All photos: Nik Schulz

While driving past the Warehouse Bar & Grill near Jack London Square in Oakland a couple of months ago, I spied what I thought was a perfectly nice, WWII-era, Willys jeep. Upon talking to the owner, a gentleman named Eddie, I learned that it was actually a Ford GPW. W for Willys.

How did this combination come about? Well, back in the late 1930s, while the US government watched stability break down in Europe, it hurried to update its aging fleet motorcycles, sidecars, and, yes, Model T’s. By the summer of 1940, when they finally formalized their needs for a general-purpose utility vehicle, the war in Europe was already underway.

The Army, now feeling rushed, issued an impossible deadline: 49 days for a prototype and another 75 for pre-production examples. Only two companies took up the challenge, the American Bantam Car Company and Willys-Overland Motors. Of the two, only American Bantam, working furiously, was able to meet the deadline.

This jeep carries 48-star flag from days before Hawaii and Alaska joined the union.

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