Arctic Tops and "Arctic Tops"

The military commissioned a cold weather top, or "closure," for use on the new  M-38 Jeep Jeep which went into production in 1950. The cold weather closure, nicknamed the "arctic top," saw action during the Korean war, and has a reputation as being the best-built aluminium top manufactured for either military or civilian Jeeps.

In a brief article discussing this "arctic top" in West Coast Willys, a Jeep owners' newsletter, the actual name of the top is quoted from the Willys-Overland identifying tag: "Cab-Closure Hard Top." We should really use that designation, because the term "arctic top" was only a nickname for the W-O military top. The actual trade name "Arctic Top" belonged to the civilian top made by Metro Engineering (see below.)

GPWIn this example the closure is used on a World War II GPW which is incorrect, but it fits perfectly. If we compare this "arctic top" with those tops manufactured in Steyr prior to the end of World War II, there are some interesting differences.

When the M-38 closure was designed, the Stehr door hinged to the sloping windshield was not chosen as an adequate solution. It was possibly too dangerous as it could crush careless fingers when swinging shut. Instead, the standard M-38 windshield was discarded and replaced with a modified windshield which was set in the vertical position. The arms go straight down and bolt directly to the cowl. The reason for this change of position of the windshield is most likely that it allows the door to open on a vertical hinge, eliminating the dangers of the Steyr door.

Installation In the installation instructions, the term "arctic top" is not used. This diagram provided by Wes Knettle from the manual, shows the differences between the hardtop windshield and the standard M-38 (or CJ-3A) windshield. The windshield arms go straight down instead of bending forward to a pivot. The Jeep can be driven using this windshield with the top removed (see Mark Hallenbeck's M38, 20K JPEG) but the top does not fold down.

Full winter equipment would also include a gas-operated heater (70K JPEG) mounted outside on the cowl, with hot air ducted through the vent in the windshield frame (photo by Roberto Bruciamonti.)


From the Files of

Arctic Tops and "Arctic Tops"

by Bart McNeil

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