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The Colonel - My 1943 Willys MB build

74372 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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subb'd.... I would love to find one of these in my price range.
subb'd.... I would love to find one of these in my price range.
Ya, it's not really in my price range but with lots of overtime O think I can get it looking pretty good.
Well, between the rainy weekend, lack of parts (and wrong parts being sent) I haven't done much but turn wrenches replacing bolts, etc.
Since it has a T-90 transmission out of a CJ-2, the tranny sits too high for the MB rub. I did pick up an cross member off of a CJ-2 (not installed yet). This way I can lower my transmission to the proper height.
Arizona motor vehicle laws state that a vehicle only needs the safety equipment it came from the factory with. This being said, I'm going to put in seat belts and turn signals. I know it's a little early to be thinking about seat belts but I found some on E-bay I had to get. They are the type that have been used on the passenger seats in US military transport aircraft for decades. I've lost track of the hours I've spent in them as a Loadmaster


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Normally I wouldn't follow a thread like this. But dang it, I just found my new favorite thread to follow while bored at work and at home lol. Been enjoying this thread a lot and like others have said, can't wait to see it progress :thumb:
I haven't been able to do much lately, I have a week off for Christmas so hopefully I can get some things done then.

Last weekend I tac-welded my new hat channels in place and rigged up sone straps in the garage to lower the tub into place. The channels are where they should be so I plan on taking the tub off this weekend and doing the final welds.


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This build caught my eye because my first name is Eugene. Holy crap, good job for taking on a project most would consider "too far gone", Makes me feel like my project w123 merc has some hope lol
:awesome: I love this thread
I'm happy with the Wrangler Forum, heck I'm a Moderator here so I'd better be, but I have to put a plug in for the most definitive forum for military vehicle restoration:
G-503 was the designation in the military supply catalogue for Truck, 1/4 Ton, Command Reconnaissance (Willys MB and Ford GPW Jeeps)

Okay that being said, I had a question on the installation of my blackout headlight. I has only 2 holes on my fender and the light required 3 (5 including the holes for the wiring and the wire tie down bracket). They suggested the extra holes had been welded or covered up and sure enough, they were there.

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Looking good! My blackout light is missing too. I'll have to look under the fender for filled in bolt holes.
Just something I found humorous...

They started to reuse those old seat belts again. Right before I left my last unit, we got two new armored FMTV's, and they had 3 point harnesses with those style attachment clasps.
Just something I found humorous...

They started to reuse those old seat belts again. Right before I left my last unit, we got two new armored FMTV's, and they had 3 point harnesses with those style attachment clasps.
I guess when you have a design that works, why mess with it? :happyyes:
Not much to report, been working back and forth between my chassis (garage) and tub (back yard). I hope to have the tub to where I can post some pics in a few days but for now all I have is of some work I've done to the chassis.

I replaced the transmission cross member from one off of a CJ-2 in order to lower it for the larger transmission. I've also been working to get a parking brake. It's a complicated little thing that attaches to the drive shaft just aft of the transfer case. There were only a few pieces of it when I bought the Jeep so I've had to download diagrams and order the missing parts. When I bought what I thought would be the last parts, I ordered 1 of each piece I needed, come to find out there were 2 brackets that I need 2 of. :facepalm:

I was going to make my own wiring harness but when I put together a parts list I found it was going to cost close to $250. :eek: For $350 I can get the complete harness that will take only a few hours to install. I pulled the trigger and they said I should get it in 3 weeks or so (they make them in Australia) :pullinghair:


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Subscribed. You do nice work!
Subscribed. You do nice work!


Okay, I've had a bust week with the Jeep. I finalized the body work in my off time during the week and I bed-lined the floor with Monstaliner yesterday. I didn't want the texture you get with the roller so I used a foam brush. There were a few brush strokes but for the most part, its pretty clean. I got the tintable bed liner and was worried on the color match. As you can see, it matches my GCI paint shade 33040 perfectly. Between coats of the bed liner, and while curing over night, I had to cover it to keep dust and leaves off of it so I used, what else?

A pup tent. :thumb:

So, it looks like I'm done with the body work. I'm not going to mate the tub yet because it will be easier to install the wiring harness with the tub off. I should be able to get to that when the harness arrives in a couple of weeks.


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Fisrt, let me THANK YOU for doing this restoration, people like you are like the people who protect endangered animals, once they are all gone, is no way to get them back !!!
Also, I want to thank your Family members for giving you their support, or at least the Time to do this project.
You have the will to do it, we understand you, and we respect you a lot for that.
No kidding, no bull, no b.nosing, what you are doing, IS GREATLY APPECIATED !!!

I once restored a 79 Golden Eagle, same exact you are doing, piece by piece, even the body spot weld by spot weld, I know the feeling. Now, DON`T EVER SELL IT, YOU WILL DEEPLY REGRET IT !!! If you get tired of the work, put it aside, and come back later, but NEVER GET RID OF IT, I did, I am ashamed of myself now.
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Thanks for the good words, Johnny.

I'm currently hoping to get it on the road by the end of February. This will give me the month of March to work out all the bugs. There is a local group that stages an overnight reenactment at an old air field along with restored WWII aircraft. This year it will be the first weekend in April.

So far the Good Lord has blessed us with wonderful weather so my back yard work is progressing well. Hopefully, I didn't just jinx myself.
B.M. what I learned from my project, is to get it running as fast as you can, riding it around will give you more will and good feelings to continue pursuing the details and the small stuff. The second you roll it around town by its own power, you will then see what I mean in words, how much we do appreciate what you are doing.
Just remember those who help you out, even by not interfering, they deserve credit too.
An honor to exchange words with you, Sir.
New member here and glad to have found this thread, BM! I learned to drive on a WWII relic that my father brought home from the war (there were thousands of them in the Philippines). I joined this forum precisely to find out if I can restore one and go back in time. Your work gives me hope.

"I shall return!!!"
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