1945 Ford GPW - Ford “Jeep”


Christian LeePhotographer, Writer

Where and when the term “jeep” was coined is still up in the air to many. There are many solid theories that have been deemed correct by some while still others insist on a completely different version. One popular theory on the name was that is was bestowed by soldiers who dubbed it after Eugene the Jeep, a character in the Popeye cartoons created by E. C. Segar. Eugene the Jeep was Popeye’s dog of sorts and was small, able to move between dimensions, and could solve seemingly impossible problems.

Another theory that holds plenty of water is that the term came from Ford’s version of the popular Willys MB, called the GPW. The name GPW was easily shortened to G-P, or Gee-P, and may be the root of the word “Jeep” as we know it today. We won’t make that definitive call, however, as we prefer to leave it as campfire fodder for generations to come.

With 44 years of off-road experience under his belt, Gary Miller of Rifle, Colorado, has owned his share of 4x4s, but one he always wanted was a Ford GPW flat fender. After a brief search he found the ideal candidate and began the buildup. Gary purchased the GPW with the engine and interior completed, but the remaining mods were carried out by local Rifle, Colorado, 4x4 shops, Code 4x4 and M.O.O.R.E.. RBW in Silt, Colorado, also assisted in the build, as well as “just about every 4x4 shop in Moab.” Moab is Gary’s favorite ’wheeling spot, which isn’t surprising as it is less than a three-hour hour drive from his home.

Gary really enjoys the power of the Ford 289 V-8 and the low First gear of the T-18 four-speed trans. He claims it rips through sand and crawls slickrock trails without issue. Gary states, “It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I love my Ford GPW! I wouldn’t change a thing.” We don’t think he should either. We’ve seen his GPW in action and it is definitely capable of tackling a wide variety of trails while attracting plenty of attention. Gary also embraces the Eugene the Jeep theory and proudly displays the little guy throughout his GPW in wonderfully drawn graphics.

A Dana 30 axle leads the way up trails and is left open in order to keep ’wheeling as challenging as it should be. While a front locking differential may ease forward progress in many vehicles, Gary enjoys having to find just the right line over an obstacle even if it means backing up a few times before he gets it right.

Vehicle: 1945 Ford GPW
Owner/Hometown: Gary Miller/Rifle, CO
Engine: Ford 289 V-8
Induction: Two-barrel carburetor
Transmission: Ford T-18
Transfer case/low range ratio: Dana 20
Front end: Dana 30
Rear end: Dana 44
Ring and Pinion: 4.10
Front Differential: Open
Rear Differential: Limited-slip
Suspension: Leaf spring
Tires: 31x10.50R15 BFGoodrich A/T
Wheels: 15x8

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