Anyone who visits Normandy around the month of June will almost certainly, at times, feel as if they have stepped back in time. Every year this region of France is invaded again - but this time by military vehicle enthusiasts and living history groups, with all manner of painstakingly restored Second World War vehicles. In most cases the drivers and passengers take time to look the part, donning uniforms or dressing as members of the Resistance. For many years the idea of driving through the winding lanes of Normandy in a 1940's jeep has been something that sounded great fun to us.
Unfortunately, as jeeps are just about the most practical Second World War vehicle that one can privately own, the price for a fully restored example were out of reach. However, several years ago, after consulting with my good friend who is far more technically minded, we decided to purchase a jeep in need of restoration. After seeing an interesting example for sale across the Atlantic in United States, we agreed a price and arranged for the jeep - a 1942 scripted tub Ford GPW - to be shipped across from Oakland to Tilbury in the UK. It seemed a good way to spread the cost of ownership over a number of years and at the same time have some fun with the restoration process itself.
We can say with near certainty that our jeep never saw action in the European theatre, and most likely spent the war on an army base somewhere in the United States. We do know it was delivered to the government in March 1942, making it one of the earlier examples of the more than 600,000 jeeps contracted by Willys-Overland and Ford during the Second World War. Our project is intended to be a marathon rather than a sprint, which is just as well as things have progressed pretty slowly in recent years. However, we hope to get things moving again soon and start making some real progress. On this section of the website we will keep you updated on the project, and whilst not strictly related to D-Day or the Battle of Normandy, it was certainly inspired by our many visits to the landing beaches.
Our jeep - GPW 6084 - was purchased from a part-time jeep trader from California. In his spare time he looks for wartime jeeps that can be saved and restored. Our jeep has spent at least some of its post-war years working on a ranch. The front bumper had been replaced and an "A-frame" fitted. Before the jeep was shipped from Oakland the seller fitted new wheels and tyres. From the photos the vehicle appeared to be in pretty reasonable shape, with a mixture of original and replacement features. One of the nice original parts we noted was the "tombstone" black-out light guard on the fender. It was also had a scripted "Ford" body tub, and was one of the early models with a Ford body fitted to a Willys frame. The first contract awarded to Ford was done before the US entered the War, and in the early days Ford elected to buy-in some of the parts used by Willys.
Back In The UK - First Look
The jeep arrived in a container at the port of Tilbury in Essex. Thanks to our shipping contacts, once clear of customs, it was loaded on a transporter and driven to Southampton where we transferred it into another container that now serves as its garage. This was quite an exciting experience and was our first real chance to get a feel for the amount of work ahead of us.
Searching For Markings
One of the first tasks we wanted to undertake was to try and find any of the jeep's original military markings. As with all but the luckiest of projects, we knew nothing of the vehicles military service. We knew that it had been delivered to the army on 11th March 1942, just a few months after America entered the Second World War following the attack on Pearl Harbour. We were also realistic in our assumptions and assumed (as we still do) that GPW 6084 had spent the war years on a US Army base somewhere in America.
Using paint stripper, a paint-removal gun and various sharp tools we carefully started removing layers of the faded yellow paint and primer coats beneath. We knew the front bumper had been replaced at some stage and that along with the rear bumperettes has a very thin layer of paint and no markings. We did, however, manage to uncover the white stars on the left and right rear quarters and on the rear panel above the "Ford" script.
We also uncovered part of the white star on the cowl in front of the windshield. We could see it was upside down (with the single point of the star facing towards the front of the vehicle). Although most restored vehicles have the single point of the star facing towards the windshield and in the center of the hood, there are wartime photographs showing the star painted in the same manner as we'd found on ours. The official US Army equipment markings manual (AR 850-5) also prescribes that the star on the hood star 1.5 inches from the dashboard (not in the middle of the hood) so that it can be observed from above when the windshield is in the folded position. At least our jeep seems to have been painted by someone who followed the instructions in the manual. Unfortunately the hood itself does not have the rest of the star beneath the layers of paint as it must have been replaced at some point in the vehicle's life.