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Bill Visits the Fantastic Caverns

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UPDATE: Learn more about the green jeep in the comments section.

Upon learning about the jeep at the Fantastic Cavern’s Visitor Center in Springfield, Missouri, Bill had to see it for himself.  Fortunately for us, he took along his camera.  Since Friday is the official start of the Christmas season, even though ‘Black Friday’ has now leaked into the evening of ‘Turkey, Christmas presents in the back of jeep just seemed a perfect way to launch the season (for us Willys nuts anyway).

Here’s photos of the original jeep.  Bill was told it was a CJ-2A, but it seemed more 3A to him.

Here are some pics of the new propane fueled jeeps:


20 Comments on “Bill Visits the Fantastic Caverns

  1. Bob OB

    I’m thinking it’s an M38, based on the dash panel, a cover where the military light assy. goes, and position of the E-brake. All the other stuff can be add ons.

  2. Roberto Flores

    It seems there isn´t 2nd battery at the dash cowl top but as Bob have noticed, the dash seems to be from a M38, as it also has the small glove box at right. Check the pics!

    I must admit that I like it, specially because the cartoon at the left side of the bodytub!

  3. Dj Bill

    Joshua, they are in Missouri…If you Google fantastic Caverns you will find their website with hours and such. It is almost $24 with tax to go for the ride into the caves. You can visit the visitor center for free. It is a really nicely kept place with some fantastic caves….which I hope to see some day.

    I beleive Dave has some other posts about the caves with some more info.

    As far as I know that tub is an aftermarket with features of a few different jeeps.

  4. Bill

    It is a made up jeep – has a CJ3A frame (no boxed horns and the bumper mounts as a 3A), the tub is mostly 3A with the gas neck hole filled and no tool indents on the right side (that was on another post a few weeks ago) and no #2 battery in cowling. It does have a M38 dash. I would be interesting to know why the fuel tank neck was modified. I wonder what engine is in there. Acme made some early replacement bodies that where mixtures – I have a M38 with tool indents, with a MB dash (until I re-did it into a M38) and without a battery in cowling. Acme, MB Juan, etc. also made replacement body panels which might be what happened here – it might be a re-skinned m38 tub with the battery door filled-in on a CJ3A frame. The one thing the makes me think it might be a Acme/MB Juan replacement tub is the 24v M38 lighting switch cut-out – it is more oval than the rectangular with rounded corners that you see on a genuine M38

  5. Ed Lee

    I like how the new jeeps are automatics. Notice the 4×4 shift levers are cut off. I heard they keep these jeeps in four low while pulling the trams. Pretty neat little set up.

  6. Kirk Hansen

    Yes, the tub is aftermarket. The original had been parked in cave each evening resulting in too much see-through rust to consider a quality repair. Project started as a CJ-3A – Complete, 100% disassemble rebuild, including powertrain. The cave owner is a craftsman & did the work himself. Still runs as a parade car on occasion. Plenty of ‘bling’, but it gets much attention as a historical display.

  7. Roberto Flores

    Well, I must admit that I really jealous, as this is the kind of work I woul love to do!!! What a restoration!
    By the way, anybody of you have more info about ACME tubs? Are those made at the States? Many thanks!

  8. Paul

    Hey Roberto… Many years ago (1986) I purchased my stainless steel Jeep tub from Acme Truck Parts in Carson, California. In addition to importing replacement bodies from the Philippines they also sold hard and soft tops for various Jeeps, Land Cruisers, Scouts, Broncos, and Blazers. I don’t know if Acme is still in business.

  9. mmdeilers Post author

    I would imagine that Acme was a resellers of tubs made by others? I’ve never seen anyone identify a specific tub as an Acme metal tub, though I have heard of Acme fiberglass tubs (yet have never seen one identified as such). I have been collecting old 4wd magazines to find ads that showcase aftermarket bodies and other parts.

