The iconic, legendary Jeep has a fascinating story to live up to its remarkable achievements. The small, lightweight military vehicle earned itself a prominent place in the fabric of American history thanks to its simple design and mule-like capabilities. The Jeep is perhaps the most iconic vehicle of the WWII era and features prominently in stories, photos and movies from the war. It has become truly a part of the fabric of our history.
The origins of the Jeep go back to the late 1930’s when the US Government was beginning to sense tensions growing overseas, and felt the immediate need to update the Army’s ageing motor fleet – at the time consisting mostly of modified Model Ts and sidecar motorcycles. A guideline was announced and bidding was opened to manufacturers. One would think the manufacturers would be jumping at the opportunity but only two companies initially entered the fray – Willys Overland and American Bantam. Ford was later encouraged to join and they eventually tossed their hat in the ring as well. Through a series of tests and bids, Bantam was awarded the contract and set to work building their prototypes. Bantam committed to the Army’s stringent timeline and delivered “The Blitz Buggy” to Camp Holabird, Maryland on September 23, 1940. Unfortunately for Bantam, their financial state was less than stable, and they were unable to commit to the production volume that was requested. With Bantam’s support, Government officials forwarded the blueprints to Ford and Willys who were encouraged to show their own vehicles. Unsurprisingly, the Willys Quad and Ford Pygmy prototypes were remarkably similar and all shared many traits with the Blitz Buggy. Remarkably, all three manufacturers were given contracts to produce 1,500 vehicles each for testing – most likely due to the enormous pressure the government was feeling to get vehicles in the field.
When a single manufacturer was settled on for the initial production run of 15,000 vehicles, it was Willys who came out on top. Soldiers raved about the powerful engine and lower silhouette of the Willys and its performance was quickly proven by those who relied on it for their lives. But even Willys could not keep up by 1941, and with war looming Ford’s massive resources were called upon once again. Ford agreed to produce what became known as the GPW (Ford’s internal designation, G- Government contract, P- any 80” wheelbase vehicle, W- built under Willys license). The Jeep we know and love was really an amalgamation of all three designs, which in hindsight is probably why it was so successful. Stories vary about where the Jeep name comes from, and perhaps its best never to know for sure as it just adds more layers to the unique gestation of this legendary, iconic, heroic vehicle.
This Ford GPW Jeep was produced in 1942 and is one of 277,000 GPWs produced by Ford, though of course, few survive today. This Jeep has been fully restored to a usable, authentic condition and is not over restored or fussy. It retains its plucky, honest feeling and is willing and able to be used regularly. It was most recently part of an extensive military vehicle collection and was clearly well kept. Paint quality is good, authentic drab green. As with any military jeep, it is simple and purposeful. Axe and shovel are mounted on the body sides, the windshield folds flat, and a spare wheel is mounted on the rear body. The picture of basic functionality extends to the cockpit – no luxury to be found here! Three canvas seat cushions, a fire extinguisher and basic instrumentation are about it. A canvas top is fitted should the weather take a turn. Of course, a military Jeep is not about comfort. It is about preserving a piece of American history, ingenuity and paying respect to those who served our country by caring for the equipment they cared for and relied upon every day. Ready for regular use or casual show, this is a usable and enjoyable icon that can be yours to enjoy for a reasonable price.