Amphibian Truck 2 ½ ton, 6x6 GMC DUKW

Lot 0221, Tracks & Trade March 2023 auction

Anyone in the market for one of Eisenhower’s Invasion Taxis? It’s a daily driver (or maybe we should say ‘daily swimmer’).

This is one very special Duck! Besides its historical value and appeal as an example of true WW II American ingenuity, this particular and structurally original vehicle can still be used for its intended service.

When you give an amphibious vehicle the acronym DUKW as part of its designation, you can expect down-to-earth infantrymen to start calling it a Duck almost straightaway. In fact, DUKW stands for: 1942 manufacture (D), utility (U), all-wheel drive (K) and twin rear axles (W).

The product of the fertile brains of civilian scientists and technical specialists Palmer C. Putman, Rod Stevens, Frank Speir and Dennis Puleston, the DUKW, which was born after a 38-day incubation period, had to overcome strong reservations on the part of senior military figures before it was approved for volume production and service in combat. In a last-gasp attempt arranged by its ‘fathers’, the military decisionmakers agreed to give the DUKW a final opportunity to prove itself in a stiff program of tests and sea trials. Things were still looking grim until the DUKW completed a real-life rescue operation in stormy conditions that blew up unexpectedly, outperforming all the other more traditional methods that were used in attempts to save a 7-man coastguard crew. No longer an ‘ugly duckling’ and ratified by the President himself, more than 21,400 were produced during WW II and this multipurpose amphibian design landed troops and ferried in supplies in Sicily, the Pacific and Normandy.

Restored in the 1970s by the Army Cars Company for the Dutch Marshall Museum in Zwijndrecht (neither of which exist today), this example is in great, fully serviceable condition. It has been converted to run on LPG and features the much-coveted central tire inflation and deflation system. Unusually, it has not been reskinned, so its hull integrity has been fully preserved.

As Nigel Hay points out in his valuation, the new owner could actually land this DUKW on the historic beaches in France during the 80th anniversary celebration of the D-Day landings in Normandy next year. A sight worth seeing!

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