    I found an Acme Truck parts in Stockton:
    LKQ Acme Truck Parts & Equip Inc Stockton, CA (877) 564-3974

    – Dave

  10. Paul

    The September 1980 issue of Off-Road magazine has an advertisement for Acme Truck Parts which shows both stainless steel and mild steel flat fender replacement bodies and an article about the flat fender Jeeps built up by Vic Hickey (stainless steel body) and Chuck Barnow (mild steel body) both of whom used replacement bodies from Acme. The metal work on the stainless steel tub I purchased was beautiful but the poor quality design and assembly required me to spend many hundreds of hours of fabrication, adjustment, and rework before the tub could be used.

  11. Steve E.

    I have a catalog from ACME Jeep parts from the early ’80’s. They sold mostly stainless steel bodies if I remember right. I don’t have time to look for it until next week. I found out later in life that replacement bodies were made in the Philippines.

    I’ve learned that overall, those folks really like Jeeps more than Americans. They just keep rebuilding them over and over. When the ocean air gets to the bodies, they just replace it. Of course, the Jitneys are all individual works of art to them, where some in America might call it gaudy or tacky.

    If only someone would produce stainless FC cabs…….

    **Steve E.**

  12. Roberto Flores

    Fantastic info! Thanks a lot to all of you! If I´m not wrong, today there´re several bodytub manufacturers: MD Juan, Jeepsudest (France), Kaiser Willys (revised MD Juan kits?), Classic Enterprises (at least some panels), etc. And if I´m not wrong, there was another supplier at Holland. Interesting subject!

  13. mmdeilers Post author

    Roberto, I didn’t know about Jeepsudest. I think it’s time to do a post on this topic . . .

  14. Mark Trimble

    hello jeep collectors…..I owned Fantastic Caverns from 1961 until I sold it to my cave manager Russ Campbell in the early 90’s….that was the first jeep we used in the cave…I personally drove it down a flight of stairs and into the cave for the first time in 1962 ….it was a used jeep, a CJ-2 originally……it was run off into the bottomless pit in the cave by accident ….it landed nose first and was almost totally destroyed….frame badly bent in a “U” shape….we then used it for a trash hauler for several years until totally rusted out junk …..we were ready to sell it for scrap iron when we realized it is the one that we went in business with, and decided it just wasn’t right to dispose of it…..we then spent several thousand dollars on restoring it; far more than it could possibly be worth to anybody but us…..glad you all enjoy it…..Mark Trimble, Ozarks Auto Show, 134 Industrial Park, Hollister Missouri 65672, 417-334-2720.

  15. JoAnne Christian

    I drove many tours, and thousands of people through Fantastic Caverns in those “new(er)” Jeeps. Propane does a good job of fueling the jeeps for this venture. The 4 Wheel drive “sticks” were cut off because the Tour Guides kept knocking them out of gear when getting in and out of the jeeps. The Automatic Transmission is also a good change, as few of the tour guides can drive standard transmissions.. when I first started in 1993 (I have been gone for a few years now), we had one standard transmission jeep still in rotation, and one of the older automatic transmission jeeps (with drum brakes) still in rotation. As you can imagine, driving any vehicle through a cave can be a challenge, especially when there are other jeeps in the cave doing the same thing (during busy season, tours go in every 15 minutes, that equates to a lot of traffic in a cave with a 1 mile looping tour)…. those who didn’t feel comfortable driving a standard transmission gave a less than comfortable ride to the guests… that was something that management took to heart… I was also the first year of the newer style trams (Longer, better seating and almost all aluminum). The Automatic Transmission, with the cut 4 wheel drive “stick”, and the longer trams led to more comfortable tours, and the ability of the guests to get a real feel for the cave. If you ever have the opportunity to go inside the cave, I would encourage you to do so… there is a ton of really cool natural history, and plenty of local history in the cave to make it worth the cost.. if only just once. If you have 5 people or less in your group, ask to sit in the jeep. Even though we don’t admit it, you get a better more personal tour if you are with the guide and you can ask questions in between stops. Just my 2 Cents!

  16. mmdeilers Post author


    Thanks for taking the time to give us your behind-the-scenes experiences with the jeeps and the cave. Have a Happy New Year!

    – Dave

  17. Steve E.

    Ditto that, JoAnne! I enjoyed your first hand knowledge of the cavern experience. I will have to travel there some day.

    **Steve E.**

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