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Huntsville museum earns national recognition for historic vehicle

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - The US Veterans Memorial Museum in Huntsville is home to more than 30 historical military vehicles.

But one clearly stands out.

The National Historic Vehicle Register has selected the museum's 1940 Ford Pygmy GP-01 for induction.

Museum Director Randy Withrow acquired the vehicle after it was put up for sale by the Henry Ford museum.

"It's the oldest known ancestor of the vehicle that became known as the Jeep," Withrow says. "It's actually referred to as the Pygmy because - a small, fierce warrior - that's a pygmy," he adds.

The Pygmy was Ford's entry in the race to build a lightweight, reconnaissance vehicle for the Army.

The automaker was one of three companies competing for the contract, along with Willys-Overland and the American Bantam Car Company.

Although Willys eventually won the contract, there is no record of what happened to its test vehicle or that of Bantam.

Withrow says the Pygmy was given to the Ford museum by Henry Ford II in 1948. The museum bought in the 1980s.

It's now displayed inside the building at 2060A Airport Road, along with some of the prototypes that followed, for an exhibit that attracts military history enthusiasts from around the world.

Withrow says, "we've had people come from Australia, England, France - to see the Jeep collection and that's gratifying to know we have that in Huntsville."