Riding on a long-travel suspension inspired by desert-running Trophy Trucks, the Dagor can seat a squad of nine soldiers or carry a 3,250lb payload.

Between 1941 and 1945, Willys and Ford built some 640,000 of the quarter-ton four-by-fours. The trucks proved their mettle on front lines in Europe and Asia and, after the war, spawned a robust civilian brand and pioneered a new genre of non-combat transportation.

One of the secrets of the jeep’s battlefield success was its extensive use of off-the-shelf commercial components – including its indefatigable Go Devil four-cylinder engine, plucked straight from Willys’ civilian Americar. The approach shortened development time and dramatically simplified maintenance and repair in the field.

Seven decades later, this old strategy is guiding a new breed of lightweight combat vehicles: financed and developed with no government participation, and assembled from a hodge-podge of bespoke and consumer-grade components. 

Meet the latest entry: the Dagor, from US-based Polaris Industries, introduced on 13 October at the Association of the United States Army annual meeting in Washington DC. Best known for snowmobiles, scrappy ATVs and the new Slingshot three-wheeler, Polaris has a growing portfolio of military machinery as well, including olive-drab versions of its diminutive RZR off-roader and Sportsman ATV. The doorless Dagor, developed from scratch in just two years, is its first purpose-built war machine.

The Dagor (like its arch-rival, the Boeing Phantom Badger) makes use of some proven civilian-spec components, including controls and powertrain. Boeing’s Badger uses a 3-litre turbo-diesel V6 from the Jeep Grand Cherokee; Polaris is a bit less forthcoming about engine specifics, but does disclose that the Dagor also employs a turbocharged engine capable of burning diesel or JP8 jet fuel.

About as long, wide, tall and heavy as a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, the Dagor was designed with transportability in mind. One of them can fly in a sling beneath a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, and two of them can fit end-to-end in the belly of a twin-rotor CH-47 Chinook. And, of course, the Dagor was designed to survive a Low Velocity Air Drop, or LVAD — a 500-foot parachute-slowed plummet from the bay of a C-130 cargo plane.

Riding on a long-travel suspension inspired by desert-running Trophy Trucks, the Dagor can seat a squad of nine soldiers or carry a 3,250lb payload. Yet despite this prodigious capability, the compact Dagor is frugal enough to deliver a 500-mile cruising range – fully loaded. And weapons? The vehicle features hard points fore and aft for machine-gun pintle mounts and a roof designed to accommodate a 48in ring mount for heavier weapons.

Polaris is set to deliver its first Dagors, to the US Special Operations Command, during November. The vehicles will be built by Michigan-based Roush Industries, a company known for its hot-rodded Ford Mustangs and Nascar racing team. The Dagor’s price? A stout $149,000 each – a bargain as 21st Century military machinery goes, but a far cry from the 1941 jeep, each of which set the US government back a mere $749.

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