The first jeeps of the Swiss army were 1,565 American surplus jeeps (both Willys MBs and Ford GPWs), which were bought after the Second World War. According to archival research by the Swiss Jeep historian Nik Oswald, about 30 of them were in unuseable condition, but the purchase began a tradition that soon continued with an order of 400 CJ-2As (after three as test vehicles) from Willys in 1947.

Many of the jeeps survived in civilian use after being decommissioned by the military. Ulrich Tribelhorn from the Jeep Club Central Switzerland says: "At times when the army was still using horses, young farmers who went into military service could pay part of the cost of a horse and take it home after service. When the army began to buy jeeps, they maintained this tradition. For this reason, many of our members still have the jeep they used for military service."

This photo of a Willys MB with a pendant on parade comes from an undated postcard. The supporters of the Swiss army were built by Sutter Fahrzeugbau in Lungern, founded in 1929 and still in business in 2020. See a side view (260K JPEG) of a Sutter trailer from 1979, also a front view (340K JPEG) and the manufacturer's sign (250K JPEG) with the inscription "Sutter Lungern". Photos courtesy of Rick Roach.

After the MBs and 2As, the army continued to buy jeeps from Willys and Kaiser until 1972, including CJ-3As, CJ-3Bs, CJ-5s and M38A1. Most were phased out at the end of the 1990s.

These CJ-3B in use can be seen in a photo from the book Vehicles of the Swiss Army by Markus Hoffmann. Many of the retired jeeps have been restored or kept in museums by new owners throughout Europe. This CJ-3A is one of several jeeps in the Museum Im Zeughaus, a volunteer-operated collection of Swiss Army equipment in Schaufhausen. Photo by Massimo Foti on Flickr. I don't know the source of this photo, supposedly from 1958 and probably from a postcard. The picture certainly says "Switzerland", and it looks like a military CJ-3A, with the same railing around the back that can be seen in the photo above.

Civilian jeeps in the country, including surplus vehicles imported from Germany from World War II and new Willys vehicles imported from 1947, could also be seized by the army.

The jeeps purchased by the army as well as civilian jeeps were imported by Fratelli Ambrosoli ("Ambrosoli Brothers") in Zurich from the Willys-Overland Export Corporation. Fratelli Ambrosoli was a family business for mechanical workshops founded in Locarno, Switzerland, which expanded into many other areas, including the import of vehicles, and moved its headquarters to Zurich in 1946. (Wikipedia) This early Fratelli Ambrosoli ad in French, which advertises the "Willys Jeep for Industry and Agriculture", shows that they already have an extensive network of dealers throughout Switzerland.

An ad from May 1952 (400K JPEG) from Willys-Overland Export was made in German with the headline "With all-wheel drive you will make it!" And showed the name Ambrosoli in a smaller print.

Interestingly, the Ambrosolis were at the centre of a small controversy in the USA when the LIFE magazine on the 26th January 1953 published a photo of a packaged jeep on its way to Switzerland (70K JPEG) as part of an article about American goods sold on the black market in communist countries.

Hickman Price, President of Willys-Overland Export, replied on the 16th. February in a letter to the editor (90K JPEG): "We make strong exceptions to this implication of Hanky-Panky behind the Iron Curtain on the part of a reputable American company. The jeep... was intended for the Swiss army. The recipient was our Swiss distributor, Fratelli Ambrosoli, Zurich". The flagship dealer of Ambrosoli was located in Zurich. Here, the brothers also distributed advertising toys Jeeps (90K JPEG), which were made in wood by the Enzmann family (see Tradition of Swiss Craftsmanship on

Fratelli Ambrosoli attached a plate with lubrication instructions on this Swiss air force CJ-2A, directly under the serial number plate (80K JPEG).

The Jeep is now owned by Gav Culshaw in the UK, who says: "It was used by the Swiss Air Force to carry vampire jets around and has a PTO that drives a grooved pulley that drove the jet engine starter that was originally on the passenger side."

