by Jan Hogendoorn and Derek Redmond
The "Nederlandse Kaiser-Frazer" (NEKAF) factory in Rotterdam was perhaps best known for its version of the M38A1 military Jeep, used by the Dutch Army for three decades. But more than a year before it delivered the first of those famous "Nekaf Jeeps," it was already assembling the Willys Universal Jeep CJ-3B for sale in the Netherlands.
However, NEKAF was not the first (or the last) distributor of Willys Jeeps in the Netherlands.
H.C.L. Sieberg in Amsterdam had been an importer of Willys-Overland vehicles since 1927, and shortly after World War II they began selling surplus military jeeps. This developed into the distribution of Willys Jeeps in the Netherlands. Vehicles were imported from the U.S. and later were assembled in Belgium by S.A. Ateliers de La Dyle in Louvain.
The Dutch government was initially reticent due to the shortage of foreign exchange, and granted permission to import only a few CJ-2A Universal Jeeps for agricultural demonstrations (250K JPEG, courtesy Nationaal Archief.) At the end of 1946 it authorized the import of 400 CJ-2As, most of which went to farms.
This Sieberg brochure (left) says, "The Jeep saves you, every day, every season, every year!" and interestingly refers only to "the Jeep," not mentioning the Willys name which was not yet well known in Europe.
Sieberg undertook the assembly of 100 Universal Jeeps in Amsterdam in 1948, finding it too expensive. However, by later that year the company was offering the full Willys-Overland line (110K JPEG) as imports. They also had Kronenburg produce some CJ-2A fire engine conversions.
Sieberg's distribution agreement ended when Kaiser acquired Willys-Overland in the U.S. in 1953.
The Nederlandse Kaiser-Frazer (NEKAF) plant (270K JPEG) had been built in Rotterdam during 1947-48, and initially began assembling (right) the Kaiser Manhattan (60K JPEG) and Henry J (60K JPEG) automobiles, and the small French car Simca.
When Kaiser bought Willys, the Dutch distributorship immediately went to NEKAF. Within about a year, assembly of the Willys CJ-3B started in the NEKAF plant.
Assembly of Willys products started early in 1954. A former employee of NEKAF has reported that the CJ-3B was the first model off the assembly line. In February 1954, NEKAF presented a CJ-3B at the RAI car exhibition in Amsterdam, opened by the Minister of Economic Affairs Jelle Zijlstra (left), but this example may have come from the U.S. or Belgium.
See also Promoting Farm Jeeps in the Netherlands on CJ3B.info.
A 1955 advertisement placed in a Dutch military magazine states: "The 'Jeep' offers unlimited possibilities! Willys Jeep is famous the world over -- with good reason. In wartime the Jeep has deserved this recognition without any doubt! Everywhere, always and for anything the Jeep is useful. This strong, economical and safe Jeep with the famous 4-wheel-drive is now a Dutch product and is being assembled in the Netherlands by the Ned. Kaiser Frazer Fabrieken Ltd."
A number of CJ-3Bs were soon sold to police departments; see Police Jeeps of The Hague on CJ3B.info. NEKAF also advertised a Fire Jeep, but with less success.
I'm not sure that Willys Motors in the USA ever mounted a CJ-3B display as impressive as the one seen here in the showroom at the plant in Rotterdam.The CJ-3B on the right carries a Jeep-A-Trench, and the one on the lift is fitted with the popular Dutch "Vredesteinbanden" tires,.
Jan found this undated photo in 2019. In the background is a Simca display, plus a 16mm film projector aimed at the rear-projection screen seen in the upper left!
NEKAF also built the Willys Pickup Truck (230K JPEG), the FC-150 (150K JPEG), FC-170, Station Wagon, CJ-5, DJ-3A, and even the Willys Aero, as well as the military M38A1 (see below). Total production figures are unknown, but 576 Aeros were assembled from 1954-1957, of which 384 were exported.
This double-decker transporter from NEKAF, loaded with two CJ-3Bs and four CJ-5s, was photographed on 29 September 1956 in front of the railway station at 's-Hertogenbosch, in the southern Netherlands. The Jeeps were destined for the local dealer Louis Putters. The Fotopersbureau Zuiden photo is courtesy Erfgoed 's-Hertogenbosch.
Following NEKAF going bankrupt in 1959, the Dordrecht firm Kemper & van Twist Diesel (K&T) began assembling civilian Jeeps as well as the military M38A1.
Civilian models included the CJ-3B, CJ-5, CJ-6, Pickup Truck, Station Wagon, FC-150, FC-170 and DJ-3A. (See a DJ-3A Surrey decorated for a parade celebrating Queen Juliana's birthday in 1961, 230K JPEG.)
