Pricing Update: Ford GPW & Willys MB 1/4-Ton Truck

As a rule, the most readily spotted difference between the MB and the GPW involves the front cross member. This is a tubular member on Willys vehicles, and an inverted U-channel on the Ford.
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With the Jeep’s design having been standardized as that of the Willys MB, a second source of supply was sought. Ford was licensed to build copies of the Willys design, to which Ford assigned its model designation GPW. Again, G meant government contract vehicle, P indicated it was an 80-inch wheelbase reconnaissance car and, the W suffix referred to the Wilys-licensed design.

The first 25,808 MBs had what is now known as a “slat grille.” This was a welded assembly of heavy bar stock. Vehicles produced after June 1942 used the now familiar lightweight stamped-steel grille (now the registered trademark of Jeep). The stamped grille was not only lighter, but also reportedly could be produced for about one third the cost of the fabricated unit it replaced. The early models had “Willys” embossed in the rear body panel and are known as “script” Jeeps. Add 20% to the value for script and /or slat grille jeeps.

Like the MB, Ford’s earliest models had the maker’s name embossed in script on the rear panel. The grille was of fabricated steel construction until Jan. 6, 1942. Then Ford introduced the stamped steel grille, which was later ironically registered as a trademark for Chrysler’s Jeep.

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Ford built its own bodies at the Lincoln plant until the fall of 1943. Then Ford began buying bodies from American Central, which was already supplying bodies to Willys. After only a short time, representatives of Ford, Willys and the Ordnance Department met and created the composite body, which incorporated the best features of each maker’s body. This body is what is now known as the composite body, and it was used by both Ford and Willys from January 1944 onward, although a few were used during the last months of 1943.

Throughout the production of the 277,896 GPWs, Ford marked many of the components with the Ford “F” logo. Among these components were pintle hooks, fenders, bolts, etc. Due to materials shortages, non-F-marked parts were sometimes substituted on the assembly line.

The script Ford name on the rear panel was discontinued in July 1942. Add 20% to the value for script jeeps.

Ford built the GPW at six plants: Louisville, Dallas, Edgewater, Richmond, Calif., Chester, Pa., and of course Ford’s huge Rouge complex.

As a rule, the most readily spotted difference between the MB and the GPW involves the front cross member. This is a tubular member on Willys vehicles, and an inverted U-channel on the Ford.

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There are almost infinite variations of vehicles, even of the same model. The pricing shown in this update represents current market trends for typical examples of the vehicle.

Like any collectible vehicle, the price of any historic military vehicle (HMV) is based on a combination of three factors: Condition, rarity, and popularity. A vehicle can be rare but if it isn’t interesting, it won’t be as valuable as an equally uncommon, popular vehicle. Rarity is determined by two factors: Production quantity and survivability. The rarity of vehicles in this guide are rated on a scale of 1 through 5 (1 being the most common and 5 the scarcest). “Rare,” however, doesn’t always mean “valuable.” It has to be desirable, as well.

A “preserved vehicle” is maintained in a “state of suspended animation.” All the flaws, scratches and rust that are present when the vehicle is “discovered” are preserved. While this style of collecting is more popular with vehicle enthusiasts overseas than in this country, it is commonplace in other areas of collecting such as furniture.

The single factor that drives price is — and will always be — condition. Another factor affecting price will be the quality of the restoration.

The term “restoration” is often ill-defined or improperly used in the historic military vehicle hobby. What some call a restoration is actually a “representation,” and sadly, sometimes is only a characterization. For a true military vehicle restoration, one must know the history of that particular vehicle. Once known, it is then important to define to what time frame the vehicle is to be restored. This could be as it appeared as it left the factory, or at any subsequent time (June 6, 1944; March 3, 1952, etc.).

The difference between “restoration” and a “representation” is often misunderstood. An example of this could be rebuilding, painting, and marking a Jeep to look like one driven on the beach at Normandy, even though the Jeep you own never left North America. While not a true restoration, this style of “representation” is the most popular with collectors.

Our pricing guidelines follow the standard set years ago by Old Cars Weekly. It uses a 1 to 6 condition grading scale:

1=Excellent: Restored to maximum professional standards, or a near-perfect original.

2=Fine: Well-restored, or a combination of superior restoration and excellent original parts.

3=Very Good: Complete and operable original or older restoration, or a very good amateur restoration with all presentable and serviceable parts inside and out.

4=Good: Functional or needing only minor work to be functional. Also, a deteriorated restoration or poor amateur restoration.

5=Restorable: Needs complete restoration of body, chassis, and interior. May or may not be running, but is not wrecked, weathered or stripped to the point of being useful only for parts.

6=Parts Vehicle: Deteriorated beyond the point of restoration.

Buy the best you can afford. Restoring a vehicle will always be more expensive than buying a finished project.

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  • Condition ratings can be quite arbitrary.A number 1 will be pristine and generally have a pedigree that contains 98.5 or better scores scores determined by professional judging. It might be easier to classify a vehicle as a “number 6” meaning that it has “deteriorated beyond the point of restoration.”

A Word About a “No. 1” Vehicle

While every restorer believes they have finished their vehicle to the best possible standards, the fact of the matter is, very few would qualify as a “No. 1” vehicle.

A No. 1 vehicle is a combination of originality and absolute perfection in restoration. A No. 1 will look as it did when it rolled off the factory line. As an old cohort once said, “If you aren’t willing to eat spaghetti off the tie rod, you aren’t talking about a No. 1 vehicle.” In more quantifiable terms, a No. 1 will score 98.5 or better (out of 100) on MVPA Master Class judging or 990 or better out of 1,000 in marque-specific Concours judging.

Very few vehicles meet those standards. Those that do, however, are the “best of the best.”