M38A1 CDN

Even before World War II ended in 1945, the Cold War was clearly coming, and Canada and its Allies started rearmament programs. In 1951, the Willys-Overland Motor Company of Toledo, Ohio began production of the M38 ¼ Ton Truck, more commonly known as “Jeep”, to replace the World War II Jeeps of the US Army. It was a light general purpose cargo and personnel vehicle, which was adaptable to reconnaissance, command, communications, medical, and other logistical roles. The Ford Motor Company of Windsor, Ontario built the M38 CDN, under licence from Willys, for the Canadian Forces. As the M38 CDN production began in 1952, a newer model, the M38A1 CDN was already in the works, and this line ran over a span of two decades and through three models before being phased out in the early 1970’s. As of 1971, there were 2,266 Jeeps in Canadian service.Even before World War II ended in 1945, the Cold War was clearly coming, and Canada and its Allies started rearmament programs. In 1951, the Willys-Overland Motor Company of Toledo, Ohio began production of the M38 ¼ Ton Truck, more commonly known as “Jeep”, to replace the World War II Jeeps of the US Army. It was a light general purpose cargo and personnel vehicle, which was adaptable to reconnaissance, command, communications, medical, and other logistical roles. The Ford Motor Company of Windsor, Ontario built the M38 CDN, under licence from Willys, for the Canadian Forces. As the M38 CDN production began in 1952, a newer model, the M38A1 CDN was already in the works, and this line ran over a span of two decades and through three models before being phased out in the early 1970’s. As of 1971, there were 2,266 Jeeps in Canadian service.

The Canadian Forces used the Jeeps during the Korean Conflict, with the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) in the Sinai, for peacekeeping duties with the United Nations in Cyprus, in Europe with our NATO Allies, as well as for all three services at home in Canada.

The M38A1 CDN served with the Canadian Forces around the world for three decades. Throughout this period, many Jeeps were retrofitted or modified to perform specialized tasks such as:

  • different communications configurations
  • mounted with a 106 mm recoilless rifles
  • fitted with ENTAC anti-tank weapon systems
  • general purpose machine gun mounts
  • Jeep ambulance, some with a covered, two-stretcher configuration
  • helicopter starting unit
  • VIP Jeeps (one transported Queen Elizabeth during a parade review)
  • line-laying kits for signals Jeeps
  • welding outfits

An M38A1 CDN jeep is being loaded aboard an RCAF Dakota aircraft. The Jeep was designed to be light, fast and air-transportable.

A Canadian Army Voyageur helicopter slinging an M38A1 CDN jeep at Namao, Alberta, 1 Jun 1968. The jeep weighs 3000 lbs (1361 kg).

An M38A1 CDN recce jeep of the Queen’s Own Rifles stops to report ‘enemy’ contact during a training exercise in Denmark, 1968. The experimental disruptive camouflage pattern is typical of vehicles operating with Allied Command Europe Mobile Force at the time. (CFPU, CFC68-11-1)

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1953 Ford M38A1 CDN

The Museum M38A1 CDN was manufactured by the Ford Motor Company and delivered to DND 24 Mar 1953. It was acquired on 23 Mar 1997 from the Canadian Military Engineers Museum in Chilliwack, BC. Restoration work was completed as a teaching project for the students at Georges P. Vanier Secondary School in Courtenay, BC. The Jeep has been finished in Air Force Blue as used by the RCAF Military Police.

The Jeep as acquired on 23 Mar 1997.

The Jeep has been finished in Air Force Blue as used by the RCAF Military Police. Note the canvas top cover, and that the hood has been raised, with added curvature, to accommodate the taller F-head engine (as compared to earlier Jeeps). (6 May 2006)

The canvas top cover has been stowed in this photo. Notice the added curvature of the front fenders (as compared to earlier Jeeps), which deflected more of the muck thrown up by the tires when travelling at high speeds.

This mounting was the normal position for the jerry can and spare tire. These items were mounted elsewhere, usually along the side of the vehicle, on special use Jeeps.

At the top of the dashboard are the two clamps that hold the windshield in the upright position. Unclip these and the windshield folds forward onto the engine hood. Note the sturdy grab handle on the passenger’s side dash – dubbed the “chicken bar” by Canadian troops. This simple item probably saved more than a few tired soldiers from tumbling out of the vehicle as the driver made an unexpectedly sharp left turn.

The M38A1 CDN was equipped with a four-cylinder, 134 cu in (2.2 litre) F-head engine, capable of 72 hp at 4000 rpm. The F-head featured overhead intake valves and consequently, there was no need for an intake manifold, as the carburettor was bolted directly to the top of the head.

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