Our 1950 Willys CJ3A was restored recently. It is powered by its original Go Devil Engine. It has been with our family since 1977.
Prior to that, the Jeep belonged to Mrs. Rani Sarladevi, a member of the erstwhile royal family of Nepal who used the Jeep during their frequent visits to Bangalore in India. In 1977, my grandfather, Mr Mattakompanal Abdul Khader, who was a Timber trader from Kottayam in Kerala, India bought this machine from Mrs. Rani Sarladevi. He had a passion for Willys Jeeps and his earlier Willys CJ-2A was smashed up by a rogue elephant in a forest in Kerala, India in 1955.
It has been with our family ever since. My grandfather used the Jeep extensively in his journeys to various forests in Kerala, to his high range plantations in Idukki district of Kerala, India. In early 1990’s, the demand for Petrol/Gasoline powered Jeeps declined rapidly due to rising price of fuel and people shifted to Diesel Jeeps manufactured by Mahindra in droves. Remaining Willys Owners in our town ditched the Go Devil engine for Diesel Engines available in the market. By 1999, the Jeep was in barely running condition for want of proper maintenance and spares. Adhoc spares sourced from Mahindra Jeeps produced in India were tried but with little success. By 2001, our Willys CJ-3A was confined to the garage.
My grandfather passed away in 2006. His sons planned on getting the Jeep back in running condition but faced difficulties in getting spares and no one took a real effort at the time. Then in 2012, my father decided to really put in an effort to see if parts could be sourced. After inquiring with various scrap yards in India, we did manage to get the starter motor. I took to the internet and was surprised to find a no of suppliers. That’s when I came across the website of Kaiser Willys. Over the last 8 months, we arranged for a number of light parts from Kaiser Willys, other suppliers and ebay. The restoration task was entrusted to mechanic in our town who had considerable experience on working with old cars and Jeeps. Our CJ-3A has finally become road worthy this August. We took it for a number of drives and so far clocked a top speed of about 45 mph. From the time our family took possession of this machine in 1977, it has taken a no. of colors (white , grey , yellow & now the present color). This Jeep has been a part of my childhood captured in various photographs over the years. We hope this Jeep will continue to be part of our family’s future generation as well. The journey of this Jeep from USA to India half a world away has been one of survival.