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Karl Probst Designed the Jeep in Two Days | Engineering Career Hero

March 14th, 2013

When looking at the pantheon of American vehicles, the legendary Jeep stands out for its versatile design. First seen in a reconnaissance role during World War 2, the Jeep effortlessly transitioned to the postwar commercial market as arguably the first SUV, currently serving disparate purposes from the campground to a night on the town.

The genesis of the Jeep began with a request from the United States Army in 1940 for bids to design and build a lightweight, all-terrain command and reconnaissance vehicle. They wanted a working prototype within 49 days. Pennsylvania’s American Bantam Car Company was one of only two companies to respond to the bid. However, Bantam had a singular problem — they didn’t have any engineers on staff!

Enter Karl Probst, Freelance Engineer

Karl Probst began his life in 1883 in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. He earned his engineering degree at Ohio State University in 1906. At the time of the U.S. Army’s request, he lived in Detroit, serving as a freelance engineer. Those days due to the limitations in technology, one had to choose to freelance in the field they specialised. Unlike now, how you can look up the 25 best online jobs that can help you make good money right from the comfort of your living space.

Bantam reached out to Probst, but he initially rebuffed their approach. After the Army made a special plea to Probst, he agreed to take on the task for Bantam, beginning work on the design on July 17, 1940. After only two days of feverish work, Probst emerged with complete plans for the prototype, and on the next day he provided manufacturing cost estimates. Bantam delivered their bid, with blueprints, to the Army on July 22nd.

Bantam’s first prototype, the Bantam Reconnaissance Car (BRC), was built by hand and delivered to the Army for testing on September 21st, barely meeting the 49 day deadline. The vehicle passed all tests with flying colors.

The Jeep Goes into Battle

Concerned about Bantam’s financial situation and their ability to mass-manufacture the BRC, the Army provided the new plans to two other companies, Ford and Willys-Overland. All three companies initially produced 1500 vehicles, with Willys winning the final mass production contract.

Needless to say, what was originally the BRC ushered in a revolution in military transportation, and eventually civilian transportation as well. Willys registered the Jeep trademark after the war, and many of the current line of vehicles are made in Toledo, Ohio, like the original. This revolution all came from two days of extraordinary engineering by one Karl Probst.

As one of leading engineering staffing companies in the United States, The Talley Group is always looking for the next Karl Probst. Let them help you make a difference today.

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