Jeep jamboree: The Past meets the present and the future

Clark Air Base

It was a sight to behold – a long phalanx of some 35 olive drab 1940’s military jeeps making their way through the streets of Clark Air Base, driven and manned by men in the complete military uniform of World War II soldiers.

But the monotony is broken by two vehicles that stand out like sore thumbs: a monstrous beige 2011 Jeep Wrangler the size of an SUV and an electric Willys MB military jeep silently humming its way, so quiet you would not notice it was already right beside you.

It was a nostalgic sight. It seemed like time stood still as the 70-year old grandfathers marched shoulder-to-shoulder with their son and grandson. It was the past (vintage military jeeps) meeting both the present (Jeep Wrangler) and the future (electric MB) of the Jeep in the Philippines.

They all came together during the recent Jeep Jamboree dubbed Season’s Jeepings organized by the Military Vehicles Collectors Club of the Philippines (MVCCP) and MD Juan Enterprises at the historic Fort Stotsenburg in Clark Air Base, Pampanga.

Anyone who knows his jeep history knows that the vintage military jeep was the grandfather of all jeeps in the Philippines, from the autocalesa of old to the owner-type jeeps to the colorful PUJs of today, now more popularly known as the kings of the road. The jeep has come a long way as a vehicle, a durable brand and an enduring icon of the vehicle industry.

Today, Filipinos have maintained their romance with the jeep as they know that the vintage military jeep was the workhorse of the US military during WW II. In fact, it is widely known that the jeep helped win the war for the Americans not only in the Philippines but in other countries as well. The jeep has come to symbolize outdoor freedom and exploration, blazing trails less travelled.

Ask any average Filipino what he wants to have as a first vehicle and the jeep invariably comes to mind. Credit it to the ingenuity of the Filipino craftsman that the jeep had evolved into various forms, culminating in the PUJ being known today as a true Pinoy icon.

Now, that flame of affection for the old jeep is fanned by the continuous supply by MD Juan Enterprises of replacement jeep bodies and parts for both military and civilian jeeps. They continue to supply the needs of hobbyists not only in the Philippines but throughout the world, with dealerships established in major cities of the USA, Canada and Europe.

On the other hand, the love for the new generation Jeep is kept alive with the continued presence of the new Jeep Wranglers locally distributed by CATS Motors. They at least will ensure that the legacy of the jeep is not lost to history and the flames of affection are kept burning.

But for the jeep to survive in this modern world, it has to keep pace with technology and the demands of stricter environmental protection laws. The answer: the electric jeepney. PhUV Inc., the local assembler of the electric jeepneys or eJeepneys, has recently converted a Willys MB military jeep into an electric jeep. This is after they have also converted an AUV, a car and a tricycle into electric vehicles.

But the problem is still the PUJs of today. They are now normally powered by surplus diesel engines junked in Japan. Thus to environmentalists, they have an unsavory image as smoke belchers. The challenge now is how we can move forward and find a place for the iconic jeep in modern society.

Perhaps vintage military jeeps for the hobbyists in us? The 2011 Jeep Wrangler for the current generation? The electric jeep for the future generation? Any which way it goes, the Filipino is still the winner with the jeep!

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