The team at the Historic Vehicle Association recently paid a visit to the U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum in Huntsville, Alabama, where the oldest known “jeep” currently resides: the 1940 Ford Pilot Model GP-No. 1 Pygmy. In the YouTube show This Car Matters, they take a look at the history of this important Jeep and even take it out for a quick drive.
The army was looking to replace the horse, motorcycle, and truck with something versatile — enter the Ford Pilot Model GP No.1. The Pygmy was delivered on November 23, 1940, to the U.S. Army for testing and remains unrestored to this day. Bantam and Willys both delivered models for testing in 1940, but this is the only vehicle from the original three that the Army tested that survived, making it the oldest Jeep around.
To build this Pilot model, Ford cobbled together existing parts they already had including truck hinges that were used on the hood, a transmission form a Model A, a speedo from a truck that topped out at 60 mph, and more. A modified tractor motor provided power to get this lightweight 4×4 moving.
After testing all three of these new utilitarian vehicles, the Army ordered 1,500 models from Ford, Willys, and Bantam. Based on more testing of these vehicles and input from the Army Quartermaster Corps the WWII jeep was then developed with improvements. During WWII, more than 600,000 jeeps were built between Willys and Ford. Check out Ford’s first prototype that gave birth to one of the most impressive and capable 4x4s ever built below.
You can see this Ford in person at the U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum. To plan your visit, check out memorialmuseum.org. For more information on the Historic Vehicle Association, visit historicvehicle.org