December 7th may have come and gone, but like some of the military heroes who fought and survived the surprise attack on that fateful day, there’s a Jeep that’s still around even in today's world. A Jeep that most Jeeps of today owe their existence to in one way or another.
See The Very First Jeep at Veterans Memorial Museum
Of course, at the beginning of the war, when a vehicle was being developed, it was not actually called a Jeep. However, for this article, we will refer to it as such. In the 1940s, the U.S. military needed a particular kind of vehicle for their needs. Lightweight, 4WD, and small. Simplicity was a must. Once the specs were worked out, several car companies submitted their ideas and prototype vehicles. One was Willys-Overland, another American Bantam, and yet another one was Ford. Ford’s entry into the testing was their “Pygmy.” Alternatively, it is known in its official designation, GP-Number One. One thing about this vehicle is that it still exists today. Indeed, it is probably the oldest Jeep that’s still in existence period. Since it was a prototype, it used some parts that Ford already had in their vast mechanical warehouses. Willys and Bantam did the same thing. Time was of the essence, as the military need a vehicle as quickly as possible, and a car that could be produced in large numbers. Ford decided to use an engine already in use from the Tractors, the 9N powerplant. Needless to say, it was an odd choice. One sticking point was that the carburetor was located below the manifolds on the side of the engine. Easy to get to on a tractor, difficult to even see in a Jeep engine bay, much less repair. The military decided to use the Wills “Go-Devil” engine, which was strong and reliable in its day. It was a proven powerplant. The original Ford GP-01 vehicle had some Firestone agriculture tires on it, which have been long discontinued, so it is riding on similar tires that could be found today. When the military chose a final design, it used multiple ideas from all three manufacturers, and the vehicle became the "Jeep" as it was known to the GIs. Willy and Ford made them at the same time during the war, and by the thousands. As the Ford GP-No 1 still exists, it has been entered into the National Historic Vehicle Register by the Library of Congress, and currently belongs to the U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum in Huntsville, Alabama.
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