The Willenhall “Woodie” Jeep is based on a 1943 Willys Jeep and was purchased by Willenhall Coachcraft in 1947 when surplus Jeeps came up for sale after the war.
The company specialised in converting ex military vehicles into coaches, Luton type lorries, Ice cream vans and Utility vehicles. It is thought that the company purchased as many as 90 Jeeps for conversion into various types of utility vehicles.
By virtue of their unrivalled off road abilities they made a perfect vehicle for use on shoots. The Duke of Buccleuch owned several of these Jeeps for use on his grouse moors and his estate in Northamptonshire.
This particular Willenhall Jeep was sold to John George Chetwynd-Talbot, the 21st Earl of Shrewsbury in June 1948 and was used by the Earl as a shooting vehicle.
The Jeep was sold in 1961 and then to another owner in Stoke on Trent, before being sold again to someone in Norwich. It ended up being left in a shed for years where it became derelict.
It was found by Fred Smith a well known collector of Jeeps in 2004 and sold to Cliff Harris of Universal Jeeps in 2005. This example is believed to be the only surviving Willenhall Jeep. The Jeep was in a very poor condition when found but this was not a problem for Cliff, who has years of experience restoring Jeeps.
Then began the major restoration. All the woodwork needed to be replaced along with work on the chassis and all the mechanical parts. A complete and thorough restoration was carried out by Cliff and the result is a credit to his skills.
Cliff sold the Jeep in 2021 to Dave Salisbury, who many will know from Normandy and many military shows around the country. Dave has kitted the Jeep out with deactivated period shot guns, bags and a couple of stuffed pheasants showing how it would have looked when owned by the Earl of Shrewsbury.