Turn signals on your WW2 Jeep

There are a variety of ways you can add turn signals to your WW2 jeep.  My favorite involves hiding them in the front marker lights and behind the rear reflectors. My next favorite method is to incorporate them into rear brakelights if you have one on each side (swapping out the passenger side blackout for another brakelight).

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A customer recently wanted an entirely different design so we set out and came up with another style of turn signal, this will work only on WW2 Jeeps converted to 12 volts.

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The parts we used were a standard 8 wire turn signal switch available from places like Walcks 4wd, bullet style motorcycle led turn signals that we found on ebay, and an led compatible flasher relay purchased from Napa. Make sure to ask for the flasher relay I photographed, standard flasher relays will not work with LED lights as LED do not draw enough current.

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Wiring incorporated vintage style reproduction cotton wire where it would be visible, and standard modern wiring underneath and in areas not seen.  All connections were soldered and sealed with heat shrink tubing.  Alot of this  is available at almost any auto parts store.

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The creation and installation of the system was simple but took a few hours.  With the turn signal switch comes a basic set of instructions that show you where all the wires and the fuse connect.  You need only to find a 12 volt source to connect to (like on the ignition switch) and the rest of the wiring is independent of anything else on the Jeep.

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The nice thing about the motorcycle lights is their wiring runs through their threaded base, so once you drill mounting holes these lights are easily attached without having to make any brackets.

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In the end the most difficult parts of this design were finding the right flasher relay and seeking out LED signal lights that looked vintage (ebay is the only place I can find these).  After that it was alot of soldering and running wire and voila, an unobtrusive turn signal system made from modern items.  This is a system simple enough for most folks to be able to install without any particular level of inventiveness required.

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So you want an early Jeep??

Every now and then I receive an email from someone who loves the look, feel and sound of the early Jeeps, and would like one to tool around with reliably and keep in their garage.  And they are a nice, reliable antique vehicle to have as any Jeeper reading this knows.

Well I received another one of these emails a couple days ago and started to reply and then realized I may as well write the reply up as a brief primer on early Jeeps.  I am sure this will replicate what many folks have written, and if I am wrong about something then for the love of all that is good and holy please correct me.  But this is just a very basic piece to introduce those who are thinking of an early Jeep to their various options, the costs etc..

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The WW2 Jeep (MB/ GPW)

These were made from 1941 to 1945.  Willys Made the MB, Ford made the GPW with the goal for all parts to be interchangeable.

They are darn cool and everyone wants one.  The reenactors want one so they can carry their gear, maybe mount a machine gun and drive in reenactments and parades.  Plus they fit in a regular garage unlike a half track or a truck.  The military history buffs want them for similar historical reasons and so they can drive a piece of the machine that helped win the war.  The Jeepers want one because it’s the first Jeep.

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What does this mean?  They are expensive as heck.  When folks approach me about restoring one I usually work with them to find an older restoration that we can overhaul and make new and spiffy again.  This can cost less than shelling out upwards of $15,000 for a really nice one.  (and definitely costs less than a $25,000 or more restoration).

So we know they are cool and expensive.  Happily due to their popularity almost everything is available for them.  The main downside I find to them is the somewhat finicky T-84 transmission though once they are rebuilt right and settled in they seem to do quite well.  Another issue I run into is the fuel system which involves many connected lines and hoses which allow for leaks to sneak in and then you lose fuel to the carburetor.

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The CJ2A 

These were the first production civilian Jeep built from 1945 to 1949.  They do not have all the grab handles, tool mounts, jerry cans and other such bells and whistles.  But you can add power takes offs as they were designed to run all sorts of farming implements  (as shown in this video with friend Mike Hardesty’s Cj3A)

They are down to earth utilitarian machines which are the same amount of fun off-road as a WW2 Jeep.  As the first civilian Jeep these are quite popular, and the black model pictured is a somewhat early one with parking lights inset into the grill.

The CJ2A’s have the T-90 transmission which is bulletproof.  They are simpler than the T-84 and a bit easier to work on.  The fuel system is simpler too providing a more reliable feed with less lines and hoses bopping about through the engine compartment.

A CJ2A in nice shape can run around $5,000 to $10,000 depending on what you are looking for.  Many folks modify these as well for off roading like this one restored and modified by Mike Gardner.