(It is also rare that this CJ-2A falls into the serial number range 176061 - 185769, which was originally built in early 1948 with the spare tire on the left side due to regulations in some US states, possibly intended to protect pedestrians.)

A similar CJ-2A with the jet engine starter and the tow bar is exhibited in the museum of the Swiss Air Force Centre near Zurich, which is connected to a deHavilland vampire. Photo courtesy of the blog Aces Flying High.

The CJ-2A aircraft tractor also carries an unusual plate with instructions in German and French for the proper operation of the transmission, transfer case and PTO levers when driving on the sidewalk (left), when towing the aircraft (centre) or operating the generator to take off the aircraft (right). Maximum speed 20 km/h when towing aircraft! Another configuration that was delivered to the Air Force in very small numbers was this stretched hardtop CJ-3A, which was apparently intended to bring pilots to their aircraft (like the deHavilland vampire in the background). This airfield 3A belongs to Christopher Vock, who reports that twelve of these bodies were built by Worblaufen-Ramseir from Bern.

Fratelli Ambrosoli imported and customised vehicles for the Swiss PTT (Post Telegraph and telephone.) There may have been 400 jeeps, including this CJ-2A, four of which may be known to survive.

The Ambrosoli plate with lubrication instructions is located on the dashboard of another former Swiss Post CJ-2A (110K JPEG), which was offered for sale online in 2020.

Swiss Post later used this Jeep Forward Control Van conversion. Apparently, Swiss PTT ordered the FC-150s in 1956 and had the rear bodies built to measure.

AutoCult models in Germany produced a 1/43 die-cast version of this van in 2022 (see Postal Jeep Toys.)

When the CJ-3B was available for import, Ambrosoli published his own German version of a brochure by Willys-Overland Export entitled "The new Jeep: the universal Commercial Vehicle with world-famous Reliability" (originally entitled The World's Standard Utility Vehicle).

Ambrosoli Brothers had apparently expanded their dealer network, as the brochure is stamped from a garage in Brugg, which was not on the list of dealers in the previous ad above.

The Swiss army was ready to order the new jeep. An undated photo shows an army CJ-2A and CJ-3B together during an exercise. Both jeeps have used the Willys screen over the radiator grille - probably to prevent snow accumulation on the radiator. Photo courtesy of Le QG 1/72e. This photo has an exact date: 12. February 1955. It comes from the news film of a nightly rally in Thun, with 150 three-member teams of military personnel in jeeps covering a 160 km long distance, with tests on the way including orienteering and target shooting. The 150 jeeps lined up for the start clearly include both CJ-3Bs and previous flat-fenders.

The two-minute newsreel film (30 MB QuickTime video) shows the jeeps driving over snowy terrain and planning their course through the light of flashlights and candles. At a stop, the driver studies the card while the two passengers throw grenades at a destination. At another stop, the teams have to walk in the dark with the compass to a shooting range. The winning team consists of three army officers from Zurich. Video with the kind permission of the Swiss Federal Archives.

Other models
After this military police ("military police") in 1951 Willy's 4x473, which was exhibited in 2018 at the huge Oldtimer & Parts Market Classic Fair in Freiburg, the Swiss army also used station waggons.

A large number of CJ-5s reportedly contained some of the M606A2 variants. Like the M606 version of the CJ-3B, the M606A2 was a CJ-5 with high-performance options and blackout lamps. In addition, the M606A3 version was equipped with an additional 24V electrical system for radio communication.

In this photo you can see a detail that can also be seen on some CJ-3Bs - the blackout light that is connected to a socket next to the left headlight.

Switzerland was apparently authorised to purchase the M38A1, and the army ordered 821, which were used between 1958 and 1993 for the assembly of 106 mm recoil rifles.

Mechanised Division 1 is here in Lausanne on the 20th. June 1987 to be seen. Surprisingly, the jeeps do not have the M38A1C windshield kit with the gap for the gun barrel. Photo by Fabienne Cornu, courtesy of Alexandra Cornu.

