1958 was an exciting year at Willys Motors Australia, as the factory in Brisbane began production of completely Australian-assembled Jeeps, and the Army was testing the CJ-3B as a potential replacement for their fleet of MB's. Although the Army decided against the 3B (see The 1958 Australian Army CJ-3B Trials), Willys Motors Australia went on to build 1000 short and long-wheelbase CJ-3B's between 1958 and 1968, according to figures uncovered by Vaughn Becker (see History of Jeeps in Australia.)
"Versatility" was a popular word in Australian Jeep advertising. The illustration at right is the cover of a folding 11x17" brochure (70K JPEG) which also included a map (50K JPEG) of dealer locations across the country.
Looking for ways to promote the new, locally-built right-hand-drive Jeep, Willys apparently offered to supply an official support vehicle for the 6th Around Australia Mobilgas Trial. Some 14,000 km in length, this was one of the most prestigious of the long-distance rallies which were very popular in the 1950's.
The 1958 running of the Mobilgas Trial turned out to be quite a significant event in automotive history, garnering a lot more attention for a couple of the unheralded competitors than it did for the official Jeep. In one of the first uses in print of the term "Beetle" in reference to the Volkswagen sedan, Autosport magazine referred to the "victorious beetles" who took 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th place in their class in the rally. And an even more dramatic impact was made in the sports car class, by the first-place finish of a long-shot entry from Datsun in Japan. This was a major milestone in the development of the long, successful line of Datsun Z-cars.
For more on the interesting story of the Datsuns, see Datsun/Nissan Z-Cars and
The Early History of the 240 Z. For more on the Beetles, see the Classic and Vintage Volkswagen Club of Australia and the Original VW Beetles Pages.
Meanwhile, Willys Motors Australia was likely pleased with the exposure of its new Jeep around the country. In the photo at left, executives pose with their "sweep" vehicle, now with headlight guards installed, and clearly identified for any aerial photographers as "Australian Made."
Three years later, the Willys factory in Brisbane created another promotional vehicle, for an unlikely marketing arrangement with a new Hollywood motion picture called Pepe, one of the most-hyped movies of 1960-61.
The popular Mexican actor Cantinflas, who had recently been a hit in Around the World in Eighty Days, played the title role in Pepe, and had a funny scene with a bunch of Surrey Gala Jeeps at the Las Brisas hotel in Acapulco. See Jepes in Pepe on The CJ3B Page.
These photos appear to have been taken outside the Australian premiere of Pepe. The date is unknown, but the film had opened in the U.S. in late December 1960, and in Europe in March 1961. Unfortunately we have no information on what eventually became of this unique CJ-3B. It seems to have vanished almost as quickly and quietly as the movie.
But note that in 1961, Willys in the U.S. also built and delivered a High Hood Surrey.
We do have a picture which we know was taken on 12 August 1961, at the official opening of the Mudjimba to Marcoola (about 5km) section of the Scenic Coast Highway, north of Brisbane in Queensland. Apparently somebody at Willys figured it was another good photo op for the Surrey, carrying the "Sungirls" and the Minister for Public Works and Local Government, H. Richter, who performed the opening ceremony. Photo by Robinson Studios, courtesy of Sunshine Coast Libraries, where it was found by Rod Walker.
Thanks to Vaughn Becker and Rod Walker for finding photos, and to Jon Roma's Road Maps for the Mobilgas Road Map. -- Derek Redmond
See more Jeeps in Australia on The CJ3B Page.
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