1958 Jeep FC-170
1958 Jeep FC-170; photo by Bill Vance. Click image to enlarge

By Bill Vance

The cab-over-engine truck in which the engine shares the cabin with the driver is shorter and more manoeuvrable for a given cargo capacity, an important consideration in a commercial vehicle. This is why cab-overs are virtually universal in Europe.

The cab-over cabin design had been used in big trucks since the 1930s, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that it was applied to pickups. The rear-engined Volkswagen did pioneering work with this driver position in its snub-nosed Transporter line.

Willys Motors Inc., of Toledo, Ohio, manufacturer of the famous Jeep, led the North American industry to the flat-nosed pickup (it could also be fitted with a stake truck platform). Its 1957 FC (forward control) models beat the compact Ford Econoline, Chevrolet Corvair 95 and Dodge A-100 pickups to market by several years.

The goal with the FC was to keep the rugged versatility of the small four-wheel drive Jeep CJ while providing more cargo space than the CJ’s minuscule box. Willys also built conventional long-nose pickups but felt there was a market for a more compact model with all of the traditional Jeep qualities.

The FC came in two basic versions: the three-quarter ton FC-150 and the one-ton FC-170. Power for the 150 was Jeep’s 75-horsepower, 2.2-litre (134 cu. in.) F-head (inlet valves in the head; exhausts in the block) in-line four-cylinder engine.

The 170 got the 115 horsepower 3.7-litre (226 cu. in.) in-line, L-head six that had become part of the family when Willys-Overland was purchased by Kaiser Motors Corp. in 1953.

Both FC trucks were based on well-proved Jeep chassis: the 150 on the Jeep CJ-5, and the 170 on the utility station wagon. Controls were re-engineered for forward placement, and an advanced and very practical feature was suspending the clutch and brake pedals below the instrument panel. The FC was unmistakably Jeep in appearance with its vertical bar grille and headlamps nestled in the grille.

The compact 150 had the same 2,057 mm (81 in.) wheelbase as the regular Jeep CJ-5, while the 170’s was 2,629 (103.5). Although it was only 3,734 mm (147 in.) long over-all the 150 boasted a cargo box that stretched 1,880 mm (74 in.).

A height of 1,956 mm (77 in.) meant the FC required a good climb to get over the wheels and into the above-the-axle seats. This height plus a narrow track and 1,803 mm (71 in.) width gave the FC a tall, top-heavy appearance that made it seem to tower over its wheels.

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