Today in WW II: 11 Oct 1939 Letter signed by Albert Einstein is delivered to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, urging the United States to rapidly develop the atomic bomb before Germany does, the inspiration for the Manhattan Project. More↓
Ford Pygmy in tests at Camp Holabird, MD, late November 1940.
In the fall of 1940, Ford was actively working to provide a pilot vehicle in connection with the Army's interest in the "light reconnaissance and command car", eventually the jeep. Bantam had delivered a pilot to the Army on 23 September 1940 and both Ford and Willys had been given access to Bantam's drawings as well as an opportunity to observe the highly successful testing of the Bantam competitor.
Ford's team, under the management of Dale Roeder, Ford's truck design chief, worked through the fall to produce a Ford pilot for the Army that would meet or exceed the success of the Bantam. Ford also lobbied the Army behind the scenes and put pressure on politicians and any others who could advance the Ford cause for this procurement, leaning heavily on the vast production capacity of Ford compared to Willys or the tiny Bantam company.
Delivery of the Pygmy, Ford's First Jeep
On 23 November 1940, Ford delivered two prototype jeeps to the Army at Camp Holabird, MD. Both units were built on the same chassis, one with a Ford built body and one with a body by the Budd Company, a Ford subcontractor and specialist in steel auto bodies. The Budd design (top photo on this page), derived from the Bantam specifications, looked more like the Bantam BRC-60 than Ford's body design which had some unique Ford inspirations. The Ford body was immediately preferred by the Army and the Budd unit was withdrawn. Of particular interest is the Ford Pygmy front end, with its flat grill and headlights in a protected position behind the grill, which was the model for all future jeeps. The Pygmy also originated the use of a double bow for the top canvas and the two piece opening, folding windshield.
When the Army tested Ford's Pygmy it was found to have better steering and a superior arrangement of the seating, floor shift and other controls, making it easier and more comfortable to operate. The Pygmy's boxy, rectangular shaped body was exactly what the Army had in mind and other features were definite advances. But the Ford engine was weak compared to the Willys Quad and the Pygmy was overweight at 2,150 lbs. Nonetheless, the Pygmy was approved by the Army on 6 January 1941 for further development. The redesign of the Pygmy resulted in the Ford GP prototype jeep.
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