Amphibious Class: 1945 GMC DUKW

While I tend to get excited about any discovery involving an original VW Kubelwagen, other combat vehicle historians might look towards the amphibious GMC DUKW, which was designed for troop and supply transport in WWII and the Korean War. They’re rare to find in any conditon today, so this cosmetically challenged example here on eBay will likely still be restored. The opening bid is $15K with no bidding yet and the reserve unmet.  Thanks goes to Peter R for the tip!

While the VWs were quite compact, the DUKW was anything but. They were formidable performers in war time activity, crashing beaches and seamlessly going from land to water environs. It initially faced resistance as an acceptable vessel for the armed forces, but a variety of real-world trials, including crossing the English Channel, proved its seaworthiness. Check out the size – you could fit several Amphicars inside the hull!

The seller says the DUKW (this makes me want to write DUCK, every time) has been hidden away in storage for 40 years. These days, you’re more likely to see one of these troop carriers ferrying tourists around town than you are to see one restored for static display in a military museum. The seller notes many of the original mechanical systems still work, and the engine does turn over. The rudder is even still hooked up to the steering!

Wouldn’t you love to know the history of this DUKW? It was built in 1945, then rebuilt by the military later on in the mid-1960s. The seller mentions he’s been buying up NOS parts for inclusion in the sale – I’d love to know what original equipment was still sitting around in sealed bags, gathering dust. While these vessels are quite valuable when complete, having the space to restore one is a must.

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Comments

  1. Rob

    I find it ironic that it was overhauled at Toole Army Depot. (That’s in Utah.) But I love the history of the Ducks. I hope it finds someone who will bring it back and paint her OD green.

    • mikestuff

      Being a Utahn, I’d be pleased if you’d spell it correctly: TOOELE. Pronounced TWO-ILLA (give or take). I have lots of relatives who lived out in Tooele, and still have some for that matter. It’s very interesting to think something like this would have ever been there, mostly because the only large body of water near it is the Great Salt Lake. I guess they could have taken it there.

  2. Dave Mc

    Off to Wisconsin dells where it could find a nice home.

    Like 1
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      My buddy and his wife went for a spring duck ride at the Dells many years ago. The back of the seat in front of them was not bolted down. They hit a bump and the seat came down on her toes. Breaking a few if I recall. Before everyone was sue happy.

      Like 1
  3. Redwagon

    Had no idea they were considered so seaworthy. my only experience with these is reading about sinkings. They go down fast, make certain you are wearing a pfd.

    Like 1
    • Beatnik Bedouin

      I remember seeing one being used for tourist rides on one of the SoCal beaches maybe 55 years ago. Huntington, perhaps?

      Maybe another SoCal resident on this site might know.

      • Len Pytlewski

        There are a few at Penn`s Landing in Philadelphia PA doing the tourist thing. One of the DUKW was run over by a barge a few years ago.

  4. Big Mike

    I rode in one of these back in June 2016 down in Branson. On the road it was like riding on a block of cement, but once it was in the water it was just like riding in a nice boat!

  5. RichS

    Glad I took the time a few years back to ride one in San Francisco as they’re gone now.

  6. Rube Goldberg Member

    I think the seller is a bit optimistic on the price. The heyday of these came and went, and most, if not all, have been bought by these tourist attractions for parts. I believe, the Dells alone has over 100. Lot of work keeping these afloat and parts hard to find. I’d bet this one would sink like a stone. And that crash a few years ago in Washington, killing some tourists, didn’t help either.

    Like 2
  7. Solosolo KEN TILLY Member

    There are still plenty of them driving around London, UK, as tourist vehicles.

  8. Harrell

    I’ve been in one as a tourist in Chicago on road and in water. I loved it. I’ll eventually have one but not a project.

    • Scott

      They also use them in Pittsburgh for tourists. Land and water narrated tours. Done it a few times. Very slow in water but there is something fun when they just drive right into the river. While on land they have you “quack” at passerbyers in the city.

  9. Madmatt

    This is a project,… . .that will put the next owner underwater…..
    Now you can have 2 holes in the water…..2 throw money in..Lol..

  10. Karguy James

    I couldn’t find one of these so I built my own two years ago.

    Like 1
  11. edh

    These are fun and a must if you visit the Wisconsin Dells.

