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Wooden Toy Jeeps


 

People have been making toy jeeps out of wood almost as long as there have been jeeps. You've probably seen photos of hand-carved versions made by GI's during World War II, or by kids in occupied Germany after the war. And there were some quite detailed all-wood model kits available even before the end of the war, since steel and aluminum were reserved for weapons manufacturing.

Made at the Willys plant in Toledo?

Top view This pair of wooden toys is owned by E.I. Wood, who says, "I was told they were made by Jeep workers, perhaps as sideline entertainment, at the Jeep plant during WWII, from leftover pallets and shipping boxes. I know that the guy who made them was a Jeep worker during WWII, who was also into ham radio. My brother-in-law was in the Toledo ham radio club, and the old guy gave them to him."
 

Front "They are all wood," E.I. Wood adds. "I think the stickers are 1950s, but they could've been added later. Has anyone seen anything similar or have info to add? They were my brother-in-law's, but he has passed so this info is all I have. I'd donate them to the Jeep History Museum if I had solid provenance."
 

Base The wooden toy is assembled with nails, and the wheels are also nailed into blocks attached to the base.
 

Side The dimensions are 11-1/2 inches long, 5-1/2 inches wide, and 3-1/2 inches tall. The design is simple, but more accurate and well-proportioned than many early toys, which confirms that they were made by somebody who had some familiarity with jeeps.
 

O'Brien book A toy of the same design is listed in Richard O'Brien's Collecting Toy Cars & Trucks as being produced by Wood Commodities Corp. of New York. However, aside from the wheels it is quite different from the commonly-seen Wood Commodities toy (shown on the same page) so I'm not convinced that this attribution is correct.

Any further information is welcome at the e-mail address at the bottom of this web page.
 

Wood Commodities Corp.

12 inches This twelve-inch "Commando Toy" was manufactured by Wood Commodities Corp. in New York, is identified by a paper label on the base (300K JPEG). The rear end has a hitch for pulling a field gun, and the front has a painted grille (90K JPEG). There's a harder-to-find version painted red (90K JPEG).

See also an advertisement (280K JPEG) for Wood Commodities toys. Thanks to Jerry Huber.

After the war, Wood Commodities also manufactured a pressed steel toy Jeep in red (see Precursors of the Tonka Jeep.)
 

16 inches Steve Olguin sent these photos of a larger toy, sixteen inches long, that otherwise is almost identical to the twelve-inch Wood Commodities jeep. It has a stamp on the bottom (220K JPEG) that is hard to make out -- possibly "Made in Mexico"? Did the New York firm outsource production of this version?
 

Front view The front of the toy suggests it's from fairly early in the war, since the stencilled grille bars, the same as on the smaller version, look like a Willys slat grille MB or a Ford GP.
 

More Early Toys

10.5 inches This one, known as the "Krak A Jap" jeep, was made during the war by New Enterprises of Winston-Salem NC. The simple, blocky design is 10-1/2 inches long by 3-1/2 inches wide, and it also pulls an artillery piece (210K JPEG).
 

Ralstoys
These smaller toys (about six inches long) stamped "Ralstoy" on the bottom (20K JPEG) were produced by Ralston Toy and Novelty in Ralston, Nebraska. The company had been making lead "slushmold" toys before the war, and moved into diecast after the war. The wooden jeep is found in red (100K JPEG) and blue (100K JPEG) as well as green.
 

Popular ScienceKen Perry scanned these plans for a wooden jeep pull toy, from the Complete Home Workshop Cyclopedia published in 1945 by Popular Science. Off-center rear wheels produce a bouncing action as the toy is pulled along, and eccentrics connected to the front axle cause the wooden figures to rock forward and back. The top half of the page includes the plan drawings (370K JPEG) and the bottom half includes a cutaway perspective drawing (400K JPEG) of the project.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sweden
 
 
The advertisement on the right is for a Swedish post-WWII wooden model.
 

Wood Kits

EZ Kraft Not really living up to its name, the "E-Z Kraft" kit from Evanston, Illinois is mostly just a box full of uncut pieces of wood and cardboard. At least the base is pre-cut, which should help you get started, and there are some templates (170K JPEG) included. The basic nature of the kit, and the undecorated box (200K JPEG) both suggest it's from early in the war.
 

Austin Craft This version of the jeep kit from Austin Craft in California looks like it's postwar, not only because the box calls it "educational" but because of the plastic wheels and other small parts. The text in the instructions (270K JPEG) sounds like it may have been around since during the war, however.
 

Kempro I don't have a date for this Kempro kit, but except for its size it is typical of wartime kits. Judging from the size of the box, which measures 14 x 6-1/4 inches (356x159mm) the model appears to be 1:12, or one inch to the foot, which is twice the size of most of these early examples.
 

RedycutThis undated "Redycut" kit is balsa wood, with a scale of 1/2 inch to 1 foot (1:24). See a great photo of the pieces (150K JPEG) including wire axles, metal steering wheel and celluloid for the windshield. Also the full instructions (120K JPEG) including dashboard details.
 

AceThis set from Ace is also in the more popular 1:24 scale. It claims to be "the first and original models of U.S. Army jeep and antitank gun," but the exact date is unknown. The use of the phrase "1/4-ton liaison car" would suggest it is quite early. See the instructions (200K JPEG) for both kits.
 

