Ford Pygmy Army Jeep

The Ford Pygmy was one of the early prototypes developed for the Army's new lightweight tactical vehicle, the jeep. The full story of the development of the original Army Jeep of World War II is on the linked page.

The Budd Pygmy, November 1940
The Budd Pygmy, November 1940.

Today in WW II: 19 Jan 1942 Japanese troops seize control of North Borneo.   

Ford Pygmy Prototype Jeep

Ford Pygmy in tests at Camp Holabird, MD, late November 1940
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 The Ford body was immediately preferred by the Army and the Budd unit was withdrawn.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.

Additional photos are found in the Military Jeeps section of the Military Vehicle Charts.

Find additional photos and hi-res versions of the Ford Pygmy jeep at the Olive-Drab Military Mashup.

Ford Pygmy Specifications

Engine 119.5 CID, 4 cyl, side valve 46 bhp @ 3,600rpm (Fordson Model N tractor engine)
Torque 84 lbs-ft @ 1,500 rpm
Transmission 3 speed Model A
Transfer case Spicer 2 speed (same as Bantam)
Gear Shift Floor mounted
Axles Spicer Dana 4.88:1 23-2 rear, Dana 25 front (same as Bantam)
Wheelbase 80 inches
Weight 2,150 lbs.

The Ford Pygmy pilot model survived and is on display at the Veterans Memorial Museum, Alabama Center for Military History. According to a note on the CJ3B website attributed to Todd Paisley, the Budd Pygmy also survived and was rediscovered in 1998 in California.

Recommended Books With More About the Ford Pygmy

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