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Restoring an ex- US Navy Willys CJ-3A Jeep.Firstly, a big thanks to David, who now lives in the Philippines, for sending over photographs and a write-up on his ongoing CJ-3A Jeep restoration. As anyone who knows about old Jeeps will testify (a friend of mine has owned a couple of the earlier CJ-2A versions), these rugged little off-roaders can require plenty of restoration, especially to the body tub, after decades of neglect and/or abuse. The following tale explains how and why David chose to restore a Jeep, and progress to date on it's rebuild..
The Jeep as found...
"I moved to the Philippines in 2005 and was looking for something I could restore. I have always been interested in vintage and classic cars, my other passion being the old stationary engines. There are no old engines here as they have all been weighed in long ago. I decided I would look for a classic car. It soon become obvious that most suitable cars here have been re-engined and hacked about to keep them going. Indeed I recently saw a Sunbeam Alpine with an Isuzu engine and box with a modern Mitsubishi facia fitted in place of the original. I decided on a Jeep as there are a fair number here. I looked around but again many had engine/gearbox changes making them two wheel drive. I found a few WWII versions but they were too expensive for my budget.
I particularly like a Ford Jeep that is totally original bar it had a Willys engine. The body is shot with rust but it is so original it would be good just to spray it with rust preventative to keep it as for posterity (I may get it in a few months if it is still there). I found my CJ-3A (the subject of this rebuild) by a scrap yard.
They had a for sale sign on it and when I first looked at it I dismissed it as being too far gone. Over the weeks nobody had purchased and I kept stopping and looking at it. I noticed the US Navy plate on it and one day noticed that the chassis and engine numbers tied up with the plate. I decided to take a chance and purchased it for just under 700 pounds. It had been pimped up with stainless steel, fancy lights etc. but was basically all there. The steering column had been changed to one from an Isuzu. I stripped it down and was pleased to note that the axles and gearboxes were original too. I managed to find another steering column, engine and gearboxes at another yard. They just charged me by weight. I stripped the original engine and had the crank ground, hardened valve inserts fitted and re-bored - the labour for this, including fitting the crank and pistons was just under 80 pounds over here!!! The pistons, valves, seats main and big-end bearings were all found on the shelf at the local parts dealers.
The local body shop has done the body for me. I wanted to keep as much original metal as possible. I have ended up with a superb shell, all repairs let in, not overlapped at a third of a replacement shell (the replacement shells that are sold in the UK are actually made over here).
At the moment that is about as far as I have got, we are rebuilding the gearbox and have just stripped the axles to check them over. I was fortunate to find an unworn original manufacture set of springs at the scrapyard last week. I contacted a guy in the UK who researches CJ-3A Jeeps. He told me that the USN purchased a batch of these at the end of 1952. They preferred the standard Jeep as it was cheaper than a M38 military version. The US Navy used them as hacks in the land bases, shore patrols and some were on aircraft carriers. They were painted Navy grey. If you look at the VIN plate area on mine you can see that where the black paint has flaked off the original grey is showing through. This was even clearer on removal of the the facia plates (Willys and USN). The CJ-3A guy told me to leave the cross head screws for the Willys plates as in 1952 they went from slot to cross.
I like this particular Jeep as it is simple to restore, has a history and is military without being drab olive!!!. We intend to identify it as a shore patrol vehicle, for that I need to locate a siren The only spare that I am having difficulty finding is a complete handbrake assembly (back plate, drum, levers etc.). For some reason over here most of them have been removed and probably weighed in. "
Further pictures, showing the interior pre-restoration and progress on the Jeep's body tub, which required extensive welding
More stories about cars and trucks belonging to visitors of this site, can be found in the Your Classics section. A free parts noticeboard for this model of Jeep can be found on the CJ-3A Jeep page, while details of Metamet - a company supplying parts and converted Jeeps after the war - can be seen here.
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