North Dakota Military Vehicle Collectors Association
Combat Wheel Mounting
The most popular World War II era vehicle to restore is the G-503 Ford GPW/Willys MB jeep. By inherent design, it was meant to be repaired expediently in the field with minimal support equipment. While the predecessor jeeps (Bantam BRC’s, Ford GP’s, and Willys MA’s) and all post-war Jeeps used traditional single piece wheels, the standardized G-503’s used what’s known as a “combat wheel”. It’s a two-piece wheel, that in theory can be easily disassembled, have a new tire mounted, and reassembled without the use of specialized tire mounting equipment. While one would just think that all a modern day restorer would have to do is look up the remounting procedure in an Army tech manual, it isn’t necessarily so. First, said manuals with said procedures are not as commonplace as one would think; secondly, modern tire shops may not want to deal with these (big box stores that do tires certainly will not); and finally, today the original procedure is essentially obsolete for one major reason – the lack of needing the inner bead lock. Intended as a rudimentary “run flat” device, today it’s not needed on several fronts: it can’t be seen from the outside (so a concours judge has no idea if one is installed), adds additional weight, is difficult to install, and quite frankly if a 75 year old jeep is needed for a modern tactical situation where a run-flat tire is part of the requirements, a G-503 is the wrong tool for that job. Today, a tire inner flap is a vastly better replacement for the bead lock.
With a set of fresh new Firestone tires, tubes, and flaps from Universal Tire, I was ready to mount them to a set of modern reproduction combat wheels that I had previously disassembled, painted, and reassembled.
A quick note is in order on why I used the components I did. My jeep is an April 1942 built GPW, from the Chester, PA assembly plant. At this early point in production, Ford used either Firestone or their own “Ford script” tires made at River Rouge. Mostly, this revolved around availability. Ford did have some problems tooling up for the Non-Directional Tire, and it would also have been far more logical for Ford to use Firestones -one of their regular Original Equipment suppliers - at an assembly plant away from Dearborn like Chester. I elected to buy my tires from Universal not only because they are MVPA members, but unlike any other vendor that carried Firestone NDT’s, when you went to their web site and got to the webpage that has these tires, right beneath them are listed the correct tubes and flaps to use with them. Other vendors had me hunting all over their website looking for tubes and flaps – with no certainty that they were correct for this application. Finally, the other reason I went with Firestones was that while the Ford tires were being reproduced a few years ago, they now seem to have evaporated.