What if Willys-Overland had been wildly successful in their attempts to market the Universal Jeep as a farm vehicle? What if the CJ-3B had sold in ever-increasing numbers as a practical on/off-road substitute for a tractor and a small truck, rather than as a recreational vehicle? Would Willys have kept a boxy design, and developed the Jeep in the direction of simplicity and reliability rather than horsepower and comfort? Here's a cousin of the Jeep, which demonstrates what the CJ-3B might have developed into.
The vehicle seen in this photo is not a CJ-3B, but a French handmade product made in very small numbers. In 1946, Bernard Cournil, a mechanic in Aurillac (the capital of The Cantal, in the mountainous center of France) began to modify surplus Jeeps from the Second World War, for agricultural use in the difficult mountainous terrain of his area, and even for use on level ground in the absence of a tractor.
Click any of the photos for a larger version (50K JPEG).
In the 1950s Cournil began building his own vehicle which he called simply the Cournil. This first version still used a considerable number of Jeep parts, including a Hotchkiss JH (CJ-3B) body, on a massive tubular frame of rectangular section. See also a rear view photo (50K JPEG).
The Cournil Jeep tractor was powered by a diesel engine, seen here with owner Germain Gauthier in 1987.
The first tractor was followed by a long line of handbuilt Cournil 4x4's, which soon gave up the Jeep body for a monocoque body welded to the frame (see below).
The drawings below by Hubert Cossard show the original Jeep-bodied version and the later Cournil-built body. The monococque construction of Cournil's practical body design offered robustness, while the forward-placed steering wheel and sloping hood provided increased visibility:
The new design seen above has some similarities to the direction taken by Kaiser Jeep with the Fleetvan and Forward Control trucks, and it certainly reflects the Brooks Stevens principle of creative thinking using available components. The CJ-3B itself almost evolved in this direction -- see the bottom of New Universal Jeep Designs, 1949-53.
The Cournil was built in several versions with different wheelbases, all designed for hard work in difficult conditions. A number of them were used for agricultural work in the mountains of the Massif Central, apparently into the 1990's. Unfortunately, Bernard Cournil had financial difficulties and the vehicle name disappeared, but the design has had international descendants: UMM (Uniao Metalo Mecanica) in Portugal, and Auverland in France and in Brazil.
The photographs here, originally published in the newspaper Centre-France in 1987, are by Jean-Luc Simon. Thanks to Hubert Cossard, who found the photos and also did the drawings of the Cournil. -- Derek Redmond
See photos of a Surviving Cournil Tractor on CJ3B.info.
Elsewhere on the web, see Philocournil, devoted completely to the Cournil. As of 2012, other websites in French include Cournil 4x4 and Cournil (1950-1984), and in English Cournil Tractor.
See also a remarkable 1967 video of an off-road rally in France with Jeeps and Cournil tractors.
For more on Hotchkiss, see Jeeps in France.
Return to Jeeps Around the World or to CJ-3Bs in History.
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