US GMC DUKW – lot 221
Eisenhower’s ‘Invasion Taxi’. This vehicle is in superb condition, very complete and highly collectable.
When it comes to wartime duties, machines are only as good as the heroes operating them.
One such machine served in amphibious capacity, getting more men and supplies into the fight than ever fathomed by its initial detractors!
Almost immediately after a successful debut in Sicily, this vehicle began to cement its name in battle lore as an invaluable linchpin to the Allied operations during World War II; the GMC DUKW!
We like to introduce a great and highly collectable Amphibian Truck 2 ½ ton, 6×6 GMC DUKW. Good DUKW’s are very hard to get these days! However, this DUKW is an older it comes in superb condition.
It was restored by the experts of the Dutch company ‘Army Cars’ for the Marshall Museum in Zwijndrecht in the seventies. The Marshall Museum restored this DUKW to a very high standard. The reason for this high-level restoration was that the museum planned to make public (paid) tours with it. A plan that unfortunately could never be realized because permits were not granted by the local authorities. For the specific purpose even an LPG installation was installed, thus, to decrease the operational costs. Due to that to LPG installation was installed original fuel system is currently not in use. The vehicle runs on a separate fuel tank system bypassing the original fuel tank.
We are selling this amphibious dream on behalf of our US Customer who has asked us to offer it in the upcoming Auction.
In this brochure you will find a detailed explanation of this absolute unique and highly collectable amphibious platform.
Please enjoy reading it!
In case of specific questions please do not hesitate to ask!
© Tracks & Trade BV the Netherlands, January 2023
After World War I (and many lessons learned the hard way) it became readily apparent that a gap persisted between the tactical need to surmount beachfront seamlessly and the capability of the equipment on hand to do so. Peace and complacency allowed this problem to fester until it could no longer be ignored. Hitler’s blitzkrieg obliterated Western Europe in little time, and soon Germany secured strongholds into the Atlantic shoreline from the Baltic down to Bayonne. Luckily for the Allies, the Japanese tipped the scales with an attack on Pearl Harbor, and the United States entered the fray full tilt with loads of American ingenuity and support—including some particularly gifted patriots.
The Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), developed by Vannevar Bush, was an organization with a different approach to military innovation. Its sole purpose was to unite the brainpower of civilian scientists with military directives. Bush tabbed his trusted aide Palmer C. Putnam to spearhead the advancement of amphibious engineering.
In 1942, Putnam recruited fellow yachtsman Rod Stephens (a renowned designer and co-founder of naval architectural firm Sparkman & Stephens) to pour his talents into the effort. He was not alone. Notable contributors Frank Speir (MIT) and Dennis Puleston (University of London) also took up the cause. Together, they sourced a batch of GM engineers and hit the lab with an intention of turning the renowned GMC CCKW (deuce-and-a-half) or AFKWX (cab-over variant) truck into an ocean-going vessel, one capable of tackling the ins and outs of amphibious warfare.
Into the pressure cooker their ideas went. Out of that came the DUKW, or the “Duck”! Miraculously, in just 38 days’ time, Stephens and the crew had emerged from their incubator with a finished product. From the outset it drew criticism from skeptics, essentially judging a book by its cover. According to them, nothing was particularly special about the DUKW.
1.3 Demonstration and sea trails
Dismissed by many rulers in military circles as a master of nothing, units coming off the line initially remained in limbo. Could this invention, one claiming to have harnessed the capabilities of seafaring and roadgoing physics possibly be viable in combat? Not with lives at stake. The fear of risk was all too real, and the Duck found its future lifespan trending swiftly towards peril. With the project on the verge of termination, Putnam never relented. In a last-gasp effort, he convinced Army superiors to grant his team the chance to demonstrate the Duck’s ability one final time in a litany of seafaring tests.
They agreed. The trials were set in the Northern Atlantic off the coast of New England. As fate would have it, a brewing storm hit home. Naturally, you’d assume that when testing was postponed due to the conditions, the Duck’s chances of another go-round would be snuffed out by a wave of red tape, but a long overdue stroke of luck came the GMC’s way.
When a Coast Guard ship en route to port ran aground, Rod Stephens and the Duck’s opportunistic crew thrust themselves into action—with cameras in tow.
