As the plan comes together



As the plan comes together

So now that we have beat our project to death on the ethics table and formulated a rough plan, we have started to make more specific decisions.

This jeep has never been a powerhouse and will require a little more oomph to tackle the hills and valleys here in Vermont. As I recall 45-50 MPH was pretty much non-attainable in this mountainous region when it was far newer. In addition the cracked block and disassembled state of the motor leaves many open ended questions to be answered and it seems pointless to dump large amounts of money into what will ultimately be an original yet underpowered engine.

So my daughter Lucia and I did some research and learned that they pretty much started upgrading these vehicles when they were new and adapting them to many different uses.  While just about any motor can be adapted and made to fit, they all seem to have their own individual problems.

The first issue is that you are dealing with an 80″ wheel base which doesn’t leave a lot of length to fool around with. the second is that the frame is built to flex and can twist under heavy torque, causing damage. The third is probably that the entire vehicle weighs in around 2000 Lb’s.

So when we talked to the guys at advanced adapters and at Novak conversions we found that most of the adapter kits that help with the shortened wheel bases are Chevrolet based. Either a V-6 or V-8 small block can be made to fit relatively simply. Therefore we began searching for a Chevy motor for the project.

Now young Lucia is fairly easy to convince, with limited knowledge about engines, torque and HP and their effect on a project like this. So I took the lead.

I decide that the V-6 and the small block V-8 do not vary that greatly in size. The V-8 does have a bit more HP and they seemed to be more readily available. My inclination was to go with say an older 283 or 307 just because they were made farther back and were a bit milder than more recent hot rods.

So we began searching and discovered that certain motor were not as available as others. I was opposed to a 305 for personal reasons and time after time a 350 would show up. So we wound up buying a 350 small block off an engine stand in Massachusetts.

Small block Chevy motors are a lot like Willys jeeps, in that there are mountains of information out there that is available to identify them and trace their lineage. To make a long story short ours came out of an 1987 Iroc Z-28, when GM finally decided to put more horse power in them again.

The L-98 was built to have good low end torque and the horse power runs out about 5000 RPM. Not a bad set-up for a jeep, that should provide good performance off road and a very road-able vehicle to boot.

The big issue now is that we have created a monster. When the engine comes back from the machine shop it will be pushing 300 HP and around 350 FT-Lbs of torque.(Remember the 2000 Lb, 80″ wheel base jeep?) So our plans to keep the drive train stock are out the window and a whole new design phase is beginning.

Stay tuned………

And more decisions

And more decisions

Aside from the financially motivated decisions there are many other considerations that come into play. One is how true you are to the original specifications of the vehicle and how far are you willing to go to preserve them. You also need to consider what you are using the jeep for and what your final goals are for your project.

In our case the 3B is a family treasure. While it is 61 years old, it has been in our family for roughly 42 years. This Jeep is not for sale in my lifetime and may very well not be for sale for a very long time if ever.

I plan to use the jeep for family outings on sunny afternoons and hunting in the fall. It will encounter a parade or two each year and probably a little light trail riding and puddle jumping. It will not be used for rock climbing, mudding and off road racing.

The rebuilding process is about bonding with family and making something that is old and worn out new again. I get to relive the times when I helped my father change the head gasket and learned how to bleed brakes.

The jeep will inevitably be driven at some point by my wife and children and perhaps grandchildren. Therefore I am concerned that it be as safe as possible. We all know what can happen when the short wheel base and tall center of gravity combine with fate to bite you. If that happens to one of them (or me), I want to feel secure that we have provided them with something safe.

So this project will go towards some modifications to add additional power and stopping ability and add some safety features that were not available in 1953. We will make an effort to keep to the traditional look of the CJ3B with some modifications that I want. However, Once you open the hood you will find a state of the art machine worthy of being ranked as one of the finer vehicles built in 2014. It will turn heads wherever it goes!

Hows that for lofty goals?

Lots of decisions!

When I finally got serious about restoring the old Willy’s I had no idea about what I was getting in to. I was also unaware of the enthusiasm there is for these old Jeeps.

While starting research and planning to move forward we discovered that the old guard of the Willy’s is very passionate that there is no such thing as restoration beyond using totally original parts replacements or repairing those that you have. On the other end of the spectrum are the ones who are building extreme off road machines that ultimately resemble an original jeep only in a very loose fashion.

One consideration in regards to any work done during the project is what  affect it will have on the value of the finished product. There seems to be an opinion among many that value is sacrificed with modification. My very unscientific approach to verifying this was to simply look through some classified adds and see what people were asking for CJ3B jeeps for sale.

If you compare vehicles of similar condition the extremely modified vehicles generally have a higher asking price than the “original” vehicles. This being said it appears that they are judged more on the sum of their total parts than the value of the finished vehicle. In other words you are buying a 2014 modified hot rod versus a 1953 fantastically restored “original” jeep. There are scores of people landing on both sides of that controversy.

