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Rebuild of a 1943 Ford GPW
By Stephen A. Carr

How hard can it be? Well, not as hard as you may think, so long as you have some basic pieces of equipment and lots of space. A Jeep in bits will take up at least twice the space of a parked complete vehicle! 

I had never been interested in vehicle maintenance until I got my Hotchkiss Jeep. A car was just a tool to get somewhere. Once I had the Hotchkiss, I started doing my own servicing, oil change, bleeding and setting brakes, setting valves, etc., but had never done any serious dismantling of the Jeep. The Ford was purchased in January 2012, as an investment. It had been on Ebay three times and failed to sell. 

I contacted the seller and asked if it was still available, and it was. The reason I was so interested was that it had loads of 'f' marks and 'f' marked parts all over it, and lots of the small bits that soon add up such as handles, footman loops, brackets, pintle hook, spare wheel bracket etc.

I wanted to try and keep as much original material as possible in the rebuild. I prefer to think of it as a rebuild rather than restoration, and I also wanted to keep a used look, maintaining some history and character, rather than a perfect out of the factory look.

The tub was in a poor state, and had been, cut and chopped, and bits welded on and over existing rotting metal. While it looks fairly intact in the picture, much of it was paper thin and beyond use. It was beyond my facilities to save, only the firewall and instrument cowl really being useable, so it was cut up and parts sold. I kept all the fittings, the hood, fenders and grill. I didn't want a repro tub on it, so the search was on for a tub in good condition, or at least within my ability to repair. 

The first job was to strip all the small parts from the tub, followed by the fenders, grill and hood. Rather than spend just months of pulling things to pieces, many of the small parts were cleaned up and painted as I went. This meant that when it was time for re-assembly, the parts would be complete and ready to use.

As many parts as possible were repaired, rather than replaced, such as building up the metal on the steering wheel nut with weld, and then dressing it back down with a grinder and file. The same goes for the repairs to the steering wheel hub.

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Not sure what's oozing out of the engine! Rolling chassis ready for strip down
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Steering wheel repairs
Engine out Steering wheel nut, before and after
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Once much of the hardened grease and mud had been removed from parts, a number were in very good condition. Maurice Jennings was doing the engine rebuild for me, as he was an engine rebuilder before retiring. The engine block was intact but needed work. It is a Ford head, but a pre-war Willys block, presumably from an Americar or similar. I don't know when it received this block. It had been bored out and had oversized pistons.
Bit by bit, the chassis was stripped down until eventually the axles were removed. From purchase, the steering had been; lumpy. A look at the steering knuckle bearing soon showed why, with flat rollers and indentations in the seat! There were a number of areas on the chassis that would need welding and the pintle A frame was badly rotted where it was riveted to the chassis.
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The first major sections to be worked on were the axles. Despite little oil in the diffs, everything inside was clean and the gears were in good condition.
The springs were also completely stripped for overhaul. They were Ford springs, but at some point had a mix of Willys clamps around the leaves. These were removed and new Ford type clamps would be made. The springs and many other pieces were treated with electrolysis to remove rust from the surface and pitted areas. The chassis was sent to a local blasting company who stripped and primed it, the A frame, bumper, and the one seat I had. After much welding, grinding and painting, the chassis was mated back onto the axles. gpw017.jpg (83558 bytes)
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The rear axle being repainted One of the springs stripped for cleaning The newly blasted chassis
While searching Ebay, I found an original wartime tub, chassis, fenders, hood and grill for sale. I only really wanted the tub, but the other parts could be sold, so that the tub effectively cost me nothing. While it did need some repairs, it was fairly solid and easily repairable with the equipment I had, without the need for complex jigging of the parts. The tank well was rotten, and along the bottom edges of the sides; the usual places, and the hat channels, but all fixable. I managed to salvage one end of the tank well, but the other end and main skin would have to be made new.
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After the repairs on the tub were completed, the tub went off for blasting to a company only 1.5 miles away! In the mean time the engine had been to the machine shop, and had the head and block skimmed, and the oversized cylinders sleeved back to standard size. The cam drive had been bodged at some point with gears, but not all the right parts, so Maurice rebuilt it back to chain drive with all the correct feeds, reversed cam shaft and oil pump drive. New valves and springs were also fitted as the old ones were too corroded.
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gpw026.jpg (93243 bytes) The gear box was a rare early type, with the right side filler. Both that and the transfer case were rebuilt by Jeffery Engineering, as much of the internals had been sitting in water at some point, with little useable. Once the engine, transmission and transfer case were back, they were painted, and with the help of Mike Scorer, fitted back into the completed chassis. The steering column is seen trial fitted here, but was removed for fitting of the tub due to the limited lifting height I had available under the engine hoist used for lifting the tub.
The marker lights were 'f' marked, but needed repair. The mounting point casting on both was brittle and cracking, one mounting bolt had sheared, and the back of one lamp had corroded away. The easiest way to repair this was a small fibreglass moulding. The good lamp was pressed into plastercine to make a mould, and layed up with epoxy and 50 gram glass cloth. This was inserted into the light, and blended with filler. The teardrop mounting was filled with a mix of epoxy and milled carbon fibre to reinforce the brittle casting.
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The hood clamps needed a bit of work. The base on one was badly corroded and the springs in two others had broken. A new base for the screen clamp was beaten out of flat sheet and the clamps were opened and cleaned up, and new springs wound from thin piano wire.  
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A hole in the wood allowed the sheet to be beaten to shape and drilled Original and replacement <Screen clamps stripped
gpw035.jpg (65618 bytes) gpw036.jpg (86810 bytes) The light switch was stripped and cleaned. I've never seen so many parts in a switch before! 

