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The Colonel - My 1943 Willys MB build

74378 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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Great work man! Can't wait to see more! My uncle had the same jeep, in the same shape, but as far as we ever got was blasting the frame... Then ended up selling it to go with a TJ build. Maybe someday :drinks:
I built and daily drive a 1945 cj2a. It's very close to your jeep and many of my parts are military. Good job so far! Don't cut corners! Take your time. It's well worth it!

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Good looking Jeeps. I wish I had the time and money to do a build like that. Someday.
Just an update on my body work.

As I stripped the paint an bondo off, I discovered it's banged up a little more than I first thought. No problem, it will just take more hits with the hammer.
I've been working on patching the areas that have rusted through. I patched the hole in the rear panel and all of the rust from the hat channels so all I have left are a few small holes and the shovel channel on the side.

Give me a break on my welds. I've taught myself how to use this Harbor Freight wire feed welder. The welds aren't pretty but they are strong. The good thing is that they can all buff out.

Anyway, here are some before and after pics.


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You gonna weld up all the extra holes that have been drilled over the years?
You gonna weld up all the extra holes that have been drilled over the years?
Ya, I'm in the process of researching what goes and what stays.
Okay, I did some tub fitting today. I still have a long ways to go but since this is not the tub that was on the chassis when I bought it, I wanted to see if I need to make any modifications.

I got everything together and some friends helped set everything in place. My biggest worry was that the after market 6-cly engine wouldn't clear the fire wall. After I got things in place, I was able to see the firewall would clear (barely) but for some reason the PO had raised the transmission and transfer case so the tub won't fit down over them.

Now to figure out the best course of action.


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No pictures today (but allot of emocons) but wanted to share my "w00t" moment (everyone in the house is still in bed so I have nobody else to tell). :thumb:

I've gotten back to trying to get it started. I had a face palm moment a couple of days ago :doh2:. As mentioned, since I'm having to create my wiring harness from scratch, I couldn't get the thing to run. I felt like I was beating a dead horse :deadhorse: and was about ready to give in :surrender: and take it to a mechanic to trouble shoot it for me. :pullinghair:

I had replaced or rebuilt everything in the electrical system but realized I hadn't touched the carb! You would have thought I'd have thought about that before since it had been sitting for 8 years but noooo! :jawdrop:

Anyhoo, I bought a rebuild kit for the carburator (discovered it was a mid to late '60s Ford) and rebuilt it.:happyyes:

It smokes a bit and I need to fine tune it but I got it running. :punk:

Now back to the body work.

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what a FINE project!!!!

The only thing stopping me is time/money/skills/shop/tools.....

My own "first Jeep" adventure began circa 1961 with a buddy & a 1945 CJ2.....and between driving it, wrenching on it, walking back looking for a ride/tow/help, it was a TON of fun!

Cheers to you AND your project!
what a FINE project!!!!

The only thing stopping me is time/money/skills/shop/tools.....

My own "first Jeep" adventure began circa 1961 with a buddy & a 1945 CJ2.....and between driving it, wrenching on it, walking back looking for a ride/tow/help, it was a TON of fun!

Cheers to you AND your project!
Thanks for the good words.

I hear you.

On the time/money/skills/tools thing. At any given time with the time and money, I have plenty of one and not enought of the other. :pullinghair:
With the tools; I've been to Harbor Freight allot.:thumb:
As to the skills, I've developed a few over the years and YouTube is great helping me hone the rest.:D

Been spliting my time between the frame (re-locating the rear shocks and lowering the larger T-90 trans) and the tub (body work and hat channels).
There was a SNAFU in the shipment of my hat channels and they sent the wrong ones. My rear shocks and brackets should be in tomorrow.
What a great project!:thumb: I'm glad I took the time to look at this thread. :)
Awesome project!
Just brought home a 1942 GPW myself, and am currently in the "assessment" stage.
It's interesting to follow the progress of yours. Can't wait to see the next stages!
This is probably one of my favorite post. I learned how to drive on a Willys MB (in India). Sooo cool! Thank you and all the best with the project. Looking forward for more pics.

wow this is amazing, great job so far! cant wait to see how she turns out
Well, since I'm still waiting on my replacement hat channels and couldn't work on my tub, I decided to tackle my rear shocks,

Since the PO had mixed up the tub and the rear half was CJ-2, he had to relocate the rear shock mounts. Not I had a pure WWII tub, I needed to put things back the way they were.

The WWII Jeep tubs, both Ford and Willys, had the shocks mounted straight up from the rear of the axles. The upper mount extends above the frame and the tub has a cutout to make room.

The PO had invented lower shock mounts (a large plate under the springs) and bolted a plate to the side of the frame (the arrow in the first pic). I needed to do some creative cutting and welding to install the upper mounts because the PO had really butchered the frame when he took the original mounts off.

I think things came out rather well. :iamhappy:


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Great project. Enjoying the show...:popcorn:
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