Let me tell you a bit about my 1958 CJ-3B universal Jeep. When I was in High School I rode in a CJ-5 and thought to myself, wow, such a neat vehicle. A few months later I was riding to College with a friend and classmate, Paul Theen, and we saw this old Jeep in a boat yard in Bradenton, FL. We pulled in and asked how much? This was 1968 and the asking price was $195.00! Paul helped me tow it home to Venice with his 283 Chevy Impala. Because the Jeep was used simply to put boats in and out of the salt water it was in pretty sad shape but low mileage! Much of the body was rusted and rotten, seats long gone.
When we brought it home my Mom said that they should have paid us to cart it off. Another friend, Dale Harvey, helped me with the sheet metal and the seats. We put a remanufactured short block from SEARS into the Jeep. That was back in the day when SEARS actually had a Jeep parts catalogue. We painted the Jeep, Rust Oleum white, rewired it and found some seats from a Morris Minor that to this day work very well. We melted all the wiring once or twice and gained a real appreciation for “amps” in a still 6-volt system. We learned about transfer cases, brakes, left and right handed threads, steering and transmissions. We drove the Jeep on the beach many times, especially liking stormy days when we had the beach to ourselves. One time on the beach we had a wooden box in the back of the Jeep. As we drove from one beach sand ripple to another at speed we looked back and the saw the wooden box completely broken to pieces. Just another sign as to how tough these vehicles were/are.
Another time that we were out four wheeling, Dale was driving and I was sitting on the hood hanging on to the windshield, we hit an unseen ditch and I went flying through the windshield with my behind. No injuries aside from some pride, less than $35.00 to cut and replace the flat windshield in the 60’s. Thank goodness for safety glass! My brother was just back from Vietnam and I let him take the Jeep to the beach. He buried it to the body in sand with the tide coming in. What a scramble to save the Jeep. The same week he got a speeding ticket on my Ducati 250 Mach I doing over 80 mph in a 30 mile zone, the judge felt sorry for him with a small fine.
I took the Jeep off to the University of Florida towing it behind my 1967 Rambler American V-8/4spd with a tow bar. I graduated (1972) with a degree in Geography and thought the Jeep a perfect “geography” vehicle. I remember (kinda) one Saturday night with 13 people in the Jeep. Someone was looking out for us and I did not loose anyone (no seat belts in those days). I went on to graduate school (Geography) at the University of Cincinnati and towed the Jeep along behind the Rambler. With the Jeep’s windshield down and the propeller shafts unhooked you did not even notice the Jeep behind the V-8 Rambler Rogue. I added locking hubs and a PTO overdrive and a full canvas top to the Jeep—25% reduction in all gears, Jeep has 5.38 axle gearing, so the PTO overdrive makes a huge difference. I moved to Miami, Florida after graduate school (1974) and of course towed the Jeep with me. Here is an early picture of the Jeep in Miami from the late 1970’s, note the Rambler tow car in the background.
I was in Miami for about five years to 1980 working for the City of Miami Planning Department. The Jeep was the perfect urban land use vehicle. I took my daughter Autumn to school (first grade) in Coral Gables in the Jeep many times. I was still in my twenties (no seat belts in the Jeep yet)! As we rode up her classmates would run up and greet Autumn (and see the Jeep). Still to this day not sure the classmates were glad to see Autumn or were glad to see the old Jeep? (Probably a bit of both I guess).
After Miami, I joined HDR Systems in Omaha, NE to do GIS (Geographic Information Systems) consulting. I towed the Jeep to Omaha with my dad as copilot. Several times the Jeep was about the only thing that could move with all the snow in Omaha. I remember taking four of us to the airport in the snow so we could get to work. The Jeep has a full canvas top but no heater. I had the Jeep engine rebuilt in Omaha, put in oversized 10” brakes which made a huge difference. I remember driving to work one day on the main street coming into Omaha on a big hill, brake pedal to the floor, luckily I was in the right most lane of a six lane major highway and scrubbed the tires along the curb to stop the Jeep without hitting anything…. whew, wouldn’t want to wish that on anyone! With these old vehicles—“Always Think–What If?” I remember also sticking my head out of the Jeep with it sleeting and getting home with two inches of ice on the Jeep and me—no defroster!
