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.
In 1946, Bernard Cournil, a mechanic in Aurillac (the capital of The Cantal, in the mountainous center of France) saw the need for a small 4x4 tractor with a low center of gravity, and began to modify surplus Jeeps from the Second World War, for agricultural use in the difficult mountainous terrain of his area.
As soon as Hotchkiss in Paris started building CJ-3Bs in 1954, Cournil began converting them with diesel engines and reinforced frames. This photo reportedly shows Cournil's son, with an early Tracteur Cournil conversion of a Hotchkiss JH-101.
See an Early Cournil Restored on CJ3B.info.
Cournil then progressed to building his own vehicles, still using a considerable number of Jeep parts including a Hotchkiss body, on a heavy frame of rectangular tubing.
Cournil owner Germain Gauthier is seen here driving his JH-102 tractor in 1987, in a photo by Jean-Luc Simon originally published in the newspaper Centre-France. See also a rear view (50K JPEG).
See photos of a Surviving Cournil Tractor on CJ3B.info.
The Cournil Jeep tractors were powered by Standard Massey Ferguson-Hotchkiss diesel tractor engines, with heavy-duty gearboxes and other reinforced components, and implement lifts, all mounted on the massive tubular frame.
About 170 Jeep tractors were built in the late 1950s. Jeeps including an M38A1 are seen in this photo from a machinery show in Aurillac in 1960. (See also a surviving Cournil M38A1, 150K JPEG.)
In 1961, Courillon's company Société Construction Mechanique Rurale gave up the Jeep body for a new design, welded to the heavy 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 1961 model known as JA1 had some similarities to the direction taken by Kaiser Jeep with the Fleetvan and Forward Control trucks, and it certainly reflected the Brooks Stevens principle of creative thinking using available components. (The CJ-3B itself almost evolved in this direction -- see the sloped-hood CJ-3B (190K JPEG) from New Universal Jeep Designs, 1949-53.)
The postwar years spent modifying Jeeps paid off in the 1960s for Bernard Cournil, a blacksmith's son who had become a hero of the French Resistance by operating a secret airfield during the war. His shop in Aurillac built some 1200 tractors and 160 trailers during the sixties.
But as people moved from rural areas to the cities and imported 4x4s became cheaper, the market shrank, and after a 1970 bankruptcy the company only survived until 1977.
The Cournil was built with different wheelbases and various accessories, all designed for hard work in difficult conditions including mining and agriculture. This fire engine conversion was photographed in Lutzelhouse in northeastern France by pinpon-passion.
The vehicle name disappeared in 1977, but the design was sold to two companies who continued to use it: UMM in Portugal who built the Alter until 2004, and Auverland in France and Brazil until 2002.
A group of Cournils from different eras is seen here at a 2016 gathering in the town of Pandrigne. Photo by Guillaume, whose restored early Cournil is on the left.
Thanks to Hubert Cossard, who found the 1987 photos by Jean-Luc Simon from Centre-France, and also did the drawings of the Cournil.
Elsewhere on the web there are sites devoted to the Cournil, including Cournil 4x4 and Philocournil in French and Cournil Tractor in English, all of whom provided information for this page. -- Derek Redmond
See photos of a Early Cournil Restored and another Surviving Cournil Tractor on CJ3B.info.
For more on Hotchkiss, see Jeeps in France.
Return to Jeeps Around the World or to CJ-3Bs in History.
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