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The CJ3A

The CJ3A was the next modification of the flat fender running the same four cylinder engine.  These were produced from 1948 to 1953. There were some changes for growing Americans like the seat was moved a wee bit further back.  And there was an air vent in the windshield!! (this is far more exciting if you have a top and doors on the Jeep).  A fun slightly customized example is Dan’s CJ3A.  The prices on these run similar to the CJ2A’s

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The M38

This model was produced from 1950 to 1952. This was the last military version of the Willys Jeep using the venerable and reliable L head flat four.  These have the desirability of being a military vehicle, and the reliability of the flat four and the T-90.  Due to the dual desirability factor prices on these can run similar to the prices of WW2 Jeeps.

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They have a slightly different dash than the CJ3A, and they do have a bunch of the cool wizbangs and gadgets you expect on a military vehicle (tool mounts, special light switch, handles etc..).  M38’s were produced as a 24 volt vehicle but many that you find nowadays are converted to 12 volt.  The engine compartment is more complicated than a CJ3A as there were modifications for military specifications.

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Parts are readily available for all of these models through a variety of specialty companies. Around the country there are several early Jeep shops that can help you restore or maintain your flat fender.  Thus the parts and support are out there.

Whichever model you choose, they are great fun to have, and like no other classic car.

(in the shot below are Henry Welch’s and then Bill Reiss’s Jeeps with my 1941 in the mix on an outing)

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A million Jeeps

Well, not really a million.  But there were a heckuva alot of them.  I had a chance this week to travel with a friend to see the Top Kicks Military Museum in Petersburg, West Virginia. If you are a Jeep fan and want to see alot of Jeeps this is one place to go with an owner who has dedicated his time since 1982 to saving and preserving what seems like as many Jeeps a he could find.

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I had a chance to go through the Jeeps inside and out.  Gerald Bland restored many of these, and went through all of the engines.  He keeps them pickled but ready to go.  From what I found a battery and some gas will start these Jeeps right up and send them out into the wild.  I was particularly fond of a row of Civilian Jeeps with US Navy dataplates, two CJ3A’s and one 3B.  You do not see these too often.

20150716_121105[1]There was a nice array of World War 2 Jeeps as well, many with photos of how they were found, and of the restoration process.  The effort Gerald went to to save the Jeeps and other WW2 vehicles is quite impressive.

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Among the World war 2 Jeeps were some nicely dressed examples as they may have rolled through Europe, some early script examples, a slat grill, and a Navy Jeep with PTO driven generator for radio equipment.

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The Jeeps continued up through the M151 era. As if Jeeps were not enough there were a wide array of other vehicles from World War 2 through the 1970s. These were in a variety of conditions from ready to drive inside the museum to peacefully slumbering under a blanket of patina outside on the museum grounds.

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The museum also has displays of weapons, uniforms and equipment.  Gerald is wonderful to talk with and has a passion for history.  Make sure to take the trip and visit soon as gems like this museum will not be around forever.  Also, if you want to see many more photos from the museum collection be sure to follow us on Hanson Mechanical’s Instagram as we will post many more photos there.

Thanks for being a great host Gerald!

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My three P’s of restoration

I really believe there are right and wrong reasons to do a vehicle restoration.  The first two P’s encompass the right reasons, the last one covers the wrong reasons.

First and foremost a personal connection is a solid reason to do a restoration.  One customer of mine has his grandmother’s VW beetle, another has us working on his uncle’s CJ2A.  Even more have memories of their grandparents talking about Jeeps, or having an old WW2 Jeep on the farm. Some even remember driving a Jeep during the war.

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I grew up with my father’s 1956 Porsche always in the garage waiting for us to work on it.  In 2010 I finally was able to bring it back to life with some of my former students.  Dad always told stories of that car so for me this was a very personal connection.  Seeing him with it in one piece again meant everything to me.

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He also spoke alot about his Bultaco motorcycle.  He sold it to buy the Porsche.  When I stumbled into a Bultaco I grabbed it.  Once again seeing him ride off on the Bultaco was an amazing personal experience for me and I think him.  Dad had not seen another Bultaco since he sold his in 1966.

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If you have a personal connection to a vehicle then the price, pain, blood sweat and tears of a restoration is all worth it.  A personal connection is in my opinion the best driving reason for a restoration of a vintage vehicle.

Passion is the next best reason.  If you have a deep passion for something then you will see through a project to bring it to life.  Whether it be a tractor, a Jeep or any other vehicle.

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WW2 attracts a huge amount of interest.  People become very passionate about the war.  Their connection to that history comes through collecting artifacts, and for many the ultimate is to own and drive a WW2 Jeep. When I sense someone has a real passion I want to work with them just as much as with someone who has a personal connection.