Picture below is the Jeep in Nebraska. Note the bikini top adapted from a CJ-5 top. Later a mouse got into the top in the garage and ate a hole in the top, right in the center. I took it to my top/upholstery guy and asked could you put a window where the mouse ate the hole? He said sure. I should have made it so it could “open”. Hardly ever use the full top, but do use the bikini top often. Note the bench seats that no longer fit with the roll bar.
In 1986 we moved back to Florida (Altamonte Springs) when I became the GIS Manager for the Orlando/Orange County GIS program. We moved the Jeep south in the moving van this time. Finally put on a roll bar and added seat belts! Sold the Rambler tow car to an AMC collector for more then I paid for it and have not towed the Jeep since.
You cannot see them in any picture, but if you look closely you can see hail dings in the Jeep hood. I was at a user group meeting with many of my staff when a massive hailstorm hit Orlando. Every car in the lot had all their windows blown out and every piece of sheet metal totally destroyed. Every car but my Jeep was a total loss that day. The cars were all a total lost the Jeep just got some little dings and more provenance. When I had the Jeep professionally painted I did not get the dings filled in! The Jeep has always been a working vehicle—no trailer Queen here. I remember carrying a giant sofa across the Jeep before I got the roll bar. I’ve carried a washer and a dryer (one trip) in the Jeep, 50 bags of mulch (one trip) and eight 4 x 8 ¾” pieces of plywood (one trip)! I taught my daughter to drive the Jeep and she got good with the topographic maps in NE. She is an excellent driver and has never gotten lost to this day.
The plywood was to board up our house because a hurricane was bearing down on Orlando, luckily the hurricane veered away. In 1993 we moved to Pennsylvania, of course the Jeep would follow. Finally had the Jeep professionally painted black. Had some leaks in the transfer case finally fixed, rebuilt the transmission (jumped out of second since I got it) and got the horn button to work in the steering wheel just like Toledo intended. Horn wire runs through steering box with oil bath via a piece of brake line brazed to a freeze plug.
A picture of the Jeep in Pennsylvania follows. Note all the shift levers, with the PTO overdrive lever, the transfer case’s two levers and the T-90 tranny people are excited to see all the mechanicals. At the car shows I put a mirror under the Jeep so people can appreciate the beauty beneath. Note the sheet metal and the “pop rivets” for the floor pan. I have had many opportunities to weld in new pieces but have decided to leave them as is from the High School days with Paul and Dale, now both gone.
I drive the Jeep at least once a week, it is an instant car show wherever I take it. The high hood grows on you, some think they are ugly I think of it as a piece of industrial archaeology or for my other Jeep–a rolling piece of art work (see below). My CJ-3B is also a family heirloom. My grandson (Max) will probably get the Jeep when he gets older or it may be my granddaughter (AVA aka Dinker). Only when I can not drive any longer or walk or breathe, etc can they have it!.
I hope this story shares the treasure that these old vehicles really are. Enjoy them as they are. Resist the urge to put bigger engines in them. Personally I am not sure I want to go much over 45mph in an open Jeep anyway. BTW—gas mileage with the 75 hp F-Head is about 16-20 mpg. Every day is a great day when I am driving one of my old Jeeps! I would rather drive something old and unique then something new and common. Totally fun to drive…….
That’s another story—my Jeep 4×4 truck!
A 1956 Jeep truck 4×4. Totally unmolested and original, except for the paint.
If you would like to share your Willys Jeep Story please send us a line. We ‘d love to meet your Jeep.
Like Us. Facebook