Remarkably, the Duck wheeled off the beach, chugged through the surf and saved the Guard’s seven-man crew after traditional rescue methods faltered. In that instant, the Duck’s future took flight! Word of its heroics migrated down to Washington, and in no time at all, the Duck soon had a wave of support to prove useful from President Roosevelt on down the chain!
1.4 The DUKW!
DUKW does not exactly roll off the tongue. But what is in a name?
In this case the GM’s manufacturing code:
A breakdown of the code explains many:
- D: GM’s code for 1942
- U: for utility (amphibious)
- K: for all-wheel drive ability (like the deuce-and-a-half’s CCKW)
- W: for twin rear axles (like the deuce-and-a-half’s CCKW)
All told, GMC produced 21,147 DUKWs over the course of the war (1942–45) from two separate locations. Operations commenced at the GM acquired Yellow Truck and Coach Co. in Pontiac, Michigan, initially and then eventually transferred down to GM’s plant in St. Louis, Missouri.
The DUKW’s run-of-the-mill tank silhouette threw many for a loop, especially when it plunged into a body of water. Within a welded hull encasing untreated sheet metal lives the typical frame, engine, and other componentry as found in the CCKW.
Waterproofing was accomplished by watertight seals, plugs, and bearings. The rudder and basic three-blade propeller extended out the stern over top of the rear axles. Water getting in was mitigated by “surfboards” on the bow and stern or expelled by a bilge pump capable of evicting 220 gallons per minute.
Unsurprisingly, the Duck utilized the same time-tested GMC 270 inline-six (1941–63) that made approximately 91.5 horsepower. This raised-deck OHV/pushrod engine was paired to a five-speed overdrive transmission responsible for the prop’s transfer case, as well as a separate two-speed transfer case for the axles where power split evenly between them.
Weekly maintenance and greasing were essential for reliable performance.
Top speed on land peaked around 50 mph, whereas in the water it could only move at about 6.5 mph.
Payloads could safely reach 2.5 tons before the structural and navigable ability became compromised, in most conditions.
That limit was tested by dozens of overloaded DUKWs that are now restfully rotting at the bottom of the English Channel (not to mention in Mediterranean or Pacific waters)!
What is unique to the DUKW is its ability to air up or down tire pressures on the flight. At first, early Ducks required operators to activate the onboard compressor, unravel an air hose, and hop out to adjust each tire.
The later system of pipe-fed hubs was a game changer. It marked the birth of the first central tire inflation system (or CTIS). Pressures could be managed by the driver, and level recommendations were painted onto the inside of the cab for various terrain densities. If a crew ever found itself bottomed out, a rear winch could free the DUKW from trouble. Above a picture from this DUKW indicating the CTIS!
Operation was straight forward once the occupants understood the physics of naval and land principles. Gearing largely mirrored the deuce-and-a-half truck, with shift levers for front axle engagement, the transfer case, gear shifting, and emergency braking.
1.5 The DUKW in operation
Invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky) July 10, 1943
Before the Ducks could even take full advantage of refinement, a flock of first editions were on their way to the Mediterranean. The allies needed a way up through Italy. Strategically, the path began at Sicily to open shipping lanes and establish a basecamp. By nature, an amphibious assault would be paramount to the success of the island’s invasion. One thousand Ducks went into battle. The effect of their mobility and agility was severely underrated. Ducks transitioned supplies, munitions, and men to the beaches, over its sands, and through the narrowed streets of Sicilian villages.
Many of the ships and tank carriers could not navigate through the shallows surrounding the island, particularly when the seas got rough during the early days of the invasion. In contrast, Duck fleets could. They rallied to the cause and did much of heavy lifting to keep the invasion supply line afloat. British General Sir Harold Alexander perhaps delivered the most robust line of all regarding the Duck’s debut, recounting, “It is not too much to say that the DUKW revolutionized the problem of beach maintenance”.
A staunch debut in Italy all but ensured that the DUKW would play a pivotal role in a historic invasion. Two thousand Ducks!! were loaded for bear. When the bullets started flying, Duck crews managed a bevy of tasks that they’d previously proven capable of handling.
