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Ford GPW vs. the Willys M151A1: What Are the Differences?

Image of a vintage Willys Jeep colored olive green with a towing rope next to a building and some grass.
When it comes to vintage Jeeps, it’s easy to assume they’re all the same. With similar paint jobs, markings, and functions, one Jeep looks much like another. Two classic styles of Jeep, the Ford GPW and the Willys M151A1, in fact share several surface features that might cause the layman to think they’re completely identical. As you might imagine, that’s just not so. So, what are the differences between the Ford GPW vs. the Willys M151A1? Let’s get down to the details of each vehicle and see what makes them distinct.

The Ford GPW: History and Origins

World War II was the Ford GPW’s heyday. Designed by the American Bantam Car Company, production was later shifted over and shared with Ford and Willys-Overland Motors as demand rose. The GPW featured a simple yet effective and rugged design, making it a versatile military vehicle. Features included a 60-horsepower engine, three-speed transmission, and a lightweight body with an 80-inch wheelbase. This made it perfect for various military applications and operations, in wartime and peacetime, including reconnaissance, transportation, and carrying light weaponry.

If the GPW ever broke down, it was easy to repair in the field, a necessity when troops were under fire or stuck in inhospitable terrain. Nicknamed “the GI’s best friend,” the GPW was a tough and reliable vehicle that helped save lives. Many innovations resulting from the creation and development of the GPW have carried over to today’s off-road vehicles.

The Willys M151A1: A Modern Alternative to the GPW

Time marches on, and the Willys M151A1 replaced the GPW on the battlefield and elsewhere. Nicknamed “the Mutt,” an acronym for military utility tactical truck, the Willys M151A1 was built in the 1950s, and used primarily during the Vietnam War. Created to fit a more modern military, the Willys featured new technology and safety features the GPW lacked. Fitted with a 71-horsepower engine, the Willys featured a four-speed manual transmission, independent suspension, and a wheelbase of 85 inches for greater stability and more storage capacity on top.

Willys Jeeps were safer than GPWs, presenting greater protection from rollovers. Replacing the GPWs that came before, the “Mutts” protected troops with better performance and handling. The Willys were phased out in the 1980s and replaced with the high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle, or Humvee.

Compare and Contrast

We’ve explored the differences between the Ford GPW vs. the Willys M151A1, so which is better? The answer is: neither. Both served well and continue to be collectible vehicles for historical automobile enthusiasts. The question to ask is, what purposes will your future vintage Jeep be put to? However, GPWs have a lot of history behind them, naturally, and are probably better suited as vehicles for car shows and the like rather than everyday transportation. The Mutt, of course, features more modern mechanics and features. They’re comparatively newer and better for handling off-road and other challenging places and terrains. Still, both may be updated and retrofitted with more modern technology for regular use. Contact us for more information about bringing your vintage Jeep up to snuff. We offer M151A1 Jeep parts and more!