I had four fenders to play with, two from the original Jeep and two that came with the replacement body. The second pair were in pretty good condition, but I decided to sell those and repair the originals. This involved new sheet metal work where the fender meets the tub and new hat channels making in places.

First roll out of the chassis with the engine and transmission installed. A completely pointless exercise except for the feel good factor it gives. The radiator is seen fitted back on the Jeep. This was re-cored and tested by a local company who also repaired the tank. There was one small hole and some snapped off studs where the tank sender fits. Far right, the tub is seen on the chassis for a trial fit to check hole alignment. This was a two man and engine hoist job, so thanks to George Lovell for giving up a day for just tea and biscuits! gpw037.jpg (101032 bytes) gpw038.jpg (88828 bytes)
gpw039.jpg (97602 bytes) gpw040.jpg (119895 bytes) The windscreen frame, both inner and outer, were rotten in places. Fortunately I got hold of another dying frame and was able to make one good screen from the two. The outer part was in good condition, but the two bars which support the skin were badly rotten. These were cut from the other screen and welded in, and a new skin added. The brackets for the inner screen arms were also salvaged from the second frame. The inner frame was also repaired with parts from both, carefully rebuilding the 'H' section metal with brazing rod.
I decided to undercoat the tub with the gloss grey engine paint. Matt paint isn't generally a good water barrier, where as the gloss would be. I wish I had done this on the chassis too. So using my mini spray gun, I sprayed into all the difficult corners first before switching to my HVLP spray gun to coat the general area. This was left to go 'green', but before it was fully dry, the olive drab was sprayed to get a good chemical bond between the two layers ( Olive Drab Matt No2 from Frank Burbury ). After that was dry, a second coat of olive drab was sprayed. gpw041.jpg (57369 bytes) gpw042.jpg (71083 bytes)
gpw043.jpg (84504 bytes) gpw044.jpg (84063 bytes) Once the top and bottom has been sprayed, it was left a couple of days to harden, then it was time to start fitting out the instruments and wiring. Access was better with no seat fitted, but I still found that working with the tub on its side gave the best access to the underside of the dash. With the instruments and wiring harness fitted, I made up the fuel pipe from the tank to the firewall filter. All the fuel lines and brake pipes were made, rather than bought as finished items. 
 gpw047.jpg (113350 bytes) When all the lights, wiring and pipe work had been fitted, it was time for the big day to fit the tub back on to the chassis. I managed to refit the painted tub on my own. The fit went well and quickly due to the time spent with the trial fit before it was painted.  gpw045.jpg (103596 bytes) gpw046.jpg (117374 bytes)
On that day, the tub had been on and off several times making slight adjustments to get the fit right.
gpw048.jpg (35049 bytes) gpw049.jpg (96555 bytes) For some time I had been thinking about the colour scheme, and I wanted to stay with the same 100th Bombardment Group theme as my other two vehicles. I had found three pictures of the 100th's photo lab Jeep, one of which was colour, showing the front and rear of the Jeep. Close inspection of the rear view shows that it is a Ford Jeep with a script body. While mine isn't scripted, it is at least a Ford.<
So with the scheme chosen, I spent some time working out the size of the "Station Photo" across the screen before cutting a card stencil, and spraying it on. I didn't want nice crisp edges, as this would be unlikely for a field painted vehicle.