Many acted as the intermediary between the men on the beach and the ships in the channel. Some were designated to more specific tasks like aiding the wounded and clearing them offshore. With each passing day, the Duck was able to directly supply the front lines deeper inland over dunes at “dump sites.” On return trips, the wounded went back at sea. The Duck would moor up beside a freighter and then get hoisted back on deck by a pulley system or, in some cases, driven up onto the landing of a lowered hatch. Once loaded, out they went. It was efficiency in motion.
Continued praise fell upon the amphibian, this time from General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who regarded the DUKW as “one of the most valuable pieces of equipment produced by the United States during the war”.
Rough estimates have accounted that nearly 40 percent of all supplies that came ashore from June 6, 1944 to mid-July, 1944 arrived by way of the Duck.
The Pacific; Iwo Jima, Feb 1945.
The army was not the only outfit blessed with access to the Duck. A world away, Marine units trained on these machines extensively, quickly adopting the moniker the “Quack-Core”.
Their assaults were far different from western Europe. Japan and the surrounding islands are geographically volcanic, sulfuric, and steep. Beachfronts were abrupt, sloped, and soft.
Ducks were the only wheeled vehicles capable of consistently withstanding the coral reefs and sandy inclines!
The assault on Iwo Jima is the most iconic USMC operation of all time. During the fight, DUKW-operators maneuvered relentlessly around gunfire from the Japanese as they carried 105-mm howitzers, men, and ammunition to the shore.
The approach was a boneyard of man and machine with which the Ducks would have to avoid becoming part of. Add enemy fire and rough surf, and this wretched assault quickly became what nightmares are made of.
1.6 This DUKW
This DUKW is in absolutely great condition! Moreover, it is very original!
This DUKW was restored in the 1970s by the Army Cars company for the Dutch Marshall Museum in Zwijndrecht. Both no longer exist. Almost only NOS original WW-II parts were used in the restoration! The hull is in almost excellent condition and never rebuilt! This makes this DUKW unique!
The Marshall Museum decided to have this DUKW restored to a very high standard because they planned to take it on public tours. An LPG-system was even installed for this purpose. In order to reduce operational costs.
A plan that (fortunately!) could never be realized because permits were not granted by the local authorities and to guarantee this kind of touring proved unrealistic! The demands eventually made by the insurance company would lead to such technical interventions that the full character of the vehicle was lost. Due to that to LPG installation was installed original fuel system is currently not in use. The vehicle runs on a separate fuel tank system bypassing the original fuel tank.
1.7 Current markings:
The DUKW will be delivered in its current markings (USA 7026478-S) as used by the 4th Engineer Combat Battalion. The 4th Engineer Combat Battalion has a long history, but this unit was formed in August 1943. In January 1944, the battalion arrived in England to prepare for deployment to Normandy, France. On June 6 1944, the battalion deployed to Normandy as part of Operation Overlord. After the Normandy invasion, the battalion continued across western Europe and participated in campaigns such as Northern France, the Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe.
Location: & Collection
Current location of this object is Nederweert the Netherlands
Local collection is available for this lot.
Depending on the destination the Buyer shall obtain an International Import Certificate / End User Certificate. Some of the items listed in the auction may require special licenses or permits or existing documents must be prepared for export. If this is relevant, Tracks & Trade will take care of this for you, with the applicable costs being passed on to the successful bidder
Please email [email protected] if you have any questions or concerns.
No item will be allowed to be collected without 100% of all legal requirements being fulfilled.
Margin / VAT
This object is offered by Tracks & Trade pursuant to consignment sale on behalf of a private individual. Therefore, the margin scheme will be applicable, so no sales tax (VAT) over the hammer price will be applicable. For more info see General Conditions of Sale Article 9.
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Inspections are open on Friday January 27th 2023 and Friday February 10th 2023 but are conducted under following conditions:
- Inspections will be strictly maximum 1 hour long escorted inspections,
- Maximum of 3 customers per escorted tour,
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- Inspection times are 9am 10am 11am 1pm 2pm 3pm 4pm,
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Full Name(s) and contact details and phone number of the people that are coming to inspect. The LOT number(s) and Auction Name that you wish to inspect (items are stored on several locations, and we will need to retrieve them prior to your arrival).
