It all started with the usual search of “Trade Me” (New Zealand Auction site) for anything jeep… The first thing that popped up was the 1961 Willys Pickup. Trish just happened to be sitting next to me and commented that “that was a cool looking truck” and that we should purchase it. Never one to miss an opportunity, with a quick phone call and price negotiated on the condition that the truck passes a warrant of fitness (within five minutes of seeing the advertisement), we owned a Willys Pickup!
The truck was located in Christchurch and at a panel shop getting a few repairs for a WOF (warrant of fitness). The money transferred and the very next day Christchurch was flattened by the February earthquake! In light of this news, we had an anxious couple of weeks before the owner made contact with an update that the truck survived the quake and would be ready for pick up in a couple of weeks.
The big day arrived for the delivery trip north (460km Christchurch to Wellington) in a truck that hadn’t been on the road for twenty years! It started with Glen (fellow jeeper) dropping Trish and I off at the airport at 7:00 AM. On arrival at Christchurch we were met by John and the new “Willys Works” Pickup. First impressions were all ok, and the truck pretty much looked like what I was expecting to see (49 years of bad repairs)! After 10 minutes of small talk, it started first pop and idled sweetly. At that, we were on our way north!
Our first stop was the gas station and was the first of many stops (18ltr per 100km is how it panned out)! 61ltr to Picton, and we made our first purchase of duct-tape to tape up all the holes in the floor. We had only driven a few k’s and we were cook’n in there.
Now the sweet-running truck that we had purchased just happened to be not running so sweet this morning; more like a truck load of missing parts! We forged on for about thirty k’s to the first cafe at about 40 mph. After refreshing ourselves with a cappuccino and scone, a quick look under the distributor cap revealed points that weren’t opening and more slop in the shaft than you could poke a stick at! A quick adjustment and we were off (with a whole lot of pinging). So, it was another stop to retard the timing.
Now with most of the missing and pinging gone, we could cruise at a steady 50-55 mph. The only other repairs were a small fuel leak at Kiakora and an air cleaner that fell off about twenty times (gave up at Picton and threw it in the back)! Would have thought I would have given up with the air cleaner sooner… We arrived at Picton around 5:30PM and managed to get straight on a ferry to Wellington, arriving home about 10:30 pm.
Now for the Good and Bad:
The Good Parts:
Quarter light windows – who needs air conditioning with a pair of them? The general coolness of the truck, complete with cobwebs – then there were all the people we met along the way. Every time we stopped there were offers of help/use of workshops, etc. There were also three people that had owned old Willys Trucks and Wagons, and some chap that had the 226 engine in a racing boat!
Now for the Bad Bits;
The WOF (warrant of fitness). We need to know where that garage is – they will apparently give anything a WOF! Buggered seat belts, no hand brake, no sun visor, noisy wheel bearing, no rear view mirror, wipers that don’t work and the list goes on!
The Seat: This is one truck that needs some comfy seats. The old bench seat is bolt upright and slopping out the door (that’s the door that wouldn’t stay shut, did do an adjustment not far out of Blenheim that fixed it), and springs sticking in my back!
Then there were the holes in the floor. More like a high powered heater blowing in on your feet on a 30 degree day! We had to stop and buy mats for the floor to keep it from burning our feet!
All ‘n all a great trip, roll on the next roadie!
Now a year on, the Pickup is in the middle of a wee rebuild; engine is having a total overhaul; gearbox, transfercase rebuilt and fitting an overdrive; some minor chassis repairs; refitting of all the original park, tail lights; repair of the vacuum wipers; and repainting the cab, firewall, under floor.
Wainuiomata, New Zealand
Kaiser Willys Jeep Blog Story – Don Morgan
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