The islands of Hawaii are littered with some of the most absurd World War II Jeeps in existence. Modified almost beyond recognition, the former war machines take on the likeness of legendary 1950s and 1960s American iron. These are like the Jeepneys of the Philippines, except even more soulful.
A Facebooker named James recently posted photos of the silliest-looking Jeep I’ve ever seen. It’s a Ford GPW World War II Jeep (being Ford-built, you’d be correct to call it by the generic name of “jeep”) whose body was morphed into what has to be a 1958 or 1959 Cadillac Eldorado.
I say “what has to be” because the resemblance is uncanny. I can barely tell the vehicles apart!
After some extremely cursory research, it has come to my attention that Hawaiians have converted quite a few World War II Jeeps into 1950s and ’60s-era cruisers. The vintage Jeep enthusiast website eWillys refers to such creations, well known in Jeep circles, as “Hawaii-Body” Jeeps. Their body tubs take on all sorts of colours and shapes, with the common trait being a strong character line down the side. Here are a few examples:
Over a decade ago, eWillys posted the blue Cadillac-themed Hawaiian Jeep on its website. Apparently, the vehicle was for sale in a place called Captain Hook:
Time has not been good to it:
Still, I think I might be in love?
This creation doesn’t have flashy paint or a perfectly straight body, yet it may be the king of the genre. It’s not trying to be sexy or cool or tough. It just is what it is. It wears its imperfection with confidence, and it drips with soul:
The owner is contemplating hacking up the GPW and turning it into some sort of interior decoration. I would lean toward getting it back on the road, but I also realise how tall a task that would be, so I’ll respect the owner’s decision either way.
What exactly is it with Hawaiian Jeeps being turned into 1950s-eras “sedans?” I don’t know the answer. These Jeeps could have been part of some sort of resort. After all, flatfender Jeeps were a hit at resorts in the 1950s, when colourful Jeep DJ-3A Surreys roamed paradise spots around the world.
Or maybe this was just a matter of there being a bunch of surplus World War II Jeeps sitting around in Hawaii after the war (as there is a considerable military presence in Hawaii, including, of course, Pearl Harbour), and not enough access to Harley Earl’s enormous American styling icons that were en vogue in the 1950s.
Maybe these owners of 4x4s, whose exterior design (or lack thereof) was largely a result of strict government functional requirements, actually wanted a taste of the gorgeous styling dominating pop culture on the mainland in the 1950s. Then again, Googling images of 1950s Hawaii seems to show plenty of recent-model American cars. So the dealer network on the islands wasn’t that bad.
Also, I don’t think this was a matter of adapting Jeeps into vehicles more suited to the local environment, as was the case with Jeepneys in the Philippines, which are built using a variety of parts due to limited parts availability. Hawaii should have had plenty of Jeep parts sitting around, and it’s not like adding tailfins makes the vehicle any more suitable for Hawaii, unless those fins actually operate like dorsals.
So I’m guessing this was just a resort thing. Or just some folks having fun. All I know is: The results are magnificent.