Parts, accessories, and militaria
The batches of spare parts, various accessories and militaria are stored in the best conditions but are sold as-is and delivered without any guarantee of functioning.
Vehicles and vehicle related equipment such as
Cars, motorcycles, trucks, cannons or howitzers, armored vehicles, and tanks are sold in as-is condition, no technical guarantee and guarantee of authenticity and with or without registration (see description).
Parts, accessories, and militaria
The collection of the lots, subject to payment, starting by appointment only, date is listed in the Colophon page.
Vehicles can be picked up, subject to payment, starting by appointment only, date is listed in the Colophon page.
Handling costs for the removal of the vehicles will, when applicable, be applied at cost.
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The Auction House will not supply ANY item unless the correct paperwork and licensing – if needed – have supplied in full.
If required and applicable (fire)arms can be made inoperable or permanently disabled by BAIV in The Netherlands as being a licensed Arms & Weapons Dealer Registration Nr. NL20191618779. In this case all relevant cost will be charged to the Buyer in addition and have to be paid in advance in full. Collection by appointment only!
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Above mentioned storage fees are excluding VAT.
General Conditions of Sale
General Conditions of Sale Version 2.0 dated 29-04-2022 are applicable.
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Truck Amphibian 2 ½ ton, 6×6 GMC (DUKW)
General Motors Truck and Coach Division of Yellow Truck & Coach Mfg. Co.
GMC Model 270 6-cylinder in line 4-cycle;
· Fuel: Gasoline 70 octane
· Displacement: 269.5 cu in. (4,416 liter)
· Compression ratio: 6.75 : 1
· Power: 91.5 HP (67 kW) @ 2,750 rpm.
· Maximum torque: 21.28 ft. lbs. (28,85 Nm) @ 1400 rpm.
5 speed overdrive transmission + 2 range transfer case
Beam axles on leaf springs
50 mph (80 km/hrs.)
Water: 5.4 mph (8 km/hrs.)
14,670 lb. (6.654 kg)
5,000 lb. (2.268 kg)
4,000 lb. (2.268 kg)
19,670 lb. (8.922 kg)
2 (driver and co-driver)
11.00 x 18 10 Ply (Goodyear)
Length: 31 ft (9.45 m)
Loaded waterline length
344 in (8.74 m.)
At coaming: Front: 29 in (73 cm) Rear 29 in (73 cm)
At deck: Front: 24 in (61 cm) Rear 16 in (40 cm)
At front wheels: 42 in (106 cm)
At rear wheels: 51 in (129 cm)
To top of coaming: 198 cu ft. (5,60 m3)
Under tarp bows: 385 cu ft. (10,90 m3)
10,000 lbs. (5 tons)
Year of Delivery
353 11683 (See above: on data plate 20509)
Original US Registration
Dutch road license registration
Current US Hood number: USA 7026478-S: Should However bee USA 7025974-S
Division markings: B4; 4th (Engineers) Battalion
Unit markings: 33384: Corps of Engineers
This DUKW can be armed with a 105 MM M2A1 Howitzer!
Tracks & Trade reference
MV Historian, Editor Milweb.net , Long term contributor to Classic Military Vehicle Magazine and Market Watcher a.o..
Unless you own a museum, here is little point in having a DUKW unless you are going to use it to go in the water. 80 years on, there are less and less DUKW’s coming onto the market in a ready to swim condition. But water, especially salt water, is the enemy of metal and it causes rust to occur viciously often in places you cannot see. Whilst restoration projects may be offered for as little as €20,000 – you are always buying a lot of work that will soon push the cost up dramatically. The skill set needed is a mix of boat building, metal fabrication and mechanical engineering.
There are few DUKWS in the collector’s market that have not been re-skinned – or at the very least had major sections of the hull replaced.
So, this DUKW with its original hull offers a turnkey solution for the collector to use on land or in the water.
With the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy next year, the buyer won’t just go there, he will be able to LAND on the historic beaches, flanked by the flotilla of many other preserved DUKWS who will commemorate the invasion and the vital part the DUKW played in bringing supplies inshore from the invasion fleet.