1957 saw Willys Jeep introduce 2 new work trucks for the North American market; the Forward Control truck, models FC150 and FC170. For the sake of this article, I will focus on the FC170 model.
The FC170 chassis was designed to be smaller versions of the big Cab over trucks of the day. The chassis was based on the CJ6 Jeep, with a 103″ wheel base. The beauty of the truck was its four wheel drive , that made it a great work truck under many conditions.
The FC170 was available in several flavors including a pick up truck bed, flat bed, stake bed, and cab and chassis. Other bodies approved by Willys included Military styled versions, such as a 4 door crew cab with a canopy bed, a full van body, and a full van ambulance version. The FC170 could be used as haulers, tow trucks, dump trucks, passenger vans, and even as fire trucks.
The forward control cab gave more room for a large deck area behind the cab, as much as 120″ deck length behind the cab. This was unheard of for a truck with only a 103″ wheel base. The overall length of the single rear wheel (SRW) version was 181″ and 203″ for the dually (DRW) later introduced in 1958. The FC170’S width was 74″ for SRW and 92.5″ for the DRW version. The turning radius was a tight 21 feet 11 inches.
Mechanically, both SRW and DRW shared the same base engine, Jeeps inline 6 cylinder, L-Head, High Torque “Super Hurricane” 226.2 cid engine. This really was an impressive torque producing engine , making 190 ft-lbs of torque @1400 rpm. Horsepower on the other hand was low, at only 105Hp @3600rpm. In later years, a diesel engine became an optional choice.
Power was transferred via a 3 speed manual synchromesh transmission, with an optional 4 speed available. The 4 wheel drive transfer case was 2 speed, low and high gears, 1.00:1 and 2.46:1 gears.
Chassis brakes were 11″X2″ Bendix for the SRW with power brakes optional. The dually got the big brakes, 12″X2″ up front, and 13″X2.5″ in the rear. Rear springs were beefed up from 7 leaf, 7000lb GVW, to 9 leafs on the dually. This gave the DRW vehicle GVW’s of either 8000 or 9000 lb capacity. The frame was a pressed steel channel with 6 cross members for strength. Standard tire size was 7.00″ x 16″ wheel with other size options available.
Some safety issues came up with the FC170, with its short wheel base, high center of gravity, there was some tendency to roll over under certain load conditions. Jeep used wider axles to compensate for this problem.
The cab interior was stark and all business, with some options of interior being quite utilitarian and other options for more passenger friendly interiors available. Access to the engine was through a tunnel between the driver and passenger.
Through its 9 year run, some 30,000 or so FC170’s were built. For collectors, the DRW versions are rarer and more prized. My last photo here shows a restored version gone crazy with a camping trailer mounted to the rear chassis. This interesting truck resides in the Whistler area of British Columbia, Canada. I couldn’t resist posting the picture, I really couldn’t.
To sum up, the FC170 was a versatile, if a little strange looking work truck. Its 4 wheel drive nature gave it the edge as a go anywhere, any terrain truck. There are still quite a few of these trucks around today, and if you want something different in a 4X4, this truck might be what you need, if you can keep them from doing somersaults while going downhill…
As always, happy hunting.
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