With the inner screen frame complete, I made some 3mm MDF templates which were taken to Pilkingtons for glass to be custom cut.

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gpw052.jpg (66929 bytes) gpw053.jpg (83656 bytes) The fenders needed a little pulling and twisting to fit properly to the grill, and the hood needed a bit of 'adjustment' to fit neatly around the instrument cowl. Eventually I got a reasonably even gap around the rear of the hood and also against the fenders. The headlights were then fitted and connected up and the electrics tested.
The rear bumperettes were very battered, cracked and not the right shape. However, upon close inspection, they were 'f' marked, but had the tops cut off. After cleaning up the original part, a new top piece was cut and welded in place, dressed and primed, before the paint and markings could be applied. It was nice to have saved yet another 'f' marked part, many of which were found all over the Jeep, even down to the smallest parts.
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Much time was spent again studying the wartime pictures and cutting bumper stencils to match the font. Hood markings came next. I made several paper star of various sizes, placed them on the hood and photographed them at the same angle as the wartime picture by the check point. I eventually worked out the correct size and unusual rearward positioning. I've seen rearward stars before, but never with the large circle border. Soon after the markings were finished, the glass was ready, so was collected and fitted.
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I couldn't resist another roll out for a picture, even though I was still waiting for the seat canvasses. With two normal cars and a very large trailer on the drive, a roll out for a photo isn't an easy proposition, but worth while! It wasn't too much longer before the Worthing canvasses arrived and were fitted. I didn't bother with a roof as I still had the original olive drab one from my first Jeep. I had found a cheap, slightly tatty canvas for that which had been painted checkered, leaving the green one in good condition. It was nice to see both Jeeps together again for the first time since the sorry looking wreck arrived.
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gpw066.jpg (91611 bytes) The original data plates were very badly corroded, right through in places, but I was still able to make out the chassis number and data of delivery, our wedding anniversary as it happens! The insurance for my other two vehicles, was due in mid April, so the Ford was set up to commence from that date. After getting the log book and registration, I had some plates made up and got them fitted, and did a few other odds and ends and checking leading up towards April 16th 2014, the insurance start date. 
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I spent the morning with the Jeep on blocks, rear wheels clear of the ground, so I could run it with the wheels spinning and do a bit of bedding in of the contracting band hand brake. In the afternoon, I did three short drives totalling 3.4 miles, up and down the street and around the block gently. The engine has has about two hours running at various rpm on the drive, but not under load. I also need to build up my confidence in the mechanics of the vehicle, as currently, every noise and rattle is a reminder of did I tighten everything up and put it all back together right! On the 21st, I did another 3 miles to visit George.
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