The second financial concern I came up with is what costs more to do. Everyone has a budget and seldom do you hear that whole, money is no object statement in real life. In regards to our project money is certainly an object and will be taken into account with each step.

With that taken into consideration I have determined that the time/money continuum applies here as elsewhere. If you have enough time you will find your required parts, upgrades or other wish list items at bargain prices, but chances are you are going to wait for a reasonably priced piece to come along and then get it to keep things moving along. Patience is a virtue with a shelf life!

So if you are looking to put together an upgraded vehicle instead of a totally “original vehicle you will likely spend a similar amount of money and have somewhat easier access to a wider selection of parts. Extreme modification is not of interest to us.

I will continue with more of the planning process and decisions made next entry.



A clean pallet?

A clean pallet?

Once we had the opportunity to examine what 61 years of life will have for an affect on a vehicle, we were left with some interesting discoveries.

At some point Dad had run some guy wire across the rear tub because it was lacking stability and spreading apart. The floor boards and most of the tub are rusted through and largely gone. The fuel tank was rusted through and a 5 gallon can had been installed on the passenger seat to take its place!

I lent the jeep to a local votech school a few years ago, that claimed they were going to rebuild the motor but instead returned it in pieces. It seems to be a mute point though because the block seems to be cracked on the passenger side.

On the good side the grill, windshield and hood are solid and in fair shape which should allow them to be used for the restoration portion of the product. In addition the transmission and transfer case seem to shift fine so we should be able to inspect and repair those as well. The frame seems to be in good shape as far as we can see, although the rear cross member is rusted and will need to be replaced. We need to remove the body so that we can further inspect the frame.

Dad always told me that we had a “54” willy’s jeep. Once we ran the S/N though we discovered that it is in fact a “53” Willy’s CJ3B. With a little further research we found that 1953 was the first year the CJ3B was made and began its 11 year production run ending in 1964. Our little gal was the 131’st CJ3B ever made. They have an online voluntary registry on the CJ3B page that shows us as the 8th jeep from the top on the list of remaining CJ3B jeeps in the world. Over all some really cool discoveries!

So as the title suggests we have now been able to establish what we have to work with and will be perusing our options to see where this project will take us.

The start of it all

I cannot recall the exact year, but it was sometime in the early 70’s. My parents had built a house in a rural part of Woodstock, VT and needed a vehicle to plow with.

My Father purchased an old Willy’s jeep and my cousin mounted a 6 foot snow plow on the front of it so we could clear our driveway during the harsh VT winters.

In the beginning I would ride with my father plowing and when we got to the end of a pass I would get out, pull the pin and angle the plow manually replacing the pin for the next pass. It was a great novelty to run the manual wiper to keep the snow flakes from gathering on the windshield. Soon however my cousin Ralph came up with some cylinders to add power angle to the plow and eliminate the manual operation.

During Spring summer and fall we would use the old jeep to patch holes in the gravel driveway, pull stumps, haul manure to the garden and move firewood in for the winter. The Jeep was as much a part of the family as any one of us.

When I was 8 years old, I learned to drive in the jeep. My father put the transfer case in low, showed me where first gear was and stood beside the door making me practice engaging and disengaging the clutch until I could start and stop smoothly without jerking and bobbing across the driveway. The jeep was the perfect rig for this exercise because it was geared so low that he could easily walk beside it while I drove, coaching and offering encouragement or admonishment as they were required.

When I was 11 years old I took over many of the plowing chores and plowed several driveways around our neighborhood to earn money. I would go around each morning before school and open up the drives so people could go to work and return after school to finish cleaning things up. This lasted until I graduated high school at 17. Needless to say the old girl got its share of workouts with storms up to 3 FT of snow and a teenage boy at the wheel. I often times think of those days as I clear parking lots today with one ton trucks and loaders at our business. The lessons learned are priceless.

Somewhere around the early 90’s with my father aging and the Willy’s having been replaced by a Chevy pickup my father gave me the jeep to do with as I pleased. My intentions were of course to restore it to its former glory.

Fast forward to today. I have had title to the Willy’s for around 25 years. I have moved it countless times from town to town and house to house before settling into our home in Windsor, VT, with my wife Tracy and 3 children. My father passed in 1997 and was buried with full military honors having served in 3 wars.

The Willy’s has been moved into my shop and diss assembly is in process. My daughter Lucia and I are in search of parts and planning our restoration/modification strategy. The future starts here and that is what this blog is all about.

Day one

This blog was started for those that would like to follow the restoration/modification of our 1953 Willys CJ3B jeep. It is a family heirloom passed down to me by my father. I will elaborate as we proceed.

I am new to the blogging world so it may take a bit to get the hang of things.

A great site