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By Thomas Wheeler

The G.I.JOE Willys Jeep was originally released last year, and like most fairly large 12" G.I.Joe vehicles, tended to turn up at Toys "R" Us more than anywhere else. At that time, given the $59.99 price tag on it, as well as limited space and finances, I passed.

Recently, the Willys Jeep reappared, this time as a K-Mart exclusive (of all places), clearly marked as a K-Mart exclusive, complete with a World War II Infantry Soldier, and with a price tag of a very measly $29.99 given what was included -- Jeep-plus-figure.

Still, I was a little reluctant. I don't really have a lot of room for large-scale vehicles. Was this one worth it? I asked around a popular newsgroup, and the answer was unanimously "Yes". So I headed back to K-Mart and bought the Jeep.

I'm glad I did, too, and didn't waste anymore time, because roughly a week later, a supply of over a dozen of these toys was just plain gone.

A review of the actual Willys Jeep as used in World War II from the toy package reads as follows:

As the threat of worldwide conflict loomed over the globe, the U.S. Armed Forces recognized the need to replace its fleet of general-putpose military vehicles. Aging motorcycles and modified Ford Model T's remaining from the First World War were no longet up to military standards, and a new design was requested from American car manufacturers. Ultimately, a design submitted by Willys-Overland Motors, Inc. in Toledo, Ohio captured the contract - and eventually the hearts and imaginations of GIs and civilians alike. The rugged vehicle would be called the Jeep, and its strength and versatility were essential in transporting the Allies to vistory in World War II.

The Willys Jeep was one of the most important land vehicles of the conflict. The 1/4 ton 4x4 was powered by the four-cylinder "Go-Devil" L-head engine, which was the most powerful engine in its class, delivering 60bhp. Each Jeep vehicle came equipped with an extensive repair kit, and its headlights, positioned in the signature "slat" grill, could be swung up towards the engine for easy nighttime repairs. It could climb and descend slopes of over 50 degrees, could ride on 20-degree side-slopes, and was capable of a top road speed of sixty miles per hour. Its all-terrain capability made the Jeep vehicle ideal for every battlefield of the war, from the mountains of Europe to the deserts of Africa, as well as the beaches and jungles of the South Pacific. They even proved to be excellent additions to motorized cavalry units when powerful .30-caliber machine guns were mounted between their seats. Jeep vehicles fought on the front lines, and transported soldiers and supplies across terrain even tanks could not tackle. Their engines provided power to everything from radar equipment to radios and welders. In fact, Willys Jeep vehicles performed so well that approximately 360,000 were built for the Allies between 1941 and 1945.

Much like the brave soldiers it transported to victory in World Wat II, the Willys Jeep vehicle withstood the harshest conditions imaginable. It performed above and beyond the call of duty and made a worldwide symbol of the fortitufe, durability, and dependability of the U.S. Military. Down to the last nut and bolt, the Willys Jeep vehicle is the definition of a real American hero.

So, after all that -- how's the TOY? Pretty darn cool, actually. The front wheels steer, they all turn, of course, the front windshield folds down, and there's a .30-caliber machine gun on a post mount that comes with the Jeep.

The G.I.Joe figure is pretty cool, too. It's a basic World War II American Infantry figure. And what with all of the highly, and perhaps overly, specific World War II G.I.Joes Hasbro has been offering this year, from Omaha Beach to Pointe du Hoc, it's kind of nice to get a fairly basic World War II G.I.Joe for a change. He'll made a nice accompaniment to some of my foreign (and basic) World War II G.I.Joes, such as the Russian, the German, and the Japanese figures.

My one minor complaint with this set is I do wish they hadn't sprayed paint-dirt all over it, especially seeing as how the prototype photo of the Jeep on the package is of a clean Jeep. But this is a fairly minor complaint for an otherwise highly impressive vehicle.

The detail level is astounding. The headlights are clear plastic, the dashboard has highly detailed markings, the steering wheel turns, and overall, it's a truly superb and sturdy vehicle that will make any G.I.Joe 12" collector happy. And you certainly can't argue the price of $29.99 for an excellent vehicle and a very cool figure.

FINDING one at this point may be a little difficult. I've read at least one other report online from another part of the country where they vanished out of K-Marts pretty quickly. But if you CAN find one, do not hesitate. Buy it. One online poster commented, "Every good military toy collection needs at least one Jeep". I think he's right, and you won't be disappointed at all with this one. The G.I.JOE WILLYS JEEP from K-Mart has my highest recommendation!