People are also just plain passionate about Jeeps.  Something about Jeeps and VW Beetles inspires a wonderful following of people who care for, drive and pass on their love of these vehicles to their families.  If you have a deep passion for a vehicle it will guide you through a restoration.

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Profit is a major reason NOT to do a restoration.  I am going to bunch a few things under here too.  I will include in this the strange belief that restoring a vehicle will be a much cheaper way to obtain the vehicle you want.  That does not work…. Unless you are Scott Roberts, the man is a genius with vehicles.

The cost of restoring a vehicle is usually far above the cost of just going out and buying a restored version of the same vehicle.  The parts involved in a WW2 Jeep can make restoring one on your own cost more than just buying a restored one outright. I have seen people even try to save money by buying rusty battered versions of the parts they need in hopes that this will save them money.

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That does not work at all.  And unless you really know what you are doing and have alot of spare time, restoring a vehicle to re-sell is not going to work either.  If you can do all the mechanical work, welding, painting etc.. then you may be fine.  If you cannot then it just is not going to work out for you.  You will end up trying to sell for $30,000 a vehicle worth $9,500.  

Here is the key: Just because you put money into a vehicle does not make it worth what you put in!  There are alot of people smoking crack out there trying to sell late WW2 Jeeps that might bring  $16,000 for over $30,000.  All I can think is that in their drug addled haze they maybe hallucinated the value they came up with. (I assume they took to drugs after their wife threw them out of the house when she saw the restoration bills.)

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And yes the Jeep in these pictures was from someone involved in the third P of this lecture.

So to review: Personal connection = Good  

Passion for the vehicle = Good

Profit/ saving money = Baaaaad (don’t do it!!)

If you are in it for the right reasons, then enjoy the trip, the experience of restoration and the end results are very rewarding.

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WW2 Jeep training filmstrip

For several years I was the librarian at a public high school.  We had an older retired fellow, named Dave, who volunteered in our Science classes.  He would come to the library and we would chat.  Dave owned a Willys MB in the 1970s and 80s so we found alot to talk about.  He gave me many of his books and one day brought in a bunch of WW2 Army vehicle training filmstrips.

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I went through them and found one for haltracks, and of course one for Jeeps!! I do not remember what was on the others.

One of the computer graphics students took the Jeep filmstrip and scanned it in for me, then made an archive of it.

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There are some wonderful detail shots.  I am particularly fond of the one with all the tools laid out.

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And there are mechanical details as well.

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If you want to see more of these just follow this link to my website: Jeep training

I realized that the archive is buried and many folks may not have seen it.  Included below are a last couple of samples for your enjoyment.

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Of bugs and yellow Jeeps (How Hanson Mechanical snowballed)

I was always a VW Beetle guy.  I grew up with my father’s 1956 Porsche sleeping in the garage and when it came time for my first car my father said that I should get a beetle.  He said I would learn everything I needed to know about cars on a simple VW bug.  So we set out with the $1500 I had saved and eventually found one for sale near our home in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

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 I drove the bug for years, all through college and shortly past.  I learned painting, engine swaps, electrical, all the basics.  Except for how a radiator works.  That came with my friend Scott Roberts.

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I met Scott through WW2 living history and he moved in next door to me in St. Mary’s county.  With him came his WW2 Jeep that I loved.  Scott would loan it to me and I would drive it around, sometimes taking it to the State Park that I worked at.  My friend, Ray Black, was a WW2 reconnaissance veteran and he loved the Jeep. The first time Ray saw it he stood there with his hands on the hood and just talked about Jeeps for an hour or two.

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Eventually I moved to Baltimore, and Scott made me a great deal on his, now I call it “our” Jeep.  Scott taught me 99% of what I know about these old fellas.  The Jeep became known in Baltimore as the “Hanson Rescue Service” for being one of the only vehicles to make it out in some of our biggest snowstorms. The Jeep helped drive shovels rescuers to a steamtug in Baltimore in the huge snow of February, 2013. After that we were at the B and O museum just after the collapse of their roundhouse.

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Fast forward a few years and I had worked on a wide array of antique cars, but Beetles and Jeeps were my constant.  When I switched from teaching in public to private schools I needed some more cash due to a paycut (worth it for my sanity!!).  I was beginning to think of doing work on antique cars on the side.  Near Christmas one year I was looking on ebay and saw a bright yellow WW2 Jeep for $500.00.  It was close to my parents in Massachusetts so I bid, and won it for less then $600.00.  I figured it would be a parts vehicle.

