Last week I wrote about how I visited the Swedish supercar company Koenigsegg after swimming in the smelly Kattegatsundet. You might think that seeing such pristine, state-of-the-art machines would make it difficult for me to appreciate rusty junkers, but then you would be wrong. Because the next day I fell in love with the Canadian military model truck.
I had never even heard of Canadian military model cars; in fact, when I first laid my eyes on the machine above, I thought it might have been some kind of homemade Swedish workhorse. But after lots of googling and scrolling past Volvo C303s, Volvo L3314 Laplander, and Volvo TP21 (which are all amazing in themselves) I finally identified the stubby truck whose body is almost entirely made of flat sheet metal.
Trucks in Canadian military designs (CMP) began to develop in the 1930s, as conflicts in Europe – especially for the British – began to arise. A Canadian nonprofit called Maple Leaf Up, which is “dedicated to perpetuating the memory of the Canadian volunteer army abroad during World War II”, discusses the CMP’s early history of its website, writing:
As early as 1935, the British government had begun to explore Canada’s potential as a manufacturing base for a variety of war-related goods. In 1937, Ford in Canada worked to develop a 15 cwt truck for military service, based on a very loose set of design parameters provided by British authorities. A year later, the program had accelerated and General Motors in Canada was now also heavily involved. War was on the horizon, and all parties were desperate to standardize a new series of military vehicles that would be acceptable in British service, but designed for Canadian manufacturing processes.
The result of these desperate (and unusual!) Collaborative efforts was the Canadian military model car. Prototypes underwent rigorous testing in 1939 and total production in 1940. By September 1, 1945, Canada had produced nearly 410,000 CMP vehicles alone, along with 306,000 modified conventional types, over 50,000 armored vehicles and over 91,000 civilian vehicles modified for military service.
Canada’s automotive industry had a huge manufacturing capacity in the 1930s, so its potential to support the war effort was enormous. Although Ford got the ball rolling (you can see a Ford CMP truck pictured above, probably equipped with a 3.9-liter flat V8), Chevrolet’s Canadian division also took part in the action, with mostly 3.5-liter inline -sex engines. Here’s a look at a Chevrolet C-15. (The name stands for 15 CWT, or 15 dog weight, which is about one quarter of a tonne equivalent.):
These trucks and their derivatives are nicknamed Ford and Chevrolet “Blitz” in Australia – one of many countries around the world that used the Canadian military vehicles during and / or after World War II.
Chrysler in Canada also built CMP brands such as Dodges. Here is a photo from 1943 showing the 500,000th CMP coming from the line. Notice all three of the “big three” on the grid:
It’s a little embarrassing that I did not know about CMP until now, because they were one huge business for Canada. The globe and the post, a news release from America’s northern neighbors, discusses the importance of the country’s truck production and frames it in connection with today’s COVID-19 crisis and writes:
Today’s battlefield is in the hospital, rather than in the field, but the same industrial material production is required. Factories made the difference, so it’s worth looking back at how Canada’s automakers helped win World War II.
Canada built trucks. Lots of trucks. Almost a million in total. From 1940 onwards, Canadian factories began their most important contribution to the war effort, producing the sole production of heavy trucks in Germany, Italy and Japan together.. We put the Allies on wheels.
The story goes on to describe how significant Canada’s truck production during the war was:
During the entire volumes of History of World War II, Britain’s official account of the struggle, Canada’s truck production is called our most important contribution to the war effort. Certainly there were many, from the D-Day landings at Juno Beach and the liberation of the Netherlands to the mass training of flight crews at Canadian airports.
From 1940 onwards, General Motors in Canada and Ford Motor Co. started. in Canada produce a heavy vehicle called the Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) truck. If they were asked to think of a vehicle they associated with World War II, most people would probably name it the American Jeep. But if the jeep was a faithful little packer, CMP was a bull moose with bags.
“It was a very competent vehicle and available in so many permutations, from transportation to tanker to mobile welding workshop – every type you can think of,” said retired Colonel Ian Newby, who owns six CMPs, including a prototype. “We still used them well into the 1960s, when I was a young soldier.”
They are simple, they look good and they are incredibly capable. It’s no surprise that I, a Jeep fanboy, am in love now.
Anyway, watch the rest of the video above to see the sequel to my European road trip in my 250,000 mile 1994 diesel manual Chrysler Voyager, called “Project Krassler. “You will see in the clip that I drive a fuel economy calculation after driving down Sweden’s slow, slippery motorway. The van with seven passengers gets 33 MPG! It is a fantastic public transport, but not quite as fantastic as CMP.