    Like 1
    • jimmuh

      ….or Seattle, or Branson, or…….plenty of others, including Isla Mujeres!

  12. Mike

    Make sure they are mechanically sound before taking out on the road. A broken axle made one cross the centerline and kill 5 people in Seattle.

    https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/ntsb-ruling-expected-today-on-cause-of-ride-the-ducks-crash/

  13. Pete

    I have only seen a couple in museums. They sure are a big and bulky thing.

  14. DM DeLuka

    My Uncle owned one in the ’60s
    Cousin overhauled the mechanics & they painted it, named after a niece. They gave rides from their campground to the big lake nearby.
    Two of them, in their 20’s, ran the carnival/ fair circuit in WI ’til they sold it.

  15. Rick McKee

    Went on one at Lake of the Ozarks back in the 50’s. Then one sank and a bunch of people drowned and they were limited to where they could be used for quite awhile.

  16. Mark J. Soderberg

    They are fun!

  17. David Miraglia

    Always wanted a duck and a bug, had some Rabbit’s

  18. charlie Member

    Many in Boston, Tom Brady et al will be riding in one in the Superbowl victory parade next Tuesday. Or not. Biggest problem has been running over (and killing one) bicyclists and pedestrians since the driver cannot see what is headed under the bow. There are two versions, the WWII version and the Korean War version, the latter is largely aluminum and, I am told, by a guy who bought one for the tourist trade, far better.

  19. Karst

    Boston duck tours has been operating a fleet of these since the 90s. They run year round on the streets and into the Charles river. Every time a Boston sports team wins a championship they are they parade vehicles for the players. Could be another parade within a week.

  20. DavidL Member

    I played on one of these when I was a kid. Guy in the neighborhood sold his timberland and bought government surplus w/ the proceeds. Not a wise decision but a lot of great stuff for neighborhood kids to play on. Those were the days.

    Like 1
  21. DrinkinGasoline

    Jeff…although a Kubelwagen is cool, in comparison to this example I’d much rather have a Schwimmwagen.

  22. Adam T45 Staff

    Looking at the condition that this is in (and I actually quite like it regardless) I find a touch of irony in the can of WD40 beside the driver’s seat.

  23. kelly g

    my uncle used one of these to set nets on the Outer Banks many moons ago. Pretty ingenious, he could haul the nets full of fish up onto the beach, sort them out and then drive straight to the market docks. The name of his company was “The Red Eye Fish Co.”

    Like 1
  24. stillrunners LAWRENCE Member

    As a Boy Scout we took a tour on these in the 60’s….loved them ever since….

  25. MSG Bob

    IIRC from my reading on the subject, the DUKW was based on the GMC 2.5 ton truck. The propeller was run off the PTO on the rear differential. I could be wrong about the above, but I do remember from Ernie Pyle’s book that the bilge pumps had to run continuously or the thing would sink.

    There was also a 1/4 ton version based on the Jeep – Pyle called the one he had use of for a while the”Seep” for obvious reasons.

  26. KKW

    So, GMC or Dodge? Which is it? According to the seller, it’s both lol.

    • Norman Wrensch

      gmc

  27. Poppapork

    Several of them converted to tourist duty float around the loop in Chicago.

  28. michael h streuly

    A big piece of crap waiting to kill people. Melt it down for scrap.

    Like 1
  29. Loco Mikado

    These and other American innovations are the reason you are not speaking German and saying “heil” all the time today.

    Like 2
    • Rube Goldberg Member

      Good one! We can’t forget that.

      Like 2
  30. Marc S.

    $55K for a Duck?

    • DavidL Member

      Why a duck ……. ?
      (Sorry)

  31. john dennis

    Served in Korea in a dukw company for 13 months .if anyone wants to see them let me know. Many photos.

    Like 2
  32. Bob Belton

    I grew up at a lovely seaside town in Norfolk England, I spent all my summers as a kid working on DUKW’s they did sea tours etc and I got to drive one as a youngster Wow,just reading earlier on about sea worthy, I’ve been on these amazing machines in storms that most small vessels would struggle in, and I can say they hold there own, love them if I had the money I would own one without hesitation, D Day they played a crucial roll carrying supply’s to the troops and in return taking the wounded back to hospital ships,Amazing bit of kit that should be restored back to former glory and respected

    Like 1

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