1944 FORD GPW JeepView vehicle description
Prior to the 1940s, the U.S. Army’s general purpose transportation fleet largely
comprised a hodgepodge of olive drab civilian market cars, hastily adapted commercial
trucks, and several million horses. This improvised assortment of vehicles and animals
grew increasingly obsolete during the years following WW1, when finally procurement
plans for “remotorization of the army” began gaining traction in the mid-1930s.
With war again on the horizon, the army finally moved to formalize requirements, and in
May of 1940 some 135 manufacturers were invited to field a four-wheel-drive, two-meter
wheelbase test vehicle weighing no more than 1,300 lbs. Initially, only Bantam Car
Company and Willys-Overland showed interest, but Ford soon followed.
Quickly, and through a fascinating series of events too complex to condense here, a
production version was settled upon in summer of 1941. Heavily based on Bantam’s
initial submission, but incorporating design variations of all three manufacturers’
prototypes, the type “U.S. Army Truck, ¼ ton, 4x4, Command Reconnaissance” had
Lacking capacity to provide an adequate supply of the new vehicle it helped father,
Bantam instead focused on manufacturing trailers for it, leaving Willys and Ford to
produce what soon became known as the jeep.
Though mechanically identical, Willys MB and Ford GPW variants can be distinguished
by a handful of subtle but easily identifiable unique features, including the shape of their
front chassis crossmembers, location and number of bumper holes, and by various
plaques and stampings.
More than one theory exists as to how the jeep was named, though the most credible
points to a natural adaptation combining the first two letters of GPW. More than 600,000
jeeps would be made before the end of WW2, of which Willys accounted for roughly
360,000, and Ford about 278,000.
On the Outside
According to its front bumper markings, this example may have served with the 517th
airborne division, while stenciled numbers on the hood identify its registration number,
beginning with a standard “20” prefix denoting reconnaissance. The “-S” suffix was
applied to radio vehicles, and stood for “suppressed”; such vehicles underwent changes
to minimize potential interference from the ignition system and other sources.
One could spend hours drinking in all the vehicle’s design and construction details,
though a few highlights include the muffler tucked high and tight to the right side of the
chassis, and the standard axe and shovel or “pioneer kit” on the left.
On the Inside
Like its exterior, the little truck’s open cab overflows with interesting things to look at, but
let’s start with its dash plaques. From the left, there are operating instructions for the
transmission and transfer case, a nomenclature plate detailing its type, serial, date of
delivery (July 14th, 1944), and gross weight; note how this figure grew substantially
from the original, optimistic goal of 1,300 lbs. The third and final plate advises on max
speed for given gear ratios and explains the correct coolant draining procedure.
Typical of military vehicles, instrumentation is fairly comprehensive and includes gauges
for monitoring fuel level, amps, oil pressure, coolant temp, and speed. Check out the fire
extinguisher hidden beneath the driver’s side of the dashboard, which is one of several
standard issue types fitted to MBs and GPWs.
Several “F” stampings using the Ford logo’s famous typeface can be found throughout
the interior and exterior, further helping identify this jeep as a GPW.
Despite their small detail differences, MBs and GPWs were essentially identical in their
mechanicals, and both were motivated by Willys’ 134ci L-head “Go-Devil” four-cylinder
of 60 hp. The subject example is no exception, though some sources hint that its
cone-shaped spark plug wire devices may be RF suppression shields unique to radio
This GPW is offered without known history.
What We Think
Wartime production MBs and GPWs mark the genesis of Jeep history, and indeed
broader concepts of the SUV and worldwide off-roading culture alike. Arguably one of
the most important vehicles of any type ever, these all-lowercase jeeps helped save
Europe before conquering the world.
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- Location: Newberg, OR, United States
- Seller Type: Private
- Odometer Reading: TMU
- Chassis Number: 212614
- Engine: 134 cu in. L-Head "Go-Devil" 4-Cylinder
- Gearbox: manual
- Steering position: LHD
- Colour: Olive
- Interior: Olive
- Estimated Price: $12,000 - $18,000