Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Colombia's Got The Willys

I recently wrote about how there are lots of "boxy" cars used in the ranching areas north of Bogotá. Well, out in the coffee areas they've got the Willys--lots of 'em. That's right, good 'ole vintage Willys like this one:

Willys are the precursors to what we know today as the Jeep Wrangler. They were originally developed in the U.S. during World War II as a way to quickly mechanize and mobilize troops. The contractors who bid on the project back then had 49 days to design, develop, and build working prototypes. The Willys-Overland company, which via a series of ownership changes would end up a part of current-day Chrysler, eventually ended up winning and a legacy was born. Pretty much every 4x4 vehicle on the road since was based in some way on the Willys. This photo, taken in the lovely pueblo of Salento (story coming), shows a bunch of Willys along side of some later-model Jeeps and a couple of Land Rovers:

Willys, first brought to Colombia in 1950, and their more-modern Jeep counterparts are frequently used in the coffee areas as taxis and farming vehicles. They've been nicknamed "Yipaos" (yee-powz), which comes from the Spanish pronunciation of the word Jeep. It's so common now that the term has been adopted for use as a unit-of-measure. For example, a "yipao of bananas" is something like 40 clusters of bananas or what would fit inside/on one of the Jeeps. I've seen crazy photos from different yipao parades that are held throughout the area where they've loaded them up with coffee, bananas, and even "Beverly Hillbillies" style with household belongings.

The first Willys I saw while on the way to the coffee area was being used as a taxi and was packed full of people and stuff. Here's a shot of a few more Willys in the pueblo of Barcelona (the one here in Colombia):

Willys here seem to be the prized possession of middle-aged (and older) guys. Lots of them have been completely restored and tricked out. I really liked this model CJ-3A that looks right out of World War II:

I'm thinking that with my love of both bananas and coffee that Colombia might be the place for me. :-) In the future, you might ask "where is Darren now?" and the answer could be "riding with his yipao of coffee and bananas on the back of a yipao"!


  1. Excelent!! You are allways welcome to Colombia!!

  2. Muchas gracias! I love Colombia and can't wait to get back there one day!


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