Ford GPA

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Ford GPA 'Seep' (Sea Jeep)
Ford GPA-001.jpg
Overview
Manufacturer Ford
Production 12,778 (1942–1943)
Assembly  United States
Body and chassis
Class Amphibious military utility vehicle
Layout front-engine RWD / 4×4
Platform Ford GP
Related GAZ 46 (MAV)
Powertrain
Engine 4-cyl. side valves,
134 cu.in (2,199 cc), 60 hp
Transmission 3-speed + 2-speed transfer case;
low range engages FWD;
PTO propellor drive
Dimensions
Wheelbase 84 inch / 213 cm
Length 182 inch / 462 cm
Width 64 inch / 163 cm
Height 69 inch / 175 cm;
45 inch reducible
Curb weight 1,110 kg;
(GWV 1,610 kg)
Ford GPA trials in the Detroit area
Interior of the Seep

The Ford GPA 'Seep' (from Seagoing Jeep), was an amphibious version of the WWII Ford GPW Jeep. Unlike the jeep, the seep was not a successful design being too slow and heavy on land and lacking sufficient seagoing abilities in open water.[1] Similar design features were used in the larger and more successful DUKW amphibious truck.

History and development[edit]

After having commissioned Willys, Ford and Bantam to build the first 4,500 jeeps (1500 each) in March 1941, the US Motor Transport Board set up a project under the direction of the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) to be designated "QMC-4 1/4 Ton Truck Light Amphibian".[1]

As the war in Europe progressed bridges were frequently destroyed in front of the advancing Allies and the requirement for an amphibious version of the jeep arose. Roderick Stephens Jr. of Sparkman & Stephens Inc. yacht designers was asked to design a shape for a 2700 lb (1,200 kg) amphibious jeep, in the same vein as his design for the DUKW six-wheel-drive amphibious truck. Not surprisingly Stephens' hull design looked like a miniature version of that of the DUKW, and just like it, the 'Seep' was going to have a screw propellor, driven by a power take-off, operating in a dedicated tunnel faired into the rear end bodywork, as well as a proper rudder.

The construction of the vehicle was developed in competition by Marmon-Herrington and Ford Motor Company. Marmon-Herrington specialised in all-wheel drive vehicles.[2] The Marmon-Herrington prototype's hull formed an integral unibody structure, created by cutting shapes out of steel plate and welding those together, much like the hull or chassis of an armoured vehicle. The Ford entry however used a sturdy chassis and internal frame, to which more or less regular automobile type sheet-steel was welded. This construction made the GPA some 400 lb (180 kg) lighter than its competitor. Also The GPA's design was based on the Willys MB and Ford GPW standard Jeeps as much as possible. When designing and building the GPA, Ford utilized many of exactly the same parts that the Ford GPW did. The GPA had an interior similar to that of the MB/GPW jeeps, although the driver's compartment had almost twice as many control levers: 2WD/4WD, hi-range/lo-range, capstan winch (on the bows), propeller deployment and rudder control. After a direct comparison of the two company's prototypes, Ford received a contract for production starting in 1942.

Service[edit]

In contrast to the DUKW the GPA (G=Government, P=80" wheelbase, A=Amphibious) did not perform well in the field. At some 1,600 kg (3,520 lbs) the production craft had become much heavier than the original 1,200 kg (2,640 lbs) specified in the design brief, but its volume had not been increased accordingly. As a consequence a low freeboard in the water meant that the Seep couldn't handle more than a light chop, and certainly couldn't take much cargo. The Seep's intended objective: to ferry soldiers to and from ships off-shore, to trundle up the beach and continue inland, was therefore not met. It is reported[by whom?] that many of the Jeeps that were used in battle sank if there were any significant waves at all.

On land the vehicle was too heavy and its body too unwieldy to be popular with the soldiers. Adding insult to injury, the GPA would frequently get stuck in shallow waters, where the regular Willys MB's water fording abilities allowed it to drive straight through (Pohl, 1998). Production was already halted in March 1943 after production of only 12,778 vehicles,[1] due to financial quibbles between Ford and the US government, as well as bad reception of the vehicle in theatre. Although some sources (Pohl; Carlin, 1989) state that less than half of that number were ever completed, serial numbers of surviving specimens suggest that the 12,7XX figure is actually correct.[3]

In spite of participating successfully in the Sicily landings of September 1943, and performing reasonably well in inland river crossings, most GPA’s were routed to Russia under the Lend-Lease program. GPAs were also used in action North Africa, Normandy France, Holland and the South Pacific. They were also used by the British, Canadians and Free French/Fighting French.

Postwar[edit]

The Russians were sufficiently pleased with the GPA's ability to cross rivers and inland waters to keep developing it after the war. Starting out with the chassis of the GAZ-67B, prototypes were created that largely copied the Seep's layout and design, eventually leading to the GAZ 46 MAV, based on the chassis and mechanicals of the GAZ 69 4×4 jeep, to go into production as of 1952. Both the GAZ 69 and the amphibious GAZ 46 were exported to many communist countries.

By 1944 GPAs were being sold as surplus and were purchased by farmers, ranchers, adventurers and others. By the 1970s collectors had discovered them and started restoring them back to their original specifications. They appear at various military vehicle shows and the Normandy "D-Day" anniversaries in June.

Half-Safe and other conversions[edit]

After World War II, several adventurers converted surplus GPAs into world-travelling machines.

The most famous one was during the 1950s when Australian Ben Carlin (1912–1981) sailed and drove a modified Seep, that he called "Half-Safe"[4][5] on a journey around the world.

A young American couple, Helen and Frank Schreider, converted one which they called "La Tortuga" and traveled from Los Angeles to the Southern tip of South America (1954–56). They later converted another one called "Tortuga II" which they used on National Geographic expeditions in India (1959) and Indonesia (1961).[6]

A World War II British paratrooper veteran named Lionel Force purchased a GPA from Levy's Surplus in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and called it "The Amphib." [7] Among the many changes he grafted on a roof from a Dodge station wagon and lengthened the hull at the stern. He used the top halves of the doors, but knowing that he might be tied up alongside a dock, he added a round roof hatch on the top. He planned to travel from Toronto to England via the USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, South Armerica including Brazil, Africa, the Middle East, Greece and up to England. He got as far as Panama but turned back when he learned that the freighter upon which he intended to ship "The Amphib" from Brazil to Africa had been taken out of service.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c The Amphibious jeep story
  2. ^ Spoelstra, Hanno. "Trucks converted with Marmon-Herrington All-Wheel Drive Conversion Kits". Marmon-Herrington Military Vehicles. 
  3. ^ FORD GPA AMPHIBIOUS JEEP
  4. ^ Half-Safe
  5. ^ Half-Safe: Across the Atlantic by Jeep
  6. ^ Helen and Frank Schreider, "20,000 Miles South, A Pan-American Adventure", Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1957.
  7. ^ 1942 GPA 4545

References[edit]

External links[edit]