The Preproduction Civilian Jeep
DVD review

Daron Wanberg of 3D Imagery and Fred Coldwell, author of Preproduction Civilian Jeeps have come up with a unique collection of vintage short films about the Willys CJ-2 Jeep.  Until now, CJ-2 (and CJ2A) enthusiasts have had to catch glimpses of their four-wheeled friends on The History Channel.  But inevitably those glimpses are too fleeting.  Now Preproduction Civilian Jeep Films delivers seven films made in 1944 and 1945 that give viewers an eye full.

The first film is the silent The CJ2 Film.  It is reproduced from the original fine-grain 35mm master negative that was made in 1944.  This makes for a very crisp image.  The film shows several of the uses the CJ2 can be put to, including spraying, road clearing, and running all types of machinery.  It's very interesting to see the PTOs in action.  I was born well after the period when farm implements were run with giant belts.  To me, and I should point out that I was born and raised in a city, a farm machine has a specific purpose and there is a different self-powered machine for each purpose.  "Back in the day" this wasn't so.  Various machines could be powered by portable power units.  And the CJ2 is about as portable as they come!  It's truly amazing to see the things the Willys can do.

The three-minute, colour-and-sound The CJ2-25 X 49 Film from 1945 is next.  Starting with a short-skirted blonde milkmaid, the film quickly progresses to show alfalfa bailing, the PTO running a feed chopper and other equipment, rounding up the cattle, a trout fisherman happily casting from his Jeep as it sits in a river, a prospector bouncing along in his "mechanical burro", and a family of four riding off to church in their "Sunday best".  This is accompanied by a fine original narration and musical accompaniment.

A strident orchestra introduces The Universal Jeep (1945, 22 minutes) and gives us a "look forward" at the post-war era.  Marvelous new inventions are coming down the pike.  They are the "startling wonders of a bright new world", as the narrator declares.  Queue the ominous music.  But not everyone in the world can benefit from the modern world's wonders.  People must toil for their livelihood.  What can be done?  (Queue victory score.)  Why, the Willys-Overland Jeep, of course!  Lots of great footage here, and a good story to boot.

The next segment is The CJ-2A Film (1945, 11 minutes).  It is silent and concentrates on the Jeep's agricultural uses.

The Saga of the Jeep (1943) might be the part that most nearly resembles what we would consider a "commercial".  At just over a minute in length, it really tries to sell the product!

With an upbeat orchestral accompaniment, The Jeep In War And Peace (1943) delivers what it advertises.  This is followed by The Jeep Tomorrow, a two-minute silent piece from 1945, and addresses by Daron Wanberg and Fred Coldwell.

Last is the "bonus track".  The originally silent The CJ2 Film is presented with the audio track from The CJ2-25 X 49 Film, which is looped to provide continuous music and narration.

There were a few problems with this DVD.  The newly shot footage would have benefited from some narration.  It was difficult to navigate the menu because the options did not seem to follow the input to the navigation button.  For example, pressing the right arrow key from "play" took me to chapter 7.  Pressing the left arrow key from 7 took me to chapter 3.  Daron has authored a new top-down menu, so this should no longer be a problem.  There was "dead air" between several of the segments and the film tails were left in.  The DVD would not play on my computer, although I tried Quicktime, Windows Media Player and Real Player.  Daron suggests WinDVD as the preferred player.  A text document with instructions for playing the DVD on the computer would be nice.

Even with those minor problems, this is a "must have" DVD for everyone who enjoys the first civilian jeep.  You're not going to find this footage anywhere else, and certainly not all in one place!

To order a copy, call 303-989-4557 for Visa/MasterCard orders, or mail payment to:

3D Imagery,
P.O. Box 27645,
Denver, Colorado 80227.

The price is $25.00, plus $3.85 shipping in the U.S. All proceeds go toward the cost of the preservation of the films.

For more information, e-mail Daron Wanberg at 3D Imagery.

For the future...
Daron is finalizing preproduction for a DVD about the CJ2A/CJ3A.  He has also gathered enough material for the CJ3B, CJ-5 and CJ-6 vehicles of the 1950s and 1960s with which he will produce another DVD.  Following that he has planned a disc featuring the Cherokee and CJ-7 models, and possibly a collection of clips from all of the Jeep models made to the present.  Look for the CJ2A/CJ3A DVD in Spring, 2003 and the CJ3B/CJ-5/CJ-6 around Summer, 2003.

The CJ2A Page