Original Source Documents: February 16, 1941 - PM - I.F. Stone - Willys-Overland Gets Army Favor on Midget Cars
Contributor: Robert A. Notman
Source: Major General George A. Lynch Papers
PM, SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 1941
Willys-Overland Gets Army Favor On Midget Cars
By I. F. Stone
WASHINGTON, Feb, 15. - Army technicians consider weight the important factor in the midget cars it has ordered for cross-country work. They insist that a car that weighs more than 2000 pounds would be too heavy for its crew to lift out of ditches and shell-holes.
Nevertheless weight specifications were lifted last month to please Henry Ford when the Defense Commission awarded him a $1,400,000 contract to build them. Now the limit has been raised again to meet the desires of Willys-Overland, which has signed a contract for 1500 cars.
The terms of the new order are so strange that they will figure in the forthcoming inquiry by the House Military Affairs Committee into the Ford midget-car award. The agreement sets a minimum weight of 2268 pounds but no maximum.
Representative Charles I. Faddis (D., Pa.), sponsor of the investigation, which will concentrate on granting special favors to selected defense bidders, commented yesterday that it was odd to place a bottom rather than a top limit in a contract for a car that the Army was trying to keep as light as possible.
Representative Faddis, a tall, thin and rugged Colonel in the last war, who first revealed his plans for an inquiry in an interview with PM Jan. 24, yesterday invited members of the House committee to the War Department for a Special showing of pictures of the midget car in action.
The Bantam Co. of Butler, Pa., built the original car to weigh 2030 pounds when added with ten gallons of gas and oil. Ford got the Quartermaster Corps to raise the weight to 2160 pounds. He either preferred to build a heavier car or was unable to build a lighter one.
On Jan. 18, PM revealed that Bantam had been instructed to build the heavier car. Since that time, the technical commission which advises the infantry, cavalry, and artillery had declared that 2160 pounds was the absolute maximum of allowable weight. Bantam's representative here, when told of the new 2268-pound minimum said: "I'll have to put pig iron in my car to make it heavy enough."