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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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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Jeeps at the Rough and Tumble

Every summer I try to make it to the Rough and Tumble Engineers Historical Association in Lancaster, PA for their annual Threshermen’s Reunion.  This is a gathering of steam traction engines (giant tractors!!), antique engines, antique cars and anything ancient and mechanical.  This year we packed the car and a few of us made the trek to mechanical mecca.ImageAmongst the ancient mechanical marvels there were of course… Jeeps!! The first one we saw was driven by Henry Welch of H.W Welch Co.ImageWe enjoyed chatting with Henry about the Jeep he was driving, and sharing restoration stories.  The Jeep he was driving belonged to a customer and had been in their family for a few generations.  It was interesting trying to talk as a steam tractor punctuated every sentence we uttered with its whistle. After talking with Henry for a bit we wandered on. And discovered a couple M151’sImageImageThe first one was sitting by a back fence near the flea market.  The second one was out and about.  John spoke to the owner and found it was (I think) a 1964 Ford.

There were small Jeeps as well, we stumbled into this beautiful pedal car and the very detailed Bemak mini Jeep in the flea market. The Bemak had a minor incident right in front of me when its front right wheel fell off. Happily the owner found a new snapring and had it rolling around within short time.ImageImageWe found a display of agricultural Jeeps inside the main showgrounds.  This CJ2A was the first to catch my eye.ImageAnd this red CJ2A is at many shows.  I last saw it at the York PA All Jeeps show.ImageThe final Willys we found was not a Jeep, but it was really the Piece de Resistance.  This was a 1929 Willys dump truck.  The owner said he has six figures in the restoration.  The truck was perfectly done and one of less than five in existence.ImageNow that I have given all the Jeep folks their fix we will have photos of the various mechanical oddities of the Rough and tumble in the next post.

All Breeds Jeep Show York, PA

This past Saturday I drove the 1941 Willys MB to the 18th annual All Breeds Jeep Show in York, PA.  the show is sponsored by PA Jeeps. This is largely a celebration of customized off road Jeeps but there are a few vintage gems scattered about.  First thing I did was pull into the short row of original military Jeeps.

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Jeremy, owner of the early 1942 GPW, and his co-pilot Patrick were ecstatic to see another WW2 Jeep show up.  We had a great time talking WW2 Jeeps and seeing who knew who in the Jeep network.  I loved the well used appearance of their GPW.  Jeremy and Patrick even took their GPW on the off road course (doing some damage to their exhaust).  A short while later the ambulance pulled in. After a bit I set to wandering the show to see what other vintage Jeeps were in attendance.Image

If you had $350 you could purchase this CJ2A body set.  I wish I had a frame to drop this on. A short bit down the aisle from this project was a running chassis that this would have fit nicely on.

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In the vintage Jeeps row was this beautiful 1956 Civil Defense wagon.  I have seen it at another show as well.  It is in wonderful condition and equipped quite well.ImageImage

In the Chrysler Jeep display was this project.  It is a 1962 Willys wagon mated to a 2004 Jeep chassis.  The wagon was literally taken out of the Jeep archives where it had sat since new. This makes for a practical vintage style vehicle.ImageImage

Kyle of the East Coast Willys Association (join the association please!!) brought his nice FC with a dump bed, and his M38.  I love the FCs and Kyle’s seemed the sole representative at the show. I also enjoyed finally meeting Kyle.  He is putting a great effort into creating a club for pre 1970 Jeep owners.

The final Jeep that really stood out to me was this Jeep Golden Eagle pickup.Image

This was a low mileage all original example with a Levi’s denim interior.  It stood out to me because my grandfather had a Jeep Honcho with a Levi’s interior.  I grew up with that truck traveling around New Hampshire. It had only around 33,000 miles and was amazingly rust free when we sold it back to the very ungrateful original owners.  Yep, that is one that my Dad and I kick ourselves over.

If you did not make it to the All Breeds Jeep Show I can recommend a truly vintage flat fender show coming up October 27th here in Westminster.  Visit Jeepchasm for more information.

Before and after

We were playing Tetris with the Jeeps today to get a 1961 Willys pickup in the shop and the end result was some nice shots of a 1944 Willys MB that awaits restoration, and a finished 1952 M38 resto-rod.Image

I love this shot of the barnfind Jeep seemingly staring at the finished 1952 M38. I can imagine it saying,” that will be me someday….” 🙂ImageImage

It is fun seeing one before anything has been done, and one complete and ready to go home.  And here is the pickup now in the shop 🙂Image

Have fun!! -Merlin

The M38 makes a friend

We have been working on a 1952 Willys M38 for a while now and it is finally on the road.  There were MANY Bubbafications that we had to work through (goopy paint, bad welds, destroyed pedals, a V6 needing a proper cooling system etc..).  In the end it has been worth it.

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My mechanic, John, was taking the M38 for a test run the other day after our third attempt to get the brake system working properly.  When he turned around in a driveway a fellow waved him down and pulled over.  It turns out the man owns a CJ3A.  He and John talked for a bit and the fellow said he would bring his Jeep by the shop for us to check out.  He was having a couple issues with it.

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His name is Marty and this CJ3A was his first car! I love it when folks still have their first car.  The CJ3A is beautiful and I enjoyed having a chance to drive it. We had fun showing Marty our projects and going over his Jeep.  I hope we were able to help him with a couple minor issues. It was really nice meeting a new Jeep friend.

As I always say, drive your Jeep!! You find other jeeps, make new friends, and your Jeep is happy to be on or off the road.

For more photos of our work on the M38 go here: M38 restoration