I purchased my 1957 Willys DJ3A in 1968 when I was a junior in high school. It cost me $350. The jeep was painted green and had about 37,000 miles (or at least that was what the broken speedometer read). On the windshield were two faded stickers from the Air Force at Chicago O’Hare Airport, so it was no surprise to find Air Force Blue under the green paint. In its younger days, my Willys served the country. I’m not sure what its history was in-between Air Force duty and my ownership, but on my call it experienced many high school escapades, including weekends boon-docking with high school friends in the sand dunes and swamps around Lake Michigan. My ’57 Willys also spent many a summer night scooping the loop in Waukegan, Illinois, then again years later when “scoop the loop” came back as a summer weekend celebration.
Also during my high school and college years, I made 3 1/2 trips to Canada. On the first trip, we left at 10PM right after I got home from high school graduation. Two friends along with myself drove straight through the 665 miles from Waukegan to Nestor Falls Ontario, arriving in 15 hours to Canada for a fishing trip. The “1/2” a trip to Canada was due to being broken down in Cook, MN, an hour south of International Falls leaving three college kids to spend three days in Cook (population = 500) and its outlying areas. We had to be towed 10 miles to town by Erv’s Garage. He diagnosed the problem, loaned us his tools get us a ride 35 miles to the nearest parts house, and let us stay in an abandoned house, while helping to replace the exhaust valve on the Willys. At last, it was repaired and running! As we packed the jeep, we tried to figure out how we were going to pay, in a time of no cell phones, no credit cards, and no ATM machines. When I was handed the bill, we couldn’t believe the total… only $17.86! We were able to pay the bill, buy gas and make it home. I found out that day that there truly are real angels among us.
Life moved on, and as I found a job, married and had 3 kids, the Willys was used less and less due to having no money or time to fix it. Over the years, my wife would come to me with inquiries – “Is that jeep for sale in the backyard?” to which I would hem /haw and finally say “No”. Now that I am retired I have had the time and money to fix it up and get it running to honor all the good times I had with it, and to celebrate its 60th birthday. The complete tear down to the frame and rebuild has taken me 80+ weeks.
Kaiser Willys Jeep Blog Story – Patrick Grams