When we were first married, in 1977, a group of us all had Jeeps. We had a CJ-5, but a couple friends each had a Willys. Bob had a 1947 CJ-2A that he had found in a field in Missouri in 1974, and bought from the farmer for $450. Bob’s dad was a mechanic and kept it running until he passed away. Last September we were up home visiting and noticed the Willys parked in front of Bob’s house with a ‘for sale’ sign on it. We pulled right in and rang the bell. It was great to visit with him and his wife, but my husband, Jim, decided he would only be buying memories and he already had those, so we said goodbye and headed back to our home in Canyon Lake, Texas. As soon as we got there, Jim started showing everyone pictures of the Willys. He even sent one via email to our son who’s stationed overseas.
I finally told him that he must really want that Jeep and he should call Bob. He did and Bob was thrilled to hear we wanted it. So Jim took a trailer up and got it. Getting it registered in Texas was easy since it’s considered an antique vehicle. It was still in pretty good running condition with a few minor repairs needed like an oil leak, the parking brake, the fuel gauge, and the horn. We found a good source for parts, Kaiser Willys, and we found a local mechanic that tackled some of the more critical repairs.
We also needed keys made. 20 years ago, when Bob’s daughter was climbing from the front to the back, she stepped on the key and broke it off in the ignition. For 20 years the Willys was started using a shelf bracket or screwdriver for the key. Amerikeys, a locksmith in San Antonio, extracted the old piece of key and made us a new one and some spares. Then we had a local body shop repaint it and do some body repair. We left the welds in the bed visible because they are part of it’s history, but the rust, holes, and previous patches were fixed.
This Willys was never a military vehicle. It was built to sell to farmers after the war so we chose to have it painted Cherokee Red, a color that was one of the original colors used and the same color as Allis Chalmers farm equipment. There were still some mechanical issues so we started searching for an expert. Fortunately a friend referred us to Kris who works on antique vehicles. Since we found an expert, we had the worm gear replaced (there was a lot of play in the steering) and a new wiring harness installed to fix some minor electrical problems and consolidate the wires. Bob, the friend we bought it from, was a dentist so everybody always called him Doc. We named the Willys “Doc” in his honor. We are really looking forward to our first summer with “Doc”. Thanks to Kaiser Willys for having everything we needed to restore it.
Willys Jeep Life Story – Cadi Fuhler
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