by Jan Hogendoorn and Derek Redmond
The "Nederlandse Kaiser-Frazer" (NEKAF) factory in Rotterdam was perhaps best known for its version of the M-38A1 military Jeep, used by the Royal Dutch Army from 1955 into the late 1990's. 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.
The NEKAF plant was built during 1947-48, and in 1949 began assembling the Kaiser Manhattan (60K JPEG) and Henry J (60K JPEG) automobiles, and the small French car Simca. The distributor of Willys products at that time was H.C.L. Sieberg in Amsterdam; vehicles were imported from the U.S. and some may have been assembled in Belgium by S.A. Ateliers de La Dyle in Louvain.
When Kaiser acquired Willys in the U.S. in 1953, the Willys distributorship immediately went to NEKAF in Rotterdam. (See a brochure for The World's Standard Utility Vehicle.) Within about a year, assembly of the Willys CJ-3B started in the NEKAF plant.
This advertisement dates from 1955:
"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."
The advertisement was placed in a Dutch military magazine, so apparently NEKAF still thought of the Jeep primarily as a military vehicle.
Some 37 CJ-3B's were sold to the Dutch Air Force and a few to the Navy. Hanno Spoelstra found this photo of an Air Force ambulance conversion, in Bart H. Vanderveen's The Observer's Military Vehicles Directory from 1945.
A number of the Jeeps were sold to police departments -- see CJ-3B's for Police in The Hague on The CJ3B Page. NEKAF also advertised a Fire Jeep, but with less success.
The March 1954 issue of EVO (a Dutch transport magazine) stated that the assembly of Willys products was set to start in that month. A former employee of NEKAF has reported that the CJ-3B was the first model off the assembly line. They also built the Willys pickup truck, the FC-150, FC-170, station wagon, CJ-5 and DJ-3A. Production figures are unknown.
The contract for 4000 M-38A1 Jeeps for the Royal Dutch Army was signed on 21 January 1955. 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 M-38A1 Jeeps were to come from the U.S., but as an aid to Dutch industry, the Jeeps would be assembled at the factory in Rotterdam. 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.
During World War II, the Dutch Prinses Irene Brigade obtained 7 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 after the war, when Dutch forces took over the vehicles of the First Canadian Army in 1946.
The expeditionary forces in the Dutch Indies in the period 1945-1950 also used a lot of jeeps. A list of 1948 mentioned 3,500 MB/GPW's and 1.000 Universal Jeeps. The MB/GPS's came from different sources (Britain, Australia, American surplus depots, rebuilt by Hotchkiss in Paris, and American stocks in New Guinea) and the Universal Jeeps were bought by the Dutch government in the United States.
In 1951 the Army purchased 425 CJ-3A's with 6-volt electricals, and in 1953 a further 217 CJ-3A's with 24-volt systems. In the time period 1952-55 the Netherlands also got almost 3,200 rebuilt American MB/GPW's under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program, as well as 6 (of the limited edition of 1000) of the CJ-V35U Underwater Jeeps for the Royal Dutch Navy.
During the early 1950's the Army tested 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 YA 054 Light Terrain Vehicle, designed by the Dutch company of the same name with the requirements of the 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, so there was no American financial support for the project.
The first choice was the CJ-3B and in December 1953 the Army prepared an order for 2000 CJ-3B Jeeps from NEKAF. Modification to meet NATO standards was time-consuming, and eventually the order was cancelled. The US State Department agreed in 1954 to approve assembly of the M-38A1 in the Netherlands, and that was enough for the Dutch Army to choose it without holding tests of the NATO-approved Jeep.
The Nekaf Jeep was basically an M-38A1 with a few additions needed to comply to the Dutch traffic regulations of the time: extra reflectors screwed to 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; we would be interested in knowing who took this photo. The same photographer 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.
Kaiser-Frazer had contracts for 4000, 1520 and 154 M-38A1 Jeeps. At start of production, NEKAF delivered about 55 Jeeps per week. However, deliveries apparently went down to 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 to the Army in 1959.
The Dordrecht firm Kemper & Van Twist Diesel took over production from 1959 to 1963, with contracts for 834 and 1403 of the M-38A1's, which were still widely known as Nekaf Jeeps.
Alongside the standard issue Jeep used for general purposes, the Nekaf was used as a radio Jeep, ambulance, fire engine and snow plow. After 1959 it 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 M-38A1C 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 M-38A1Cs were equipped with cable-guided TOW missiles.
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 JPEG's).
When the Department of Defense (then called 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 1960's 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 1960's 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 into use.
Starting in the late 1970's, the Nekafs began to be replaced by the Leyland Land Rover and the Mercedes diesel-powered G-series. See some Nekafs still in service as UN Jeeps in Lebanon in 1980. After being taken out of active duty, most of the Jeeps were sold by the goverment, 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 Besko bv, a dealer in Brunssum, Nederland, who mention on their website: "The vehicle is capable of driving through 1.90m deep water, further it has 24v electrics, is radio-supressed and has wartime lighting."
Another dealer with photos worth a look is Bram van Buuren Jeeps.
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 Kees Blijlevens, Cor Streutjens, Erik van de Peppel and Hanno Spoelstra for additional contributions. -- Derek Redmond
Continue to Police Jeeps of The Hague, Netherlands and Dutch-Built CJ-3B Fire Engines.
Also on The CJ3B Page, see the Willys M-38A1 (MD) in the Pictorial History of the Universal Jeep, and UN Jeeps in Lebanon, 1980.
Elsewhere on the web, see the Dutch-language NEKAF Nederlandse Legerjeep with more photos and links, and the NEKAF M-38A1 group at yahoo.com.
Return to Jeeps Around the World on The CJ3B Page.
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