Last week, I wrote about how I visited Swedish supercar company Koenigsegg after bathing in the smelly Kattegat Strait. You may think that seeing such pristine, state-of-the-art machinery would make it difficult for me to appreciate rusty junkers, but then you’d be wrong. Because the following day, I fell in love with the Canadian Military Pattern truck.
I’d never even heard of Canadian Military Pattern trucks; in fact, when I first laid 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 TP21s (all of which are amazing in their own right), I finally identified the stubby-nosed truck whose body is made almost entirely of flat sheetmetal.
Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) trucks began development in the 1930s, as conflict in Europe — specifically for the Brits — began to loom. A Canadian non-profit called Maple Leaf Up, which is “dedicated to perpetuating the memory of the all-volunteer Canadian Army Overseas in World War II,” discusses the early history of CMPs on its website, writing:
As early as 1935, the British government had begun to make inquiries as to Canada’s potential as a manufacturing base for a wide variety of war-related goods. By 1937, Ford of Canada was working on developing a 15 cwt truck for military service, based on a very loose set of design parameters furnished through government channels by the British. A year later the program had accelerated, and General Motors of Canada was now also heavily involved. War was on the horizon, and all parties were desperate to standardize a new series of military vehicles which 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 Pattern truck. Prototypes were undergoing rigorous testing by 1939, and all-out production by 1940. By September 1st, 1945, Canada had produced almost 410,000 CMP vehicles alone, together with 306,000 modified conventional types, over 50,000 armoured vehicles, and over 91,000 civilian vehicles modified for military service.
Canada’s auto industry had an enormous manufacturing capacity in the 1930s, so its potential to support the war effort was enormous. Though Ford got the ball rolling (you can see a Ford CMP truck in the image above, likely outfitted with a 3.9-liter flathead V8), Chevrolet’s Canadian division also got in on the action, using mostly 3.5-liter inline-six engines. Here’s a look at a Chevrolet C-15. (The name stands for 15 CWT, or 15 hundredweight, which is roughly a three-quarter ton equivalent.):
These trucks and their derivatives are nicknamed the 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 of Canada also built CMPs branded as Dodges. Here’s a 1943 photo showing the 500,000th CMP coming off the line. Notice all three of the “Big Three” represented on the grille:
It’s a bit embarrassing that I didn’t know about CMPs until now, because they were a huge deal for Canada. The Globe and Mail, a news outlet by America’s northerly neighbors, discusses the importance of the country’s truck production, framing it in the context of today’s COVID-19 crisis, writing:
Today’s battleground is in hospitals, rather than the field, but the same industrial-level production of materiel is required. Factories made the difference, which is why it’s worth a look back at how Canada’s automakers helped win the Second World War.
Canada built trucks. Lots of trucks. Almost a million in total. Starting in 1940, Canadian factories began their most important contribution to the war effort, singlehandedly outproducing the heavy-truck production of Germany, Italy and Japan combined. We put the Allies on wheels.
The story goes on, describing just how significant Canada’s truck manufacturing wartime efforts were:
Throughout the volumes of The History of the Second World War, Britain’s official account of the struggle, Canada’s truck production is called our most important contribution to the war effort. To be sure, there were many, from the D-Day landings at Juno Beach and the liberation of the Netherlands to the mass training of air crew at Canadian airfields.
Starting in 1940, General Motors of Canada and Ford Motor Co. of Canada began producing a heavy vehicle called the Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) truck. Asked to think of a vehicle they associate with the Second World War, most people would probably name the American Jeep. But if the Jeep was a faithful little pack mule, the CMP was a bull moose with panniers.
“It was a very competent vehicle and available in so many permutations, from transport to fuel truck to mobile welding workshop – every type you can imagine,” says retired Colonel Ian Newby, who owns six CMPs, including a prototype. “We were still using them well into the 1960s, when I was a young soldier.”
They’re simple, they’re quirky looking, and they’re incredibly capable. It’s no surprise that I, a Jeep fanboy, am now in love.
Anyway, watch the rest of the video above to see the continuation of my European road trip in my 250,000 mile 1994 diesel manual Chrysler Voyager, dubbed “Project Krassler.” You’ll see in the clip that I run a fuel economy calculation after having driven down Sweden’s slow, glass-smooth highway. The seven-passenger van scores 33 MPG! It’s an amazing people-hauler, though not quite as amazing as the CMP.