AT Commander's

Commando Gunship

In the early years of WWII, Captain David Stirling devised the idea of a commando force striking far behind enemy lines. His ultimate idea was to use Lend-Lease American jeeps for carrying out his deep penetration raids behind enemy lines. By July 1942, the regiment had 15 specially modified jeeps in action in North Africa.

The jeeps were stripped of all non-essential parts including the windshield, most of the radiator grille bars and even sometimes the front bumper to increase the effective load carrying capacity of the vehicle - after all, explosives, ammunition, and fuel were far more important than luxuries such as a bumper. A water condensing unit was fitted to the front to reduce loss from the radiator which would otherwise have had to be topped up from the limited drinking water supplies. The jeeps also carried sand mats, metal wheel channels, radio equipment and large quantities of ammunition.

The jeeps were heavily armed with combinations of both Browning and twin Vickers K machine guns (up to 5 MGs per vehicle!). With all guns blazing a single SAS jeep could deliver an impressive 5000 rounds per minute!

After the action moved to Europe, the SAS moved as well. From Dijon to Les Ormes, the SAS raids met with success. the jeeps were modified further for these operations; after all, France was very different from the desert both in climate as well as in operational supply availability. They found they could armor the jeeps and carry less fuel in the ETO. In the pic to the left you can see the telltale twin Vickers K guns, the armored windscreen with bulletproof glass, and the twin fuel tanks (one on each side). In the ETO, space wasn’t at such a premium, so having two large tanks made more sense than stacks of jerry cans. By the end of the war, the SAS troops were being horribly mismanaged and their "fast strike" jeeps were relegated to duties more worthy of an armored car. Who dares wins, but when not permitted to dare, it became hard to win, at least as a deep penetration commando unit.

Source: This material was excerpted and highly edited from

AT Commander's GI Joe

Commando Gunship  


Here is the GIJoe Commando Gunship. This project began originally as an effort to turn a beat-up old 5-Star jeep into a desert SAS jeep. Around this time, lots of folks decided to do the same thing, it seems, with Sandboxers building all sorts of Rat Patrol and SAS jeeps. This was "back in the day" when neither SOTW nor Hasbro made anything remotely similar to the SAS jeep. Since so many others were doing the SAS Jeep project, I lost interest. Then I saw a picture of a Palitoy Action Man jeep with twin .30 MGs for the passenger to fire… my interest was rejuvinated! I could build an ETO version of the jeep! Then I kinda went off on my own tangent and created a jeep that was a cross between the Rat Patrol and the SAS jeeps… a pedestal .50, twin .30s, and a one-handed Lewis .303 for the driver. Since these guys are operating in an Allied environment, ammo uniformity isn't a big deal. They carry 8 Jerry cans, and as many ammo boxes as they can find.

I found some super cheap chain at the mall that looked like it belonged wrapped in a tangle around a jeep bumper more than it belonged behind a jewelry counter, so I bought a length to use on this jeep. You'll note in the screen I put behind the grill on the Jeep. I happened to have it kicking around and plunked it in just to see what it looked like and never bothered to remove it. I think it looks kinda groovy. I mounted spare tires on the rear, on the side, and on the hood as well. You can never have too many tires when performing hit and run duties!


with everything from a Ken toolbox to a B-17 thermos cooler. The tripod for the .50 is tied to the gunner's grab rails along withHere's the gunship sans crew. The belted ammo crate has been removed as well. Note that it's packed pretty tight back there lots of other essential items from a machete to a radio.


In this pic (to the left), you can see more of the junk it carries, and you can also see the rifle rack mount (sheet plastic), and the .50 MG mount. As a kid, I had put a wooden block in between the seats (using brass screws from below to secure it). I drilled a hole in the wood block that tightly fit a brass tube. I pressed the brass tube into the hole and it became my MG pedestal. I cut the ends off a couple of BIC pens and slid them over the brass tube to make it look cooler. At the top, I made a MG mount out of sheet brass and a brass sheet that I soldered into a "Y" shape. The bottom of the Y extended into the top BIC pen body, which rotated freely on the brass tube within. I actually built a .50 MG out of a small wood block, a piece of fiberglass arrow, and some #12 house wire. After I painted it green, it looked OK and Joe adventured with this "rat patrol" jeep for a number of years when I was still young. It sounds like a lot of work for a kid, but as a kid I was resourceful, not supervised very closely, and was seldom content with things as they were. This is the exact same mount I had in this jeep as a kid, only my wood and fiberglass .50 has been replaced with a 21Century .50 MG. Surprisingly, it fits the same mount quite nicely!

