- Written by webmin
While some boys out in the Pacific decided to rebody their Jeeps using aircraft drop tanks, Wally Cohn came up with a different approach. Much like Brooks Stevens with the Victory Car, Cohn envisioned a somewhat more refined automobile body to go atop the Jeep four-wheel-drive chassis to create a new offering for the post-war economy. Unlike Brooks Stevens, however, he didn’t have access to the head honchos in Toledo; instead, he was serving with the U.S. occupation forces (possibly with the Army Air Force) in Germany just after the war.
Also unlike Brooks Stevens (unless you count the Jeepster or the Willys station wagon), Cohn saw his vision to fruition. He found a workspace, apparently hired some German craftsmen, then cut apart a late 1930s Opel Olympia to merge its body with a Willys MB grille, chassis and drivetrain. Walter Sanders, a photographer for LIFE magazine, discovered Cohn and his Jeep in December 1946 and took plenty of pictures of the well-finished hybrid, along with pictures of Cohn’s workshops, and filed them with LIFE shortly after.
But details are still lacking. The folks at eWillys filled in a few blanks in the story a couple months ago, as did the forum members at G503.com, but we still don’t know how many of these Jeep/Opel hybrids Cohn built, what exactly he called them, whether he planned to sell them, or what happened to them in the 60-plus years since.
As for Mr. Cohn, we believe we found his obituary in the September 25, 1992, issue of the Chicago Tribune. Born in 1924 in Germany, his father and stepmother sent him to the Chicago area in 1937 both to live with family and to escape the increasingly anti-Semitic mood in Germany. After Kristallnacht, his older brother Herman, his father Siegfried, and his stepmother joined him in Chicago. Walter flew 30 missions for the U.S. Army Air Corps as a bombardier during the war, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross and a Bronze Star and rising at least to the rank of Sergeant. After the war, he served as a member of the chief justice’s staff during the war crimes trials in Nuremberg, then returned to the United States and founded W&W Foreign Auto Parts in Blue Island, Illinois.