Man Restores 1942 Army GPW Jeep
Restoring vehicles is a popular pastime and hobby, and car enthusiasts have dedicated hours of time to restoring a variety of different cars and trucks. This is especially true for one of the more dedicated fan bases out there… Jeep owners.
Take Georgia resident Robert Brough as an example. Despite suffering from Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy, a condition that has left him legally blind, the Jeep fan spent a couple years restoring an old 1942 Army GPW he had found on the side of the road. As Curt Yeomans of the Gwinnett Daily Post writes, the restorer is now showing off his new toy to fellow Jeep enthusiasts.
So before your brush off any of the used Jeeps for sale at your local dealership, read the story below. It may inspire you to purchase a run-down vehicle and restore it to its full glory…
A crowd, led by the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 690, gathered at Gwinnett County’s airport this past Saturday to hear Brough tell the story of the restoration of his classic 1942 Army GPW.
He had purchased the vehicle years before, having found it in it’s resting place for the previous half-century: a grassy field. There was plenty of rust, and Brough said there were some areas that had to be completely replaced.
When he initially came across the vehicle, Brough dismissed it as being a rusting piece of junk. However, when he further explored the exterior, he quickly became excited. There was a clear cursive Ford badge on the back on the Jeep, meaning that particular off-road vehicle was a dime a dozen.
During World War II, there were more than 600,000 Jeeps produced by Ford and Willy brands. However, only the first 15,000 Ford-made GPW Jeeps had the company’s name branded on to it.
“It was completely unexpected,” Brough. “After my fingers slowly moved across those letters, I just said, ‘That’s it, we’ll take it.’”
As his sight continued to deteriorate, Brough worked quickly on the project. Having previously worked on cars in the 1960s and 1970s, the enthusiast used his expertise to put replacement parts on the Jeep. Of course, he also referred to a number of websites and forums for assistance.
It wasn’t always easy for Brough as he attempted to complete his project. He admitted that he was occasionally discouraged, but he persevered to get the job done. He mostly relied on “non-visual senses,” like his sense of touch, while also using the assistance of his wife, Jane.
“There were some frustrating times,” Brough said. “There were times when I was frustrated because I couldn’t do something that I used to be able to do. There were some literally painful times where I’d sand something and then I’d go to feel it, to make sure I had it sanded smooth, and it was so red hot that you could blister your fingers.”
Jane would often check Robert’s work when he had finished a particular segment, confirming that everything had been completed correctly and accurately. She’d also find any dropped parts, and she was solely responsible for painting the Jeep.
“When I was a kid, my dad restored a Model T, so I was familiar with the process, and I sanded all of my life so I was used to this kind of work,” she said.
Robert certainly appreciated his wife’s help.
“I’d walk into the house sometimes and say, ‘Hey come out here and be my pair of eyes,’” he said.
By the end of the project, Robert and his wife has invested nearly $30,000 on various parts and tools. Based on the couple’s reaction to their completed project, we’d bet that they have no issue having committed so much money.
The restored vehicle didn’t just impress old-timers and those who were brought back to the 1940s and 1950s upon seeing the Jeep. It also impressed a younger crowd, including Carolyn Coppinger. The teenager hopes to one day join the Army as a helicopter-flying warrant officer, and she was particularly fascinated by the vehicle’s machine gun.
“I guess it probably wouldn’t have made a ‘pop, pop, pop’ sound when it was fired,” she said. “I imagine it was probably more of a boom, boom, boom’ sound.”
Coppinger was also impressed by Brough’s ability to overcome physical limitations to complete a project that he was so into.
“He knew so much, you can tell he’s passionate about it … and the fact that he was blind — near blind — when he did it is amazing,” she said.
“It kinda makes you realize if you think you can’t do something, even if you’ve got no vision, that’s no excuse,” her father, Sean Coppinger, said. “He didn’t let it stop him, especially with prepping metal, because with prepping metal, you’ve got to be able to see. To be able to do it by feel — man, I work on airplanes and I can’t imagine doing something by feel.”
Appealing to a large audience was the intent of the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter President Randy Epstein. He had previously met Brough at an aircraft event, and Epstein knew the Jeep enthusiast would be an excellent choice to speak at one of the group’s events.
While Brough was initially worried that the holiday weekend would limit the attendance, there were still more than 50 people who showed up to hear the story of the restoration project.
The Army GPW would be classified as a Willys MB, the utility vehicle produced during World War II. Willy-Overland produced the majority of the Jeeps (a tad under 360,000), but Ford (with around 278,000 produced) also played a big role in the manufacturing. The GPW was Ford’s version of the vehicle, and there are some slight differences from the Willys version.
However, if you’re looking to restore an old MB, remember that Willys parts and Ford parts are interchangeable. Yes, when the vehicle originally left the factor some 70 years ago, it contained parts made solely by one company. However, the need for quick maintenance meant that the army mechanics needed to have a quick fix for the Jeeps, regardless of the manufacturer.
If you do need to tell the vehicles apart, you can identify the Jeep via the engine block (which has serial numbers that will distinguish whether it’s a Willys or Jeep), the frame (the GPW has an inverted U-shaped steel member), and the body (a rectangular depression in the Ford, a circular depression in the Willys). If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll be like Brough and come across a branding!
If that story hasn’t inspired you to restore an old vehicle, I don’t know what will! Brough’s story shows that there’s truly nothing that can stop you from completing something that you’re passionate about. Eyesight would seem like a necessity when it comes to fixing a rusted, old car, but Brough proved that that wasn’t the case. Instead of giving up, he found other ways to get the job done. It may not have been the easiest route, but nothing was going to stop the Jeep fan from finishing his project.
So what are you waiting for? You should start your Jeep restoration project today! While the vehicles down at The Faricy Boys in Colorado Springs will be ready to drive off the lot today, there’s no reason why you still can’t make the vehicle your own. Head on down there and see if you’re ready to undertake a new project!