm recoilless gun.
The 1951 Jeep® CJ-4M, also known as the M-38E1, was a transitional vehicle, a variant of the CJ-3A with a taller cowl and rounded hood. The new features cleared space to fit the new F4-134 “Hurricane” engine under the hood. However, despite the apparent quality of the build, it only existed as prototype. The historical purpose of the CJ-4M, then, became to link the CJ-3A to the next military-specific model, the new Jeep® Willys MD.