The “Sarge Grille” is more than just the icon of the Jeep Wrangler; it is an icon of the American Soldier. The long-serving “GP” Willys is a testament to the ingenuity, integrity, and spirit of our Greatest Generation. The Jeep Toledo Assembly Complex has restored one of them, and has it displayed at a memorial dedicated to our armed service men and women of all generations.
“Like all Americans, we owe our freedom to the sacrifices made by the men and women who serve in the military, but at Jeep, we owe our very existence to our WWII veterans,” said TAC Plant Manager Chuck Padden. “When they returned home from the war, they purchased civilian versions of the Jeep vehicles they learned to depend upon in the war. Without them, we would not be here today.”
On the Friday before Memorial Day, the Toledo Assembly Complex unveiled their restored 1942 Willys Jeep to honor American Veterans. Former plant manager, Jerry Huber, found the Willys in an ad on Craigslist near Wimberley, Texas. While in good shape, it didn’t run, so it needed to be transported. When the former owner heard about the Veterans Memorial display at the complex, he pulled the ad and sold it to the plant for $950. He even included transportation at a cost of just a tour of the plant.
Fifteen employees volunteered to restore the Willys in a matter of a week and a half. Interestingly, 10 percent of the TAC’s 4,200 employees have some sort of military experience. These veterans now help build the JK Jeep Wrangler, Wrangler Unlimited, and the new Cherokee. We can thank those veterans for not only our freedom in the US, but also for helping the legacy of the original “GP” to live on.