Sanlander kitHere's a 1943 wood and cardboard model kit, number J-125 from J.F. Sanlander Co. of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, sales division of H.F. Auler Co. of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It's quite deluxe, with the cardboard parts printed in green. See the box and the instructions (40K JPEGs).
 

Megow The 1/16-scale Megow kit, also from 1943, is another one based mainly on color-printed cardboard and including springs. The built model would be a little more fragile, without the blocks of wood. See a closer view of the instructions (140K JPEG).
 

WestCraft

This West-Craft 1:24 kit was also designed with a number of cardboard pieces. See the instructions (70K JPEG).
 

Mars

This "model with the treaded wheels" from Mars Model Industries included a number of cast detail parts such as pioneer tools, gas can, grab irons and shift levers. Those parts, and the fact that the packaging has a photo of the model, suggest that it was a postwar product.
 

Of course companies were producing models of a whole range of military vehicles, aircraft and ships during the war. See also kits for building an amphibious jeep: Ford GPA Model in Wood.
 

Ace kits
Glenn Byron photographed the boxes from some 1:24 civilian Jeep kits sold in the 1940's. Ace Kit #7R contains a partially-built model of a Jeepster, and is dated 1948. Ace Model #246 is a complete, unbuilt (with instructions) kit for a CJ-2A (with one-piece windshield) dated 1946.

See also the Jeepster built and painted (40K JPEG). The grille detail appears to be a decal.
 

The Super Jeep

Super Jeep adSuper Jeep
 
West-Craft Manufacturing in Chicago pulled out all the stops around the end of the war, and launched its "Super Jeep" with more details and in the larger 1:12 scale. It had full color cover art on the big box, which would help it jump off the shelves of hobby shops. They advertised it for $2.50 (equivalent to about $30 in 2014) and the ad mentioned that the smaller West-Craft jeep was also still available.

Another ad was headlined "West-Craft Jeep Goes Civilian" (60K JPEG) but oddly uses the same photo, with the U.S. Army hood number. Likely the only difference in the kit was the inclusion of different paint.
 

Mark Eaton collectionMark Eaton of Spokane, Washington has a number of assembled Super Jeeps in his collection of World War II wooden models. The material is hardwood with some cardboard pieces, and the wheels are black graphite.

See also a close view of Lary Zotti's assembled and painted WestCraft -- front view and rear view (150K JPEGs).
 

More Recent Wooden Toys

Wooden JeepsI found that wooden Jeeps were suddenly under the Christmas tree in 1996, in all sizes: Jeeps carved, sawn and routed from a variety of woods. A couple of them looked like they've been around a few years, and a couple of others looked brand new.
 
11 inches longThe big one needed a bit of repair, including that task so often required of people who buy toy Jeeps at garage sales and flea markets -- replacing a missing windshield. Just a piece of stiff wire can often do the trick, but not in this case. (And I'm pleased to be able to say that it folds down.)

This Jeep is signed on the bottom by the original woodworker: "L.Ketcheson, Belleville, Ontario."
 

GattoThe windshield pivots and the front wheels turn on this 10-inch wooden Jeep built from plans available for $6.95 from Gatto Plan Supply.

If you're not the handy type, a similar finished model handcrafted from walnut and maple, is available for $150.00 from T & D Toys and Replicas near Toledo, Ohio.
 
 

IndonesiaThe most elaborate wooden Jeep model I've seen is this YJ Wrangler from Indonesia.
 

Hometown RoadwayHere's one with a difference: a wooden hardtop CJ-5 compatible with BRIO-type wooden railway systems.

Racing Champions Ertl, who manufactured the short-lived "Hometown Roadway" system, signed a licencing agreement with Chrysler in 2002. One of the first resulting toys was described as a 1977 AMC Jeep. I'm not sure what the significance of 1977 was, except it was the first year for factory air conditioning on CJ's, which fits with the hardtop. Anyway, it's a nicely designed little toy; its magnetic couplers and vaguely steam-engine-like appearance would let it fit in just fine at the head of a BRIO train. Thanks to Dan Fedorko for the photo.
 

Made in China
This basic cut-wood toy was made in China.
 

BirdhouseMark Randall in The Colony, Texas says he's always wanted a CJ-3B but he hasn't found the right one yet. So meanwhile, he came up with this idea for a high-hood birdhouse. Looks like a good use for those old license plates many of us have lying around.

If you like this kind of project, see also Heinz's CJ-3B grille grill for Oktoberfest, and Derek's CJ-3B Jeep-o-lantern for Halloween.
 

Puzzle
This wooden puzzle was made in Japan, possibly in the 1950s. See the instructions (200K JPEG) which say, "Interesting to adults too!"
 

Radio control
 
As of 2014 there are a number of "puzzles" of this type (right) available online, basically kits which don't require glue, so they can be assembled and disassembled. This one selling from China for about $30 is apparently electric powered and radio controlled.
 

1:1 ScaleThe ultimate wooden Jeep toy! I have seen a few full-sized Jeeps with wooden bodies, but this has to be one of the nicest. The 1960 CJ-5 was advertised online in 2014 from Ohio: "Body is hand built from maple and cherry, 1" thick, glued and screwed every 4 inches. 10 coats of spar varnish. Titled and street legal." See a front view and interior view (40K JPEGs).

I would like to include a credit to the builder and photographer of this one -- anybody know who?
 

Thanks to all the photographers. -- Derek Redmond


See also various ride-on toys built with plywood in the Toy Jeeps Pages on CJ3B.info.

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Last updated 20 March 2022 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
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