By Jon Maib
Is there a vehicle that you have always wanted to have, but figured there was no way you could ever own one? I have a vehicle that I consider my unicorn, the one that I will never have sitting in my garage. It's an old Ford GPA. The GPA, (General Purpose Amphibian) is one of those vehicles that has just stood out to me as an unique, odd and just plain cool vehicle. The GPA was simply an old Jeep placed into a bathtub on wheels that could float.

Back in the 1942-43, the Army wanted to see if they could adapt the capable Jeep GPW to be able to cross rivers and lakes while still providing the prowess of the Jeep of the day. Several bids went out, but it was Ford that was able to provide the Army with a prototype that fit the bill. Producing over 12 thousand units, the Army tested them out and realized they were not all that great in rough and choppy waters. The GPA was intended to carry troops and equipment across water, but due to the weight of the GPA, it did not perform well in that aspect. With it being so heavy, it even struggled on land or shallow waters as it tried to traverse them. In fact, the production of the GPA did not last long as there were some financial squabbles between Ford and the Army as well as the vehicle not doing very well in field testing, the project was scrapped with only 12,700 being built.

After the war, the Army decided to unload most of the GPAs to USSR (Russia) and the rest were sold off to ranchers, farmers and the like. USSR took the GPA and eventually built a similar vehicle, the GAZ-46 MAV, which is a close representation of the GPA.

With the GPA not being all that great, you may ask why I would possibly want to own one. I think they are just unique and there is something so cool about being able to drive a Jeep into water and have it become a boat. I have tried to find one for sale just to see what they are running, but they are hard to come by. When they do come up for sale, for a decent condition GPA, you are looking somewhere in the vicinity of $150,000. Not sure about you, but that is a bit out of my price range (ok, way out of my price range)! So maybe my chance of owning a functional GPA is a pipe dream? or is it?

It may not be a "REAL" GPA, but there is a company that has created a 1:16 radio control version of the Ford GPA. Why am I writing an article on a RC version of the Ford GPA? That's because it's a GPA that is actually in my price range and gives me the ability to drive. The Torro Ford GPA sells for around $160 - $250, depending on where you purchase from. I ordered mine from MotionRC and it retailed for $160. Most of the ones found on Ebay are in the $250 range. I was excited for the RC to come in so I could drive my very own GPA. Opening the package, the detail on the GPA is pretty incredible and it also comes with a bunch of different decals you can choose to put on.

The good:
This is a fantastic replica of the Ford GPA and it is a great size RC, comes with 4 wheel drive and a separate motor to control the propeller in the water, however, the propeller cannot be turned on unless a sensor detects water as a safety precaution. The 4 wheel drive works well and the propeller works even better in the water. The transition from driving on land to the water is seamless by hitting a button on the controller to change motors. The GPA sits perfectly in the water and like the original, can only handle small waves before it starts getting a bit unstable.

The bad:

In drive mode, the motor that is used has a hard time dealing with the low speeds of the vehicle and you get this loud whine as it gears up. It's a bit unpleasant of a sound, but, if you just ignore it, you can have a little fun with some light off-road. After about a weeks or so of playing with it, my drive motor died on me. I tried working with Torro to get a new one, but because they are overseas, would have taken forever to get a replacement. It was actually easier to buy one off amazon and replace. I did order a couple different variations of the motors to see if I could improve on the sound, but at the end, none worked like the original type. I was able to replace the motor and it's been working fine since.

I have done a few modifications to my GPA by adding working headlights, some original style boat fenders and the windshield curtains that were designed to help with splashing on the driver and passenger. While this may not be the unicorn I am really wanting, it sure is fun to be able to drive one on a small scale. If you are like me and want the joys of driving a GPA from land to water, check out the Torro Ford GPA!