In late 1956 Kaiser-Willys released its Jeep FC 150 4X4.
The FC stood for “Forward Control”.
With a wheelbase of only 81 inches (2057mm), the FCs were not large.
They were marketed to corporate, municipal, military and rural customers as tough work horses.
Almost, a tractor with a “comfortable” enclosed cabin.
Although they came with a standard box bed, Willy’s offered a variety of specialised bodies sourced from outside suppliers.
It was powered by the same four-cylinder engine that was used in the Jeep CJ.
The body of the FC 150 was created by legendary industrial designer, Brooks Stevens.
Back then Stevens was one of the USA’s most successful industrial designers.
His work included trains, steam irons, Evinrude outboards, Harley Davidson motorbikes, lawn mowers and just about all branding for the Miller Brewing company.
He was the first of his profession to have 1 billion dollars in annual sales attributed to the products he designed.
Brook Stevens and the Jeep FC Commuter mini-van prototype.
To say the FC 150 was unusual in the USA is an understatement.
It looked very different compared to the usual American pickup truck.
Its small engine and rear axle ratio of 5.38:1 left it struggling to achieved 50 mph (80km/h) on bitumen.
That crimped sales in the USA where pickups were powered by big sixes and V8s.
In 1957 a six-cylinder version was released as the FC 170, but it did not boost popularity to any great extent.
Sales in the USA and internationally went on until 1965.
Only 30,000 were built.
The slow rate of sales prompted Kaiser-Willys to look at other ways to expand the FC line up.
In 1958 they asked Stevens to suggest ideas.
He came up with a mini-van.
Three prototypes were built by Reutter in Stuttgart, West Germany.
The project did not go ahead for cost reasons.
But the idea did re surface again at GM and Ford.
In 1961, Chevrolet released a cab forward commercial range vans and utes, including a minivan based on the Corvair.
It was called the Greenbrier.
In late 1960, Ford unveiled a similar van/ute, the Econoline, derived from the Falcon platform.
The Greenbrier was not successful in any format.
Ford are still making the Econoline, though now they are based on Ford’s F-series trucks.
It was not until 1984 when Chrysler re-introduced the minivan that their popularity as a family car exploded.
By then Chrysler owned Jeep.
David Burrell is the editor of retroautos
1956 Jeep FC 150.
1956 Jeep FC-150 Forward Control workhorse.
Chevrolet Corvair based van.
Chevrolet Corvair-based ute.
1956 Jeep FC-150 military model.
Ford Econoline Van
1957 Willys-Jeep FC-150 forward control4x4.
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