I have for a long time been the proud owner of a 1943 Ford GPW (Jeep). Some 600,000 of these vehicles were produced by Willys and Ford during the war. More information is here. My jeep, as originally procured, had seen hard duty on a friend’s farm, as can be seen from the old photo at the left, showing two of my kids being thrilled with our new possession. I thoroughly worked it over functionally and cosmetically, the result is shown in the photograph below. The driver is my son Dan, who is the blonde kid in the older photo. The second photo was probably taken some ten years ago, and shows Dan and family out touring. The markings on the Jeep are for the 311 Fighter Group of the Tenth Air Force in World War II, in which Irv Doe, my boss when I was in the Air Force served. He was an outstanding boss and mentor, so I painted the Jeep to help him be nostalgic, even though he liked P-51’s better than Jeeps.
One of the more impressive aspects of the Jeep, was the speed of design and development. As World War II approached, the U.S.Army, realizing it needed a better light vehicle, put out requests for bids from some 135 companies, with then difficult requirements (4 wheel drive, etc.) and an 11 day response deadline. The schedule demanded a first prototype in 49 days, and 70 completed vehicles delivered for test in 70 days — a total of 130 days to design, build, and deliver the first finished products, contrasted with the years required to do the same to modern automobiles.
I own a bunch of vehicles, but the Jeep is probably the most fun to drive. It is by far the slowest, rattles and shakes, is generally uncomfortable, has lousy brakes, and I barely fit inside it. But it has CHARACTER, a dimension somewhat missing from many much more efficient, comfortable, and high performing cars. Modern automobiles (Toyota, etc.) are miraculous in function and performance compared to the Jeep, but so much so that perhaps they are becoming a bit boring. The Jeep definitely keeps one awake and gives one a feeling of moving, especially with the windshield and the top down in crummy weather. It is just plain fun, and even though perhaps not as reliable as a modern car, amazingly simpler to work on. If it mis-behaves, it is a cinch to repair, and wonder of wonders, all parts are easily available almost 80 years after it first hit the road—as well as the incredibly well done manuals produced during its origin.