Cars are one thing that seem to have no problem making the transition from military to civilian purpose – and then sometimes right back to military again. Perhaps it’s the (most likely correct) average driver’s notion that a vehicle fit to fight its way across rough terrain in warzones is “good enough for my commute into work.”
Regardless of the reason, many cars have had success in both military and civilian environments. Here are two that you’ve probably heard of – and two that may come as a surprise:
The One, the Only, the Jeep
Probably the most famous military-commercial car crossover (think Vietnam War movies), the Jeep has a many storied combat history. It was originally developed by three separate car companies for US military actions in World War II before the States had even entered the war.
Originally, it was supposed to be called the Bantam Reconnaissance Car after the now-defunct American Bantam Car Company. But when the US did finally enter the war, the Jeep debuted under two official names: the Model MB from the Willys Company, and the Model GPW from Ford.
If you say the first two letters of Ford’s model name out loud, it kind of sounds like Jeep, which is why some think soldiers started calling it that. Others feel it had to do with a character from Popeye which was popular at the time.
Whatever the reason, the name stuck and Jeeps remained part of the military landscape for decades. As a result of their success in World War II, they were soon introduced commercially and have been part of our cultural landscape ever since. The Jeep, in particular the Wrangler, has kept much of its original military design with just a different automotive painting job to differentiate it.
The Humvee Becomes the Hummer
If there’s any vehicle that fully embraced its combat look when it became commercially available, it’s got to be the Hummer H1, or rather the Humvee as it has been known in military circles ever since the invasion of Panama in 1989.
When AM General decided to market it to the public in 1992 following fame in the first Gulf War, they had an automotive service technician remove the armour and kept the rest pretty much the same. Even though the Hummer stopped production in 2006 and the US military is now looking for a replacement for the Humvee, you can still see both the commercial and even some military versions on the streets today.
Mercedes-Benz G-Class: Luxury SUV or Military Vehicle?
The Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a very nice and expensive SUV. It’s also quite powerful – so powerful that it was originally conceived of as a military vehicle using the name Geländewagen. In fact, there are Geländewagen-style automobiles in service with 37 different militaries today (fun fact: it was also the Popemobile).
The Chevrolet Suburban? Really, the Chevrolet Suburban?
Pros pursuing auto careers as well as the general public are probably familiar with the Chevrolet Suburban. But how many know that this roomy car has been, and in some parts of the world still is, a military vehicle. Most notably, it played an important role in World War II and served the US military from 1941-1946. It wasn’t used as a combat vehicle, though, but you can probably guess what work they did have it do: troop transport.
Do you know of other cars that have served both the military and civilians? Let us know in the comments.