Tamiya 1/35 US Willys Jeep

Model, Text and Photos by: Tony Bell



It is said that Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower once proclaimed, "Four things won the Second World War - the bazooka, the Jeep, the atom bomb, and the C-47 Gooney Bird." Whether or not he actually made the statement, it can't be denied that the ubiquitous utility vehicle was an absolutely essential piece of equipment that served in every branch of service with every allied nation in every theatre of the Second World War and for decades afterward.

In July 1940 the US Army Quartermaster Corps issued specifications for a small, lightweight reconnaissance vehicle with all-terrain capability. Of the 135 car manufacturers that received the request for bids, only the American Bantam Car Company managed to deliver a prototype before the government deadline. The Bantam prototype was put to the test by the Quartermaster Corps, and despite some teething troubles, was deemed to have "demonstrated ample power and all requirements of the service." The plans for the Bantam vehicle were supplied to both Ford and Willys-Overland, who developed the "Pygmy" and "Quad" prototypes, respectively. All three designs featured a common drivetrain.

Although all three designs were found to be satisfactory, the greater torque of the Willys engine (105 ft-lb, vs. Ford's 85 and Bantam's 83), plus their proven mass production capacity and solid financials drove the Army's decision to award the final contract to Willys, at a unit cost of $749. In spite of their production capacity, Willys was unable to manufacture Jeeps fast enough for the US Army, so a non-exclusive license was granted to the US government to allow Ford to also produce the Willys design. By wars end 647,870 Jeeps produced by Willys (55%) and Ford (45%).

The origins of the name "Jeep" remain to this day a bit of a mystery. Some claim that the name came from the initials "GP" for "General Purpose". Another theory is that it was named for the character "Eugene the Jeep" introduced in 1936 in the "Popeye" comic strip. Eugene had magical powers and could foretell the future and disappear and reappear at a different location. The term "jeep" term has also had other slang meanings. In the late '30s, "jeep" was used to mean "a military recruit or basic trainee", or generally, "a foolish, incompetent, or inexperienced fellow". It was also the designation given to "a tiny observation plane", and in general, "any small object or gadget".

The Kit

Tamiya released its "new" Jeep (No. 35219) in 1996, replacing their 1970s vintage kit which suffered from some shape issues and simplified detail. The new kit is typical of Tamiya's recent releases in that it combines excellent fit with thoughtful engineering without sacrificing detail.

The moldings are extremely sharp indeed with no flash or sink marks and only very faint mold separation lines. There are a number of visible ejector pin marks, primarily on the underside of the body and on the backs of the seats.

The kit features a full engine, complete with all of the major accessories. All that needs to be added is some plumbing, wiring and creative painting. The hood (or "bonnet" if you will) is a separate item which can be displayed open or closed.

The cabin is also nicely detailed, but is strangely missing the clutch, brake and gas pedals. The steering wheel is nice and delicate, with only a faint mould seam to clean up. The dashboard gauges are well represented with raised detail and all of the other dashboard details are present. There is a clear sprue with four parts on it, two windshield pieces and two headlight lenses. On my example one of the rectangular windshield pieces was slightly warped such that it didn't sit quite right within the frame, although this is not noticeable on the finished model.

Tamiya supplies markings for several US vehicles. The decals are typical Tamiya in that they are a bit thick but feature good colour density. They are in perfect register, but that is no mean feat since they are entirely white…

Reference Material

None! Not even the internet. This was to be a quick, fun OOB build, and I didn't want to distract myself with anything frivolous like facts.


I built the kit following the instructions, leaving the model in subassemblies in order to facilitate painting the interior. Assembly was fairly straightforward, although scraping the mould seams off a bazillion little parts reminded me of why I build mainly aircraft models (and this is a simple kit too). The only refinements to be made were to drill out the exhaust pipe and to thin the rear bumper loops to a more scale thickness.

Painting and Decaling

To paraphrase Henry Ford, you can have a Jeep any colour you like, as long as it's Olive Drab.

Except where otherwise noted, all painting was done with Tamiya acrylics. The subassemblies were first pre-shaded with XF-1 flat black mixed with about 20% X-22 clear gloss and thinned with rubbing alcohol. The clear gloss gives the black a bit of an eggshell sheen and helps the paint flow without clogging the airbrush tip.

I then mixed XF-63 Olive Drab with some clear gloss, thinned it about 75% with rubbing alcohol and sprayed it on in thin coats, allowing the pre-shading to just barely show through. Next, I added a bit of XF-49 Khaki, thinned it some more and misted it on the upper surfaces.

The seats were brush painted with Humbrol No. 26 Khaki, and the steering wheel, shift knob and dashboard switches were painted Aeromaster enamel flat black, while the tires were painted Aeromaster acrylic tire black. White artists' oil paint was used to drybrush the instrument details.
The model was sprayed with Future to prepare for the decals. The decals themselves came from an old IPMS Canada sheet that was included with Vol 21, issue No. 1 of Random Thoughts which was published some time back around 1996. The sheet also includes some cool early post-war RCAF C-47 Dakota markings that are tempting me. Anyway, although the decals were 8+ years old, they worked flawlessly. The adhesive was somewhat milky when wet, but dried clear with no silvering. Solvaset was used to get the decals to conform to the recessed detail on the hood and to the raised detail on the windshield. The decals reacted well to this strong setting solution, softening nicely but without any nasty wrinkling.

After the decals had dried and any excess adhesive wiped away with a damp paper towel, the model was sprayed with Polly Scale clear flat, thinned with distilled water and strained through an old nylon stocking. When this was dry, I applied a dab of 5-minute epoxy to each of the dashboard instruments to give them a glassy look.

The marker lights were first painted Humbrol No. 11 silver, followed by a coat of Tamiya X-27 Clear Red. The insides of the headlights were painted with Future and while just barely dry to the touch, some SnJ aluminum polishing powder was rubbed in for a shiny chrome effect. The clear headlight lenses were fixed in place with a bit of Future brushed around the edges.

The edges of the windscreen were carefully painted flat black, and the two pieces fixed in place with Future. The wing mirror was made from a disk punched from a potato chip package (Miss Vickie's brand for those that are interested) and fixed in place with, you guessed it, Future.


Weathering was accomplished with MiG Pigments. A mixture of Light and European Dust was slopped liberally over the entire model, with more being applied to the lower surfaces. Clean paint thinner (mineral spirits) were then brushed on the pigment to set it in place and wash it into the recesses. More thinner was used with a clean brush to move the pigment around to get the right patterns and distribution. On areas of high traffic such as the door sills, I rubbed the pigment away with my finger, imparting a slight sheen to the finish. I applied MiG Soot Black to the treads of the tires with the tip of my finger to provide the look of dusty tires having been driven over clean asphalt, as on an airbase.

The windshield wiper marks were masked off with tape cut with a compass and a solution of MiG pigment, water and dish soap was airbrushed lightly over the model. I wanted to keep this subtle, as I feel this is often over done

Wrap Up

From start to finish, this kit took me less than a week to build. I took entered it in a local show where the RCAF roundel really stood out amongst all of those white stars and black crosses!

Now Mr Tamiya-san, how 'bout releasing this one in 1:48?




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I'm sorry, but since the review has been published that product appears to have gone out of production.