This ad reads, "The car that made history in the Second World War. Still preferred for its inexhaustible performance."
Assembly of Jeeps at Dordrecht lasted until 1963. Following that, K&T continued to import Jeeps through 1975, when Hollandse Autoimport (HAI) in Rijnsburg took over the agreement with American Motors (AMC).
During World War II, the Dutch Prinses Irene Brigade obtained seven jeeps from the British, and the Commander of the Netherlands Forces (Prince Bernard) had a few jeeps for his staff. Most of these vehicles were returned to the British when Dutch forces took over the vehicles of the First Canadian Army in 1946.
The expeditionary army in the Dutch East Indies in the period 1945-1950 also used a lot of jeeps. A list of 1948 mentioned 3,500 MB/GPWs and 1,000 Universal Jeeps. The MBs came from different sources (Britain, Australia, American surplus depots, rebuilt by Hotchkiss in Paris, and American stocks in New Guinea.) A further 2,800 CJ-3As were bought in the United States in 1949, as replacements for the Dutch East Indies forces.
In 1951 the Royal Netherlands Army (in Dutch, Koninklijke Landmacht) purchased 425 CJ-3As with 6-volt electricals through H.C.L. Sieberg, and in 1953 a further 217 CJ-3As with 24-volt systems. In the time period 1952-55 the Netherlands also got 899 MB/GPWs as Canadian Mutual Aid, and some 3,200 rebuilt American MB/GPWs under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program (MDAP), as well as 6 (of the limited edition of 1000) CJ-V35U underwater Jeeps for the Dutch Korps Mariniers (see CJV-35/Us and the Netherlands Marine Corps at CJ3A.info.)
The Royal Netherlands Air Force (in Dutch, Koninklijke Luchtmacht or "KLu") received 38 jeeps from Canadian surplus stocks after World War II, and bought ten Willys CJ-2A Universal Jeeps in 1948. In the early fifties those were supplemented with 187 CJ-3A Universal Jeeps, and 80 surplus MB/GPWs from MDAP. The Jeeps were used for transporting personnel, guard duty, chasing birds off the runways, snow removal and traffic control.
The KLu also had CJ-3As converted as ambulances (see Royal Netherlands Air Force Jeep Ambulances) as well as fire engines and crash rescue vehicles (see Kronenburg Fire Jeeps in the Netherlands.)
Of the 21 CJ-3As deployed for snow removal, nine were equipped with a Rolba RJS 11 snowblower. The snow was picked up with a huge rotating cutter and thrown out via a blower. Depending on the set speed, the snow was thrown away with an arc of 12 to 40 meters. The blower was powered by a Ford V8 engine through a drive shaft running through the windshield frame. The chassis was reinforced and the hood was modified with hinges on the right side. This installation came from Switzerland and was imported by Imbeda NV in Haarlem.
Some 37 NEKAF CJ-3Bs were sold to the KLu and a few to the Navy. This photo taken on 11 November 1959 shows an Air Force Jeep during an annual 24-hour training exercise for military officers. There were 147 teams in the exercise, including 11 KLu teams. In the photo, team 89 reports at a checkpoint in their CJ-3B. The prefix "LM" on the license plate indicates LuchtMacht or "Air Force."
Ten of the Air Force 3Bs were also converted as ambulances (see Royal Netherlands Air Force Jeep Ambulances).
As of 1952 the Dutch government was apparently still happy to rely primarily on used vehicles from MDAP. A May 1952 letter (180K JPEG) from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs agreed with a U.S. Department of Defense assessment that the assembly of new military Jeeps in Europe was unnecessary.
However, the Army was soon testing the Willys CJ-3B, the Land Rover, the Delahaye VLR, the Fiat Compagnola, and a prototype of the Mighty Mite. They also tested the DAF Light Terrain Vehicle, designed by the Dutch company of the same name with the requirements of the Koninklijke Landmacht ("Royal Army") in mind. But the DAF YA 054 was not an option because the Defense Production Board (advisor of NATO) didn't approve production.
The testing of the CJ-3B took place in June 1954. The Army registration number of the test vehicle was 60107, the engine number 4J16592 and the chassis number 16372. It was selected as the first choice for a new 1/4-ton vehicle, and the Army prepared an order for 2,000 CJ-3B Jeeps from NEKAF. But modification to meet NATO standards was time-consuming, and eventually the order was cancelled.
The U.S. State Department agreed in 1954 to approve assembly of the M38A1 in the Netherlands, and that was enough for the Dutch Army to choose it without even holding tests of the already NATO-approved Jeep.
