The Ford GPW (commonly known as a Jeep or jeep, formally as the U.S. Army Truck, 1/4 ton, 4×4), and its Willys MB counterpart, are four-wheel drive utility vehicles that were manufactured during World War II. Produced from 1941 to 1945, the jeep evolved post-war into the civilian Jeep CJ, and inspired an entire category of recreational four wheel drive vehicles. The name “jeep” is generally believed to be derived from the Ford’s vehicle initials – GP. This Ford GPW Jeep was built in 1943.
Wanting to add mobility to its forces, in 1937 the U.S. Army solicited proposals from domestic automobile manufacturers for a replacement for its existing, aging light motor vehicles. The Army formalized its requirements on July 11, 1940, and submitted them to 135 U.S. automotive manufacturers. Initially, only American Bantam Car Company and Willys-Overland Motors entered the competition; Ford Motor Company joined later. After extended development and testing, a production contract was awarded to Willys. By October 1941, it became apparent Willys could not keep up with the production demand and Ford was contracted to produce them as well. The Ford car was then designated GPW, with the “W” referring to the “Willys” licensed design. During World War II, Willys produced 363,000 Jeeps and Ford some 280,000. Both the Willys MB and Ford GPW models were very effective on the ground, with many standardized features such as 6.00×16 tires, 60 horsepower at 4,000 rpm, a gasoline can bracket on the left rear, provision for trailer lights, spark interference suppression, a blackout light system, twin top bows and sealed spring shackles.
Jeeps were used by every service of the U.S. military. An average of 145 were supplied to Army infantry regiments. Jeeps were used for many purposes, including reconnaissance, gun towing, cable laying, saw milling, firefighting pumpers, field ambulances, tractors and with suitable wheels would even run on railway tracks.
- Wheelbase – 80 inches
- Length – 132 ¼ inches
- Height – 69 ¾ inches
- Road weight – 2,453 pounds
- Ground Clearance – 8 ¾ inches
- Maximum speed (highway) – 65 miles per hour
- Maximum fording depth – 21 inches
- Cruise range – 20 miles
- Maximum grade ability – 60 degrees