Paul MacKay’s 1944 Ford GPW An artifact of war and Jamaican history
While classic cars are appreciated for their ageless beauty and mechanical intrigue, they also carry a weight of historical significance. These vehicles are hallmarks of Jamaica’s progression in transport as well as symbolic traces of the nation’s real history. Pilot and passionate collector of classic cars Paul MacKay spoke to Automotives about the restoration of his 1944 Ford GPW (Willys Jeep), and the vehicle’s significance as an antique of World War II.
MacKay purchased the Jeep in 2013 after being guided to it by a friend. “I always wanted one for a long time, and I realised there were no more jeeps left in Jamaica that were available for sale. And it does have historical importance to Jamaica.”
As an artifact of the Second World War, the jeep exists as a necessary token, representing an often forgotten part of Jamaica’s history. MacKay sees the 1944 Ford as a testimonial to the 5,000-plus Jamaicans who served in WWII. “As a serviceman, I could not let the opportunity go by. The primary reason for refurbishing it aside from trying to get one going is also as a memorial to the Jamaicans who served. It’s to really honour those who have given their service to Jamaica,” he said.
The priceless nature of the Jeep drove the car collector’s desire to refurbish it despite its state of disrepair at the time it was purchased. For six years MacKay, with great assistance from Karl Fenton of Fenton’s Garage, worked on restoring the 1944 classic. “The whole vehicle had to be completely disassembled. Every nut and bolt had to be sandblasted, the body had to be sandblasted and repaired, the engine stripped out completely and repaired – a complete from-the-ground-up restoration,” he told Automotives.
The Jeep is now in full roadworthy condition, having been carefully refurbished to remain as authentic as possible to its original state. The vehicle was well received at the first Classic Car Show event of 2019.
“It’s very satisfying to see your work, albeit slowly, come together. It’s a really good feeling seeing that. It’s quite satisfying,” MacKay said.
He believes that restoring classic cars is an arena to preserve our nation’s automotive history. “Any old car in Jamaica is of historical significance because we didn’t arrive at all these new fancy vehicles by chance. It was a process,” he said.
MacKay and other members of the Jamaica Classic Car Club all seek to cultivate a greater appreciation of vehicles such as the 1944 Ford. “As a member of the Classic Car Club, we would very much like to see, I guess down the road, a museum of transport where they’d have all these old vehicles restored – if not in running condition, then at least in a museum-quality presentation to show the public that this is where we came from, where modern transport as we know it came from.”
One would assume that such an idea would result in a long and difficult pursuit. However, MacKay and his fellow car enthusiasts are determined to try. “We have a commitment, so to speak, that we will not allow the history of transport in this country to just dwindle away, there has to be something. It is a dream of all of us in the Classic Car Club - all we can do is make an attempt.”