Restoration of GPA 3936
American Classic Restorations & Marine is proud to have been selected to lead the restoration of an exceptionally complete example of the amphibian ¼-ton 4 x 4 truck built by Ford Motor Company for the US Army between September 1942 and June 1943. Ford was selected as the manufacturer of the GPA over another company because it proposed to use components of the 4 x 4 land truck that became the “Jeep” of World War II fame. Both Ford and Willys Overland had contracts to make the “Jeep.” Ford manufactured hundreds of thousands of the GPW, as Ford's version was known; even more MBs, Willys' version, were built. Ford's designation of the GPW stood for: “G” [Government contract], “P” [Ford's internal letter identification of the wheelbase length] and “W” [in recognition of the fact that Willys had the first contract to produce large quantities of the Jeep]. By governmental decree the parts of the GPW and the MB were to be interchangeable in the field, although in restoration, of course, the objective is to restore a GPW with GPW marked parts, and conversely for the MB. The GPA was designed in a great rush, in an unsuccessful effort to have it available for the invasion of North Africa. That schedule was not kept, and the GPA first saw significant service in the amphibious landing on Salerno and thereafter in the Italian campaign. Field service modifications were unable to correct its original design limitations, principally a gross weight as built of 4450 lbs. which lowered the maximum payload and made the GPA ride lower in the water and more vulnerable to swamping.
The restoration of the GPA, the “A”mphibious jeep, presents unique challenges and opportunities. Only 12,700 of the GPA's were manufactured, and of these, very few survive. While the GPA does, as Ford promised the Army, use many of the GPW parts, which are widely available, it also has a long list of components that were unique to the amphibious jeep. Only a few dozen of the GPAs are to be found, in any condition, in the United States. They are disbursed around the country, and are thus not really available as a guide to restoration. There are no “donor” GPAs to be had in the US. Somewhat larger collections of GPAs are to be found in Europe and in Australia, as a result of their deployment in the European and Pacific Theatres. Some 3,000 odd vehicles were conveyed to the Soviet Union under the Lend Lease program. But the Communists found the GPAs useful in fording rivers, both before and after World War II. So most of these vehicles were literally consumed in internal operations.
GPA 3936 that American Classic Restorations & Marine is restoring for its owner, David Olasov, of New York, was delivered by Ford to the Army on December 12, 1942. Its previous owner, a Ford dealer in Kansas, acquired the vehicle as military surplus in Arizona in 1954 and used it for a time on his ranch and in a river that ran through the property. Eventually, this amphibian found essentially undisturbed storage in the basement of the Ford dealership. At the time of Olasov's purchase in May 2007 the jeep had layer upon layer of white, yellow or blue paint (including more than a single coat of house paint!) on top of the original olive drab. It had odds and ends dents, and rust from water and battery acid that sat in a few locations of the vehicle. But its most important characteristic was that the jeep was essentially complete from stem to stern and had almost all its original components. It is believed to have been the only such vehicle to change hands in 2007. Its discovery attracted attention from GPA owners and enthusiasts worldwide.
To support the restoration of the handful of remaining GPAs, a network of owners/restorers around the globe, connected by email and international shipping has emerged. Reproduction gaskets for the thru-hull connections between the drive shafts and the front and rear differentials came from the Netherlands. A beautiful reproduction of the GPA-specific fuel tank was made in South Australia through an introduction by Richard Sanders, a very knowledgeable GPA restorer in that neck of the woods. To reciprocate, from detailed dimensioned draws Richard put together from an original but unserviceable fuel filler neck in his possession, American Classic Restorations & Marine made a number of reproduction fuel filler necks that we honestly believe are indistinguishable from the original. Several were sold to Australian GPA owners and others are being used on the Olasov GPA and other domestic vehicles.
Vintage Wiring of Maine provided the GPA wiring harness and David Pizzoferrato of OD Cloth of Ohio made terrific green leather seat cushions that double as life preservers and other leather and canvas items for our restoration. Peter de Bella of Long Island had a GPA-specific engine hand crank that he was prepared to part with, a fifth combat rim that we were missing and a bunch of other GPW parts. Brent Mullins of Texas, another dealer in WWII jeep components, provided a NOS muffler, and a variety of NOS rubber hoses unique to the GPA and advice as to how they work. And Olasov himself built a 12 volt low pressure pneumatic pump to pressurize the differentials while the GPA is water-borne that fits inconspicuously into a 4 inch square electrical junction box.
We hope to be “swimming” by mid-summer. Visit this site from time to time to follow our rapid progress to completion.