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The Colonel - My 1943 Willys MB build

74344 Views 203 Replies 73 Participants Last post by  Beastmaster
Eugene the Jeep

To begin with, I want to go on record saying that I am by no means an expert on Military Jeep restoration. I have done many hours of research (the internet is a wonderful thing) this thread is not a tutorial, I just want to pass on what I have done and learned. For more detailed restoration tips and information I recommend sites like (and it's sub forum as well as many others like

There are several different types of restoration levels of WWII Jeeps:
  • Factory Restoration: This is where you restore everything (and I mean everything) so that it looks just like it did when it rolled out of the factory.
  • Motor Pool Restoration: Many Jeeps required repair while in military service and OEM parts may not have been available. For a Motor Pool restoration, you sometimes use non-factory parts but they must be something that could have been used during the war.
  • I'm more going with a "Bubba" Restoration: There are so many non-standard things on my Jeep, I'm just going to get it running and to look as good as I can on my limited budget.
-The Jeep -

On the 12th of July, 2013 I found an ad for a "WW2 Willy's Jeep". On July 13th, I bought it for $1000.

I literally had to pull it out of a farmer's field where it had been sitting for the last 8 years. 3 of the 4 tires held air but there was no way I was getting the 4th one inflated since it had a silver dollar sized hole chewed into it by gophers.

I've had a blast restoring it and I still have a loooong ways to go but here are some of it's particulars:

Officially designated as a Willys-Overland MB, Truck, 1/4 ton, 4x4, Command Reconnaissance

Serial Number: 205586

Date of delivery: January 25th, 1943

Its body is a replacement made by the American Central Body company with a serial number of 77989 manufactured in June 1943.

After the war, he was upgraded with a 1950 Studebaker 6-cylinder flat head engine serial number 533870

- Recent History -

  • In the mid 1990s, a husband and his wife, in Phoenix started the process of research to find the Jeep he drove during WWII while in the Army. The husband said he had 2 great loves in his life: "His Wife and his Willys". After 4 years of research, they were able to find the exact Jeep he drove while in the Army. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years later and was never able to realize his dream.
  • In 2005 it was bought by a couple in Camp Verde as a restoration project for their Father. Due to illness, the project was never started and it sat where it had been parked.

It's pretty much a "Franken Jeep" cobbled together from various vehicles. The frame is original Willys MB, it has a 1950 flat head 6-cylinder Studebaker engine and then there is the body . . .
A previous owner apparently wanted a tail gate (the MB has none) and the fuel filler on the side (the MB filler cap is under the driver's seat). It looked like he didn't want to go through the hassle of rewiring the dash so he chopped the tub in half just forward of the seats and welded the back half of a CJ-2 on to it.

Although I had been told it was a WWII Jeep, I wanted to make sure it was actually a Willys. It took me a while to definitively identify it because many of the identifying features were missing. You can identify an MB frame several ways if, like me you are missing identification numbers, and here are a few.
1. Engine Block
a. Serial number stamped on the engine. The number prefix will tell you the manufacturer. Willys engines have numbers that start with the letters "MB" (MB123456) whereas Ford engine numbers usually start with "GPW" (GPW123456) I couldn't use this since it currently has a Studebaker engine.
2. Body or "Tub"
a. This is a more complex determination owing to the variations in bodies used throughout the war. Before late 1943 Willys and Ford used separately manufactured bodies. Starting in early 1944 one manufacturer (American Central Manufacturing Co.) began building bodies for both Ford and Willys. These bodies are referred to as "composite" bodies because they have characteristics of the earlier Ford and Willys bodies combined into one body type. I couldn't use this since a previous owner had pieced together a military (most likely MB) body with a CJ-2 body..
3. Frame
a. The easiest way to distinguish between the two frame types is to inspect the front frame crossmember that is beneath the radiator. The Ford GPW frame uses an inverted "U" shaped steel member here. It is open on the bottom. The Willys MB frame has a steel tube or pipe type member in this location. I couldn't use this since a previous owner had welded on a straight cross member.
b. Another detail to check is the machine gun mount. In the center of either frame, mounted to a crossmember behind the transmission, is a large, roughly circular plate with four holes drilled in it . This is the machine gun pedestal mount. Only WWII jeeps have this feature, and all WWII MB/GPW jeeps were equipped with this plate. The plate for a Ford is oval and Willys has a round one. BINGO! Even though a previous owner had chopped it up to fit a CJ-2 tub, you can still see it is round..

Here are some pics from when I first brought it home:


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Okay guys, a couple of "teaser" shots here, I'm 99% done and have been itching to brag.

I've been pushing to get it running so I can go to a re-enactment/airshow next weekend. I was able to take it around the block today but still have some work to do. I can't get the brake lights to work and have some other brackets and connections to make. If all goes well, I'll try to post some pics in a week so you can see the truly "finished" product.

Here it is parked to my wife's less than a year old Ford and you can see Sarge in the background on the second.

Now that I think of it, I may need to change the names of the Jeeps.
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