This jeep was a real basket case before I started. Someone in the Sandbox needed floorboards for a jeep restoration, so (in the spirit of being a Good Joe), I ripped 'em off this one and sent them to him for his restoration project. All I had was a hull; no tailgate, no windshield, no grab rails, no rifle mount, a broken bumper, cracks along each fender, and now no floorboards. This sad hull was MY childhood jeep, so I just couldn't throw it away! I used sheet plastic to make floorboards. I used a bunch of different cements on the cracks, followed by Green Stuff putty and some paint to repair them. I used a piece of sheet plastic to rebuild the rifle rack on the passenger seat, too. That's what I used for a steering wheel as well. (See my 6x6 project for more detail on scratchbuilding your own 5-star steering wheel and column.) Since I was using MGs for the crew, I didn't need a windshield. All that was left was building a tailgate. I used sheet plastic and model sprue for a flat inside surface and a ruggedized-looking outside. I made hinges from small blocks of plastic that I drilled out to form the gudgeon and pintle. Crude, but effective. Then I had to build latches so I could open and close it easily; they're made from sheet plastic, too.

The tailgate challenge wasn't over yet, though. I wanted to add a Jeep Cherokee-type swing-away tire carrier to hold the spare and whatever else I felt like adding. I made it from a sheet plastic tube along with a spacer that I mounted on the rear body of the jeep, just over a bumperette. Into this I slid a brass tube. I drilled two holes in the tube and bent a sturdy wire coat hanger to the shape I wanted and made a hook on each end that I worked into the holes in the brass tube… Voila! A hinge! The apex of the coat hanger wire was bent into a little hook that mated with a hitch I fabricated for the rear of the vehicle.

The driver's MG posed some interesting problems. I wanted a 1-handed MG, but didn't have any more .30 Brownings to spare. I DID, however, have a vintage Palitoy .303 Lewis in the junk box. I drilled a hole for the mount, and added a slot in the top of a sheet plastic tube and added a screw to hold it all together. Mounting this apparatus on the Jeep posed an interesting problem that I solved with the axle mount from an old 5-Star trailer. In the pic to the left, you can see the sponson made from the 5-Star trailer axle mount glued to the hull of the Jeep, and you can also see the sheet plastic pedestal mount for the Lewis. A screw in the bottom holds it all together. It swivels great! I added a "keeper" on the fender to keep the barrel from banging around while they're on the road (or going off-road).

This jeep will hold a lot of stuff. Depending on the mission, we'll strap on tents, tarps, nets, etc, but the basic equipment that's always loaded is shown at right. You'll note the crate of belted MG ammo, a wooden crate (kid-made, I might add) that holds MREs and grenades (ok, OUR Joes actually had MREs during WWII… didn't yours?). It carries 8 jerry cans of fuel for extended range, a bazooka in case they encounter any armor, a few ammo boxes (they're crammed into every nook and cranny around the driver and passenger, too, but you can't see those in the pic). The Palitoy Action Man radio resides back there as well as a small vehicle-mounted radio (it's 'Nam era, but my kids helped build this so I'm not too picky). You can see the sand ramps here, too. The ramps are 2 pieces that snap together to make a longer ramp. In the pic one is assembled and the other is disassembled for travel. These are actually the removable plates that you bang out of your PC frame to mount an extra drive or peripheral. I had 4 of them in my computer junk box - it was obvious to ME that the computer manufacturer intended them to be Joe sand ramps that they included with the computer free of charge (there are JoeHeads EVERYWHERE!).

These are the mean-lookin' hombres who man the Gunship. Each has a backpack strapped somewhere on the vehicle with extra ammo, rations, compass, maps, jacket, two grenades, and flashlight in case they have to "bug out" and abandon a disabled vehicle. Somewhere within easy reach of each commando is also a .45 Thompson, while they wear a knife and .45 pistol. They're wearing 21C uniforms with Hasbro helmets (the rare ones that actually FIT a vintage or TC figure). Two of these guys have Cots Action Hands (gotta love Cots!) while the twin Browning gunner has stock TC hard hands.

As an aside, all of the guns are interchangeable on their mounts. The Lewis gun is interchangeable with the Twins and the .50 MG, and vice versa.  Interchangeability is fun!  This jeep project evolved over years and I can't really claim that it's finished, because I don't know what the future holds in store for it... a white lunar rover, perhaps?  Time will tell.  This jeep originally cost my folks around $11 in 1970ish.  It provided me with lots of fun with my initial Rat Patrol MG mount and has been providing fun ever since... now into the second generation of Joe Heads around here!  Hey Mom and Dad:  this was $11 well spent!   :-)


Click the logo to go home