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Project Willys -- From Pieces to Perfect

Willys Jeep Cj3A restoration restomod.
1950 Willys CJ3A restored from parts and pieces.

This project Willys came to us in pieces. Literally. The owners, Bill & Karen, approached us about a frame up restoration on their 1950, CJ3A that he had disassembled and simply decided he didn’t want to take the time to finish it. So here is rundown on what we did.

Jeep Willys CJ3A frame repairs.
Original Willys C-channel frames are notoriously weak and difficult to restore. This one was in good shape so we refurbed and reinforced for re-use.

Frame: Sand blasted. We then inspected it and determined it was good enough to start with (most frames are not, and must be replaced). We repaired the minor cracks and reinforced the body mount areas. New spring hangers were welded on and other minor work needed. It was then powder coated.

Willys restoration body work.
Fitting up the body parts, which were then removed for painting, cage building, and more. In the restoration process it's almost always best to assemble once to at least some degree before painting, disassemble, paint, then do final assembly.

Body: The original body was to rusted and needed too much work to justify repairing, so we contacted Bruce & Dustin Cochran at CanDo Paint & Graphics here in Rifle, CO. (970-618-5495). They supplied us with a new body tub including fenders, hood and tailgate. Since the new parts didn’t come with the “Willys” logos stamped in, the Bruce removed the stamped logos from the old hood and tailgate and T.I.G. welded them into the new parts. The new parts required tons of time to render acceptable for paint. Bruce and Dustin handled all the needed bodywork and paint with exemplary skill and beautiful results.

Willys restoration body work.
Clean!
 
Restored Jeep Willys with custom roll cage.
Completed resto, with painted body and custom cage.

Cage: Since protection over-ruled stock, and the aftermarket roll bars don’t fit well, we opted to custom build a cage for this project. 1-3/4” x .120 steel tubing is the choice and the unique dash mount helps add leg room. To give it more reinforcement, the behind the dash to floor legs were fabricated and installed. New 3-point seat belts on retractor reels keep Bill & Karen strapped to the stock seats re-covered with canvas from Beachwood canvas works.

Willys Jeep engine.
Classic L-head keeps the Willys original spirit.

Engine: The stock L-head was to be re-installed but a freshen-up was in order. We sent it out for the machine work and rebuild it here in house. It has a few upgrades such as a electronic ignition, 12V alternator, and a new Solex carburetor. Stock cooling system with all new parts keep it cool.

Installed Willys Jeep engine, restored.
Who knew an old L-head could look this good?

Transmission/Transfer case: Stock T-90 and Dana 18 were rebuilt with all new gears, bearings, shafts and seals. A new overdrive from Advance Adapters was installed. All new clutch and linkage as well.

Driveshafts: Stock shafts were in good shape, so they just got new U-joints and a fresh coat of paint.

Front Axle: The Dana model 25 got all new bearings, seals and shims. The ring & pinion were good so were reinstalled. The axle shafts were the Rzeppa U-joint style and were totally worn out. We installed new Spicer style shafts, now the knuckles do not need to be packed with grease.

Rear Axle: It came with a Dana model 41 which was worn out. Since no parts are available for it, we found a Dana 44 from a early CJ-5 as a donor. This got new bearings, 5.38 ring & pinion, 30 spline full float axle kit, and a Detroit True-Trac. We topped it off with locking hubs for towing.

Willys brake upgrade.
Dual master cylinder for brakes is one of those safety upgrades that makes sense.

Brakes: This is a real treasure. The owner had been foreseeing this rebuild for the last 15+ years. Back in the day when you could buy 11” brake kits, complete, he had purchased one and delivered the brand new kit with the project. So, we had a kit to simply bolt on without having to “junk-yard” the backing plates and all hardware. Sweet! To make it function, Kaiser/Willys supplied the dual master cylinder for the upgrade from the stock single cylinder system.

Steering: Stock "Armstrong," but all new parts got installed. A one-piece tie rod and steering stabilizer are the only upgrades.

Suspension: Rancho 1” lift leaf springs, KYB shocks, stock but new shackles, new U-bolts and plates.

Wheels/Tires: 15x7 black Rock-Crawler style were chosen and BF Goodrich Radial Mud Terrain KM2’s, 31x10.50R-15 is the size.

Electrical: Autometer gauges, including an hour meter, LED under dash interior lighting, Painless wiring harness, hidden back-up lights, CJ-5 turn/marker lights in grill, LED side marker lights. Engine and front clip wiring all go to single connector at firewall, for easy repair or replace of any forward componentry.

Miscellaneous: Bill had purchased a brand new Kayline (brand) soft top, back in 1993 when Kayline was still in business. It has been stored it the original box until we installed it in July, 2011.

 

 


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