Karl Probst's legacy extends beyond his pivotal role in designing the legendary Jeep; his early contributions to electric mobility showcased his innovative prowess. Born on October 19, 1879, in West Virginia, Probst's engineering journey began with a passion for innovation and a desire to redefine automotive possibilities.
After initially venturing into automotive engineering and working for prominent companies like Chalmers, Lozier, and Peerless, Probst's engineering acumen led him to the burgeoning world of electric vehicles. In 1920, he took a hiatus from the auto industry, heeding his doctor's advice, and ventured into real estate. However, the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 prompted Probst's return to the automotive realm.
One of Probst's notable contributions during his hiatus was his involvement in designing the Milburn Electric. In 1915, he joined the Milburn Wagon Company, a manufacturer of electric delivery vehicles, and played a pivotal role in revamping their electric car line. His engineering expertise breathed new life into the Milburn Electric, making it a popular choice among early electric vehicle enthusiasts.
In 1923, General Motors recognized the potential of the Milburn Electric and purchased the factory. Unfortunately, the shift in ownership marked the end of Milburn Electric production, as General Motors opted to focus on other automotive endeavors. Nevertheless, Milburn had already left an indelible mark, producing approximately 4,000 electric automobiles during its existence.
Karl Probst's career took a transformative turn during World War II when he was approached to design a revolutionary scout car for the U.S. Army. In 1940, with an impressively tight deadline, Probst, now working with American Bantam Motors, unveiled the groundbreaking design that would become the Jeep. The Jeep's success during the war solidified Probst's status as a visionary engineer.
Despite the challenging circumstances and tight budgets, Probst's work on the Milburn Electric and later contributions to the Jeep underscore his ability to adapt and innovate, leaving an enduring impact on both electric mobility and military reconnaissance vehicles. Karl Probst, a trailblazing engineer, shaped the automotive landscape, leaving behind a legacy that continues to influence the industry to this day.