The Swiss military probably thought that the combination of the 106 mm guns and the Alps would keep Switzerland quite safe from a tank invasion. Photo courtesy of Le QG 1/72e.

However, it was also revealed in 2018 that during the Cold War, despite the neutrality of Switzerland, there was a secret Swiss unit called P-26, which was trained in cooperation with NATO to harass potential invasion forces in the country.

Unmistakeable details:
Most Swiss military jeeps were painted olive green; some were gray.

Eric Cerottini says: "During my mandatory military service, I often drove a CJ-5 from 1972, but when I discovered the CJ3B site on the Internet in 1999, I decided to buy a CJ-3B type". He bought this CJ-3B from 1956 in a private sale from the second owner in Emmental.

Rearview mirror brackets are often attached to the windshield (30K JPEG) or to the front fenders, as can be seen here.

Eric mentions: "I found a cannister and a spare wheel support (20K JPEG) when selling Swiss military vehicles in 1999. The holes I found on the tailgate of my 3B correspond exactly to the screws on the two parts. The four 3B's that were sold in Thoune this year had the same pieces on their backs."

I probably found another Swiss peculiarity: There is a special piece on the driver's seat that was used to hang a soldier rifle between the two front seats.

See also a photo of Raymond Richard of the dashboard on his '54 and Heiko Links photo of the data sign of the Swiss Army (70K JPEG) on his '61, which shows 1960, the year of construction.

Swiss Army Jeep sale:
The sale of surplus Swiss army vehicles takes place annually in Thoune, Switzerland. Eric Cerottini saw 45 jeeps when selling in 1998, but reported that the prices were high. He returned and took these pictures at the next sale in Thoune on the 21st. April 1999. He reports that in 1999 there were "more than 700 vehicles and working machines to buy: trucks such as GMC 1949, Saurer 2DM, Unimog S, Pinzgauer/Puch, Toyota Landcruiser and Land Rover".

"Also 36 jeeps, all CJ-5 except four CJ-3B (1965)! The initial price was 3,000 Swiss francs (2,000 US dollars), and the final prices of the auction sales were 5,000/6,500 Swiss francs (3,300/4,300 US dollars). The 3Bs looked in pretty good condition, even if they needed some work."

This rear view shows the Jerrycan rack and the spare tire mount as well as the military-style folding plate on this 1965 model.

Philipp Burger gave us a warning that the three CJ-3Bs, which were included in the surplus vehicle sale of the Swiss Army in 2006 in April, were probably the last.

As usual, the Jeeps had radiator grilles, military-style soft tops and ventilating windshields with top-mounted windscreen wipers and a pair of rear-view mirrors. At least one pair had air horns behind the front bumper.

The one seen here had a front darkening light, although it was no longer connected by the hole next to the left headlight. On the street

A Swiss CJ-3B, which is presented in detail on, is Marc Daenzer's Swiss army jeep from 1953 in Crissier, Switzerland, which was restored in 2003.

See also Piet Versleijen's restored '56 in the Netherlands, which he took on a CJ-3B holiday in France in 2002, and Rob Baens' 1962 Military Jeep Restoration.

This restored example carries the device identification on the front. Like many of the jeeps, this one has a head shield over the radiator grille, and the photo (source unknown) also shows snap-in side curtains for the canopy.

Here are some sources for Jeep parts in Switzerland:

Caviglia AG (speaks German, French, Italian and English) in Lucerne.

LUDE (speaks French, maybe English) in Nyon, phone (0) 22-3613142.

Army Liq Shop has information about future auctions.

Willy's Jeep World -- Marco Volmar in The Hague.

By the way, although the legendary Swiss knife has been replaced for many people by the Leatherman and similar multi-tools, you might be interested to know that there is a Jeep Swiss Army Knife that was apparently manufactured by Victorinox in Switzerland for Mopar in the 1990s and occasionally appears on eBay.