E3 Spark Plugs Salutes Our Military Members and Veterans
May is Military Appreciation Month, culminating with the May 25 Memorial Day celebrations, honoring the scores of servicemen and servicewomen who died while serving in our country's armed forces. We here at E3 Spark Plugs have the utmost respect and love for America's military members and veterans, not only for their valiant sacrifices but also for the bevy of amazing rides they've given us over the decades.
For instance, multiple vehicles earned their pedigree during World War II, when the US manufacture of automobiles completely stopped. The few rides made during that time were created solely for the war effort. Later, the best of them transitioned to the civilian market. A number of the now antique originals and many of their successors remain on the roadways today.
Here are a few of our favorite vehicles that originated or evolved in the military:
- Jeep Wrangler: Arguably the ride with the most decorated military career, the Wrangler's legacy was born with the Willys MB, a light utility vehicle developed for the US Army for use in WWII and instrumental in the Allies' victory. Its current name is believed to be a vocalization of the initials GP, which stood for "government purposes." In 1944, Willys modified the ride for the civilian world, and we're forever grateful.
- Land Rover Defender: First produced in 1983, the Defender is a successor to the Land Rover Series III, which itself was a descendant of the Willys MB. While it has always been available to civilians, it's also has seen significant military action. British soldiers drove it in Desert Storm, fighting alongside America's Humvees. So impressive was the Defender's performance that the Green Berets took it to back to the Persian Gulf in 2003. Land Rover also makes a modified, military-only version of the Defender called the Wolf, current in use in several NATO countries. So, we were pretty bummed when news broke that the automaker will cease production of the Defender this year.
- Chevrolet Suburban: Originally designed for the National Guard in 1933, the Chevy Suburban was highly utilized in WWII. Third generation Suburbans, made between 1941 and 1946, were produced as 8-seater, non-combat military transport vehicles.
- Volkswagen Thing: The Thing was developed for the West German military and inspired by the Kübelwagen, the famed Beetle-based World War II off-roader designed by Ferdinand Porsche in 1938, which served as the JEEP's adversary during WWII. Known as the Type 181 in military circles, the Thing hit the US in 1972. Drivers loved it, but it was pulled from the market in 1975 after the US implemented new safety standards that the ride just couldn't meet.
- Toyota Tacoma: The US Army Special Forces took the Tacoma with them when they went into Afghanistan in 2001, then into Iraq several years later.
Mercedes-Benz G-Class: Originally known as the Geländewagen, the G-Class was developed as a military vehicle on the suggestion of the Shah of Iran in 1972. By 1979 it was available to civilians and, the next year, was tapped for the Popemobile. Today, it's still used by 37 governments in military service including Canada, Argentina, Russia and North Korea. In fact, a modified version is used used by the US Marine Corps as its Interim Fast Attack Vehicle.
- Hummer H1: This ride gained patriotic fame for its use during Operation Desert Storm. It originated during the 1980s, resulting from a 1981 contract its makers landed to create the successor to Jeeps for soldier transport and first served during the US invasion of Panama in 1989. Its name comes from HMMWV, which stands for High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle. The unarmored Hummer H1 version was produced 1992-2006.
- Dodge Ram 1500: It's the latest in the line that began with the 1946 Dodge Power Wagon, the civilian equivalent of the Dodge WC series, a series of trucks designed and built for the US military at the outset of WWII. Many of them, along with Studebaker pickups, were shipped to the Soviet Union as part of the Lend-Lease program, ultimately making up a large majority of the Red Army's truck force and giving the Soviets a mobility that the Germans simply could not match.
- Rolls-Royce Phantom: Today a luxury ride, the Phantom is the direct successor of the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, which served the Royal Navy and British Army in WWI. It was a favorite of Colonel T.E. Lawrence, better known a Lawrence of Arabia, during the Arab Revolt.
Which military ride is your favorite? Post your thoughts on the E3 Spark Plugs Facebook Fan Page. And be sure to honor the military members, veterans and fallen servicemen not just during Military Appreciation Month, but always.