The first automobile manufactured in Turkey was a Jeep. That might say something about the mountainous terrain of the country which includes Mount Ararat, where Noah's Ark is thought to have landed.
In 2004 the Rahmi M Koç Museum in Istanbul acquired what is probably the first truly Turkish-manufactured vehicle: the first CJ-3B off the line made with entirely Turkish components, with the possible exception of the engine. The date of manufacture is unknown.
Donated by the widow of Ferruh Verdi, the owner of Türk Willys Overland from 1953 - 1972, the Jeep was retained by Mr. Verdi for his personal use and given the name "Ayse" (a popular girl's name in Turkey). See also its Hurricane engine (90K JPEG).
Tony Phillipson, General Manager of the Museum, comments, "It is in running condition, although the general workmanship is rudimentary compared to the later car in our collection (see Restored Tuzla Jeep). The wheels were apparently changed from 15" to 14" a few years ago by Mr Verdi 'in an attempt to lower the centre of gravity.'"
In 1953, Willys was represented in Turkey by Verdi Limited, who published this Turkish version of the Willys-Overland Export Corporation brochure "The New Jeep: The World's Standard Utility Vehicle." The Turkish text on the cover translates as "The New Jeep Car: Providing Several Benefits Around the World." See also the rear cover (80K JPEG) with contact information for Verdi Ltd.
This windshield-down photo was popular in overseas marketing, but it was seldom if ever used in Willys advertising in the U.S. It emphasizes the high hood, giving it the look of a powerful vehicle, but Willys was apparently nervous about how the high hood would be received in the domestic market where the lower hood of the earlier flatfenders was well established.
The same is true of this illustration. In Turkish, it is captioned "New Jeep Car: Side View," which perhaps doesn't really catch the flavor of the caption in the Willys Export brochure, which was "A New Profile," drawing attention to the higher hood and bigger engine.
The brochure also includes a cutaway illustration of the Hurricane engine (80K JPEG). See the full interior of the unfolded brochure (400K JPEG). Thanks to Serhat Güvenç for scanning this publication.
In February 1954 the President of Turkey visited the Willys factory in Toledo and was presented with a CJ-3B Jeep. This photo shows the President's gift arriving at the Presidential Palace in Ankara. The lettering painted at the factory has been washed off the hood, and the Jeep is being escorted by a Jeepster with an Ankara license plate. Perhaps the President is inside.
It's possible that this is the same CJ-3B that appears in a 1955 photo of a Turkish military parade (see Turkish Jeeps in Army Service.)
A summary of the history of the "Automotive Sector in Turkey" stated that "the first vehicle assembly company was established in 1954 (Türk Willys Overland Ltd.) for jeep manufacturing." The company's assembly plant was located on a 33 hectare (80 acre) site in Tuzla, just south of Istanbul.
According to research by Tony Phillipson, "By 1961 the plant had four assembly lines and 782 employees, and was producing some 5,000 trucks and 7,200 light vehicles (especially 1/4 ton Jeeps) annually."
A 1960 publication (60K JPEG) promoting the Tuzla plant includes a photo of an architect's model showing projected plant development (70K JPEG). The text states that Willys pickups and panel trucks are to be added to the Türk Willys Overland line in 1960.
Photos in the booklet show a nearly-complete CJ-5 (right) and chassis assembly (above.) See also body assembly (100K JPEG) and body finishing (70K JPEG).
Serhat also uncovered a couple of great photos which demonstrate the affection felt for Jeeps in Turkey. He identifies this one as having been taken sometime prior to 1962, the last year this type of registration plate (bearing the name of the issuing province) was issued. Unfortunately the name of the province is not legible. The Jeep appears almost brand new, and the photo of four friends posing on a stone fountain is wonderful -- one of those pictures which make you wonder about the story behind it.
The license plate on this one suggests it was registered in the province of Giresun in the Black Sea region, according to Serhat. He adds, "The checkered belt on the side of the body indicates that it was used to transport passengers (pretty much in Jeepney fashion) in the rugged terrain of that region. Also of interest is that its body was slightly stretched, probably locally, to accommodate more passengers." There's no date on the photo -- possibly the 1970's. Again it would be nice to know who these people are -- possibly a family, with the daughter holding a movie camera.
John Carroll photographed this long-wheelbase CJ-3B in Turkey. Its dog-eared front fenders are similar to LWB models built in Spain, India, and Japan, but isn't clearly identifiable as any of those, so it could be a Turkish-built version.
Zeki Tolu sent photos of his Jeep in Turkey which has the VIN tag (70K JPEG) of a 1960 Willys CJ-5, but appears to be a CJ-6 (90K JPEG). Is it possible that Jeeps imported for assembly in Turkey were sometimes lengthened as was done in Australia and Sweden? See also the right side (100K JPEG) and the Hurricane engine (90K JPEG).
Hubert Cossard comments that several French books on Jeep history have made mention of a variety of models having been built in Turkey, including the Gladiator starting in 1982. Further details are currently untraceable.
From photocopies of the CJ-3B manual, see a page identifying the parts of the interior (140K JPEG), and a page listing the basic CJ-3B specs in Turkish (60K GIF).
Parts source in Turkey: Ulus Automotive in Istanbul (email@example.com) has been a supplier of Jeep and Willys parts since 1978.
Thanks to Serhat Güvenç, and Tony Phillipson and his staff at the Rahmi M Koç Museum. More information, particularly photos of other models built in Turkey, would be welcome. -- Derek Redmond
Also on The CJ3B Page, see a Restored Tuzla Jeep, and Turkish Jeeps in Army Service, including The Last Turkish Army CJ-3B's.
See more Jeeps Around the World on The CJ3B Page.
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