A January 1955 article (120K JPEG) in the Toledo Blade announced the initial sale of 4,000 M38A1s, to be assembled at the NEKAF factory in Rotterdam. The contract was signed on 21 January 1955, and the first of what became known as the "Nekaf Jeeps" was delivered on 28 May 1955, as seen in this photo.
According to the contract, parts for the Dutch M38A1 Jeeps were to come from the US, but eventually some 24 percent of the parts would be delivered by local suppliers. Batteries and tires were supplied by Dutch firms Bataafse Accufabriek (now known as Varta), and Vredestein. This increased the price of a Nekaf to 12,670 Dutch guilders, which made it a very expensive vehicle at that time.
NEKAF had contracts for 4000, 1520 and 154 Jeeps. At start of production, they delivered about 55 units per week, but this went down to some 27 per week by 1957, and production finally ceased when the factory was unable to deliver within the time frame stated in the contract.
The last Kaiser-Frazer-produced Nekaf was delivered in 1959. Kemper & van Twist Diesel (K&T) took over production from 1959 to 1963 at their plant in Dordrecht (left), with contracts for 834 and 1403 units.
The Willys M38A1 serial number tags had an "R" (presumably for "Rotterdam") stamped following the chassis number, and the K&T units can be recognized by a local serial number beginning with "T" added to the plate (170K JPEG).
The Nekaf Jeep was basically an M38A1 (Willys MD) with a few additions needed to comply to Dutch traffic regulations of the time: extra reflectors on the front fenders, low-intensity "city lights" added to the grille, and turn signals mounted to the left and right sides of the tub just behind the seats. The Nekaf was equipped with a canvas roof; provisions were made for mounting a hardtop but these were not used in the Dutch army.
The Jeep in this photo was registered June 30, 1956 with Dutch army registration number MD13387, and now belongs to Cor Streutjens.
This photo shows Nekafs in service with the National Reserves. The photographer is unknown, but also took a front view (60K JPEG) of the same group of Jeeps, and an interior view (60K JPEG) showing another Nekaf with a trailer in the background. Trailers used were produced by Bantam, and by Dutch factories like Pennock, Roset and Polynorm.
Alongside the standard issue Jeep used for general purposes, the Nekaf was used as a radio Jeep, snow plow, ambulance (right) and fire engine.
All of the Nekaf Jeeps were built with the Willys F-head Hurricane engine. This photo by Cor Streutjens shows details of the engine in MD13387. See also his detail photos of the driver's side interior, and the instruments (70K JPEGs).
After 1959 the Jeep was used as a weapons carrier equipped with the 106mm M40 recoilless rifle (in Dutch, Terugstootloze Vuurmond or "TLV"). With the use of American part sets, 355 Nekafs were converted to M38A1C TLV carriers. In order to be able to carry the extra weight of 217 kilograms, heavier springs were mounted. The windshield had separated window panes, a gun barrel support was mounted, and ammunition storage racks were added.
From 1983 until 1989, forty M38A1Cs were equipped with cable-guided TOW missiles.
When the Ministry of War decided to acquire the Nekaf, its life was expected to be twenty years; ten years in active duty and the remainder in storage. During the 1960s and beyond, changed priorities meant the Ministry spent a large part of its budget buying tracked and wheeled armoured vehicles for the mechanization of the Royal Army. There was no money left to replace the Nekaf, and therefore the Jeep remained in active service much longer than originally intended.
In the 1960s the army tried to replace some of the Nekafs, with a vehicle built in Germany by DKW, called the Munga (20K JPEG). This was not a success; the Mungas were worn out before their planned 10 years' service had passed, and the Nekafs were back in use.
Starting in the late 1970's, the Nekafs were replaced. A militarized Kaiser Jeep CJ-6 (left) was tested, but the Army purchased the Leyland Land Rover and the Mercedes diesel-powered G-series.
See some Nekafs still in service in 1980 as UN Jeeps in Lebanon on CJ3B.info.
After being taken out of active duty, most of the Jeeps were sold by the government, with the last Nekafs apparently being sold in 2000.
The majority of the Jeeps were bought by dealers who spray paint them, renew upholstery, and check engine and brakes. The photo at right shows Nekafs in stock at a dealer who advertised: "The vehicle is capable of driving through 1.90m deep water, further it has 24v electrics, is radio-supressed and has wartime lighting."
Thanks to Jan Hogendoorn, who has done extensive research in the archives of the Dutch Department of Defense, and has provided detailed information which has not previously been published in English. Thanks also to Bob Westerman, Harold Bergers, Kees Blijlevens, Cor Streutjens, Erik van de Peppel and Hanno Spoelstra for additional information. -- Derek Redmond
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