The Willys Jeep helped American G.I.s immensely on the fronts of WWII – taking troops and their gear anywhere they needed to go, no matter the terrain or weather. The Jeep was also the first-ever SUV by modern day standards, and you can now view one of the few prototypes of the iconic wartime hero at the Veteran’s Memorial Museum in Huntsville, Alabama.
As The Detroit Free Press reports, the prototype on display in Alabama was produced by Ford and is referred to as ‘GP-No.1’. It is one of just five pre-production Willys Jeep protoypes ever made, with two being made by Willys themselves and Overland and American Bantam also contributing one each. GP-No.1 was originally referred to by Ford as ‘Pygmy’ and is the only remaining Willys prototype in North America.
Many of the features on GP-No. 1 were reused for the production Willys Jeep, including the tall slotted Jeep grille. The best aspects of each of the prototypes were to be used on the final product, however according to Historic Vehicle Association president Mark Gessler, “Bantam deserves the vast majority of the credit for developing the basic concept and capabilities that became the Jeep.”
Today GP-No.1 attracts war and history buffs from all over to the Veteran’s Memorial Museum. It was originally on display in Michigan’s Henry Ford Museum, however the museum sold it off in 1982 after it received very little attention whilst in display from 1948 to 1982.
Photo via U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum.