“If the Shoe Fits”… A Brief History of the MB/GPW
The year is 1940. The Army needs a new recruit. This recruit is to become a 2,450 pound, 6.00/16 tire mounted, “combat” wheeled, multi-faceted, reconnaissance master, known as “Jeep”. The story goes like this: The Army Quartermaster decides to handle the creation of the “Jeep” by ordering different suppliers to manufacture pilot vehicles for testing. (The virtual testing “hell” the US Army put these off-road vehicles through is alone enough to make anyone a proud Jeep owner!) The results, once in, proved that the 61-horsepowed “Go-Devil” Willys Quad (pilot vehicle’s name) was the right choice for our men in harm’s way. The Army decides that they need these 4×4 dream machines (with military modifications), and they need a lot, now. They negotiate a deal between the designers of the Willys MB and Ford company to create both the Willy MB and Ford GPW (G=Government contract, P=1/4 ton 80″ wheel base recon car 4×4, and W=Willys design motor). The Army stipulates that all the parts (from both manufacturers) must be interchangeable. This, from a field perspective, would make it possible for soldiers to salvage parts from either model to get the vehicle running in a tight situation.
Willys MB and Ford-built GPW, given their interchangeability, can easily be mistaken for the same vehicle. There ARE differences between the two, however. The easiest way to distinguish your vehicle between the two models is to look at the cross member under the radiator. The Ford-built GPW is readily identified by its inverted U-shaped front frame cross member, while the Willys MB uses a tubular brace. Check the engine block for a serial number starting with either “MB” or “GPW” to identify the motor. On earlier models, the left side of the rear panel has “Ford” or “Willys” stamped into it. The rear wheel well tool boxes have either a rectangular (Ford) or a circular (Willys) depression where the lock button is installed. It may be frustrating to try to pin down your model, however, as many of these vehicles have been known to have different manufacturers for the engine, frame and tub! Whatever your “configuration”, these historical gems are a pleasure to own!
Below is a great video produced by Modern Marvels about the history surrounding the inception of the jeep and its testing:
Willys MB ,1942-1945, produced 335,531 stamped grille MB’s.
Willys MB produced 25,808 slat grille MB’s (Oct. 1941 – June 1942).
Ford GPW, 1942-1945, produced 277,896 GPW’s.
Kaiser Willys carries a large selection of military and civilian jeep parts.