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I took my trailer to Massachusetts for Christmas and with an incoming blizzard my Dad and I set out and picked up the Jeep just in time.  Towing it back from Massachusetts events began to unfold that set Hanson Mechanical in motion is a bigger venture than I ever meant it to be.

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I stopped in a rest stop outside of Scranton, PA and a woman saw the Jeep and said,”it’s a Willys!” Then she told me the often heard story of a friend who had passed away who had Jeeps and Jeep parts.  I gave her my card and that is how we ended up dealing with and eventually buying out John Barton’s estate. (as well as republishing his book!!)

The Jeep came home and in the spring a friend and I took a look at what to do with it.  It had a 1952 Kaiser straight six in it.  With a little puttering the engine purred to life.  It was installed beautifully, the front cross member moved a bit forward to handle it. Someone had engineered the installation.  The rest of the jeep was a bit of a mess though. I think I took around 20 pounds of bondo out of the tub and fenders. 

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A friend of mine bought out a Jeep junkyard and soon I was making runs to Virginia to pick up frames, tubs, parts, and one very sad WW2 Jeep.  As we started working on the yellow Jeep the farm next door to me offered me their six car shop in trade for mowing the lawn.  Things just kept expanding. We took in a couple repair jobs on vintage vehicles and then a friend and customer referred the owners of the well known Jeep “Kilroy” to us for electrical work. 

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By the end of a busy summer we finished the yellow Jeep, had repairs coming in, and already were spending time in John Barton’s old shop in New York state inventorying and bringing back tools, parts, and a Jeep.  By that winter we had taken in a shipment of Jeeps from Oklahoma, and were building a GPW for a National Geographic TV show.

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Things basically snowballed.  I tell people that God decided I was going to run a Jeep shop.  Events happened at just the right time and place for everything to come together.  God willing we will be around for years to come as I continue to improve my project and business management skills as well as restoration skills.  Every one that we put back on and off the road is like bringing a piece of history to life for me.  Thanks to everyone who has supported us, been patient with us, and are enjoying our stories and Jeeps!! (along with the occasional VW…I have to get back to my roots sometimes!) Drive those Jeeps!!

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Trucks and military Jeeps at the 2013 Mason Dixon show

There was a great selection of trucks, wagons, and military vehicles at this year’s Mason Dixon Jeep gathering. Kyle from East Coast Willys (and Rausch Creek) brought this FC and set up a fall display.  I like the Bantam trailer along for the ride.Image

Glenn Harrington took a trophy again with his 1962(?) Willys pickup. Glenn will be hosting a show down his way in Petersburg, VA spring of 2014.Image

The lineup was headed by this immaculate Willys wagon.Image

I was particularly fond of this custom dump truck built by Carl Wolfson of Baltimore. He used 21 donor vehicles in its construction.  The truck combined the best aspects of Willys that he liked.  When Carl rolled in I thought he had loaded it with hay for the show.  It turned out Carl had not had a chance to unload it from the day before.  I think the hay showed that the truck can really do the job it was built for.Image

I believe many of us enjoy a vehicle with patina.  This 1940s Willys had a well loved and used look to it.  And yes, it runs well having been driven to the show.Image

Of military vehicles there was quite a variety.  We even had a 1942 GMC Deuce and a half visit for a bit.  There were several WW2 Jeeps, below are a handful led by Bob Buker’s Jeep.

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I was not sure what to make of this, a 1942 Ford script Jeep being rat rodded.  Looks cool with nice patina and ready for some fun in the mud. The tires appear vintage.Image

A surprise was this 1959 Willys M274 owned by Tim Kress of Hanover.  I did not know that Willys made any of these.  Apparently he was working on a house in Finksburg, MD and the owner said that Tim needed to go next door and see what the neighbor had in her garage.  When he bought it the mule was bright orange.  He says that he has about $3,000 in the restoration. Tim’s display was great with gear and a radio piled up.  There was even a recording running of Vietnam radio dispatches.Image

There was also this M715 tastefully upgraded for some heavy duty offroading.  It won the military class.

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There were more military Willys, an M38 and an M38A1 plus more WW2 MB’s and GPW’s I will do better at taking photos of the military class next year.

As always this was a fun and mellow show.  We took two Jeeps, my faithful and battered 1941 and Kilroy, a 1945 which we just finished assembling the day before and then drove to the show.  I had a wonderful time chatting with all my Jeep friends and meeting new ones as well.

More soon, and remember to drive your Jeep!!