Thursday, February 18, 2016

America’s Most Historic Jeep

The 1940 Ford Pilot Model GP-No. 1 Pygmy owned by the US
Veterans Memorial Museum in Huntsville, Ala. where it is on
permanent display.
(PRNewsFoto/Historic Vehicle Association)
The Historic Vehicle Association (HVA), a group that documents historically significant vehicles, recently announced its eighth vehicle, the 1940 Ford Pilot Model GP-No. 1 Pygmy currently owned by the US Veterans Memorial Museum in Huntsville, Alabama. It was able to document the jeep, a four month process involving “detailed photography; engineering drawings developed from a 3D scan of the vehicle; and extensive historic research on the early origins and military development of the ‘jeep,’” thanks to support from Shell Lubricants; classic car insurer Hagerty, and FARO Technologies, Inc. makers of 3D measurement technology.

According to the HVA, “the Ford Pilot Model GP-No. 1 Pygmy is historically significant based on: (i) its testing at Camp Holabird in late 1940 which was an important event in the development of the “jeep;” (ii) its design contribution to the eventual standard military “jeep;” (iii) being the first prototype produced by Ford and oldest known example of the “jeep;” and (iv) its mostly unrestored condition. The Ford Pilot Model GP-No. 1 Pygmy design is perhaps most notable as the first “jeep” prototype to feature a flat slatted front grille with integrated headlights which went on to become an iconic design element of the standardized mass produced WWII “jeep” and subsequent commercial versions.”

Here are GP-No. 1’s specs, as provided by the HVA:

Technical Specifications – 1940 Ford Pilot Model GP-No. 1 Pygmy
¼ ton four-wheel-drive reconnaissance truck, approximate weight of 2150 pounds, approximately 42 hp, Ford 119.7 cid four-cylinder flathead engine, Spicer transfer case and axles, length: 133 inches; width: 60 inches; height: 56 inches and wheelbase 80 inches.

The story of the Jeep began in June 1940, when the US Army decided it needed a small, manoeuvrable vehicle for use in the field. Willys-Overland Motor Co., Inc., the American Bantam Car Company, and the Ford Motor Company were all asked to build prototypes. The first prototype was built by American Bantam and tested at Camp Holabird that September. Both Willys-Overland and Ford were invited to watch the trials.

By November, Ford and Willys-Overland had both delivered two prototypes apiece, one of which was GP-No. 1. While the prototypes were returned to their manufacturers, GP-No. 1 is the only one of the five to survive.

The army settled on a jeep that used elements from all three models, and gave Ford and Willys-Overland a contract for mass production. The vehicles produced were very similar, right down to the Willys-Overland “Go-Devil” four-cylinder engine which Ford produced under license for its jeeps, allowing for interchangeable parts. The legend was born.

Check out this HVA video for more information on why “This Jeep Matters.”

You may have noticed I said that all of the prototypes had been returned to their manufacturers. So how did GP-No. 1 end up at the US Veterans Memorial Museum? It had been given to the Henry Ford Museum by Henry Ford II in 1948. They decided to sell it off at auction in September of 1982. Yup. Fortunately, it was bought by Randall Withrow, who says, “I remember I could not believe that the Ford Pygmy was being sold and I was the winning bidder. I later founded the US Veterans Memorial Museum and donated the Ford Pygmy as an important centerpiece to the collection. At the museum today, we continue to carefully maintain GP-No. 1 in its unrestored condition.”

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