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Robert and His Father’s Rebuild

• CATEGORIES: Features, Reader Stories

Robert sent this wonderful note to me. He asked me to share it in case it motivates others with their projects.

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My name is Robert and I am writing to thank you for hosting ewillys because it has had a great impact on my life. My father and I decided to get away from the rock crawling scene and build an old willys jeep with a small block Chevy motor because my father was a GM mechanic in the 80’s. However, being from Pennsylvania almost all old jeeps have fallen victim to the rust of the northeast, and as a result, finding a willys worth having was no easy task. After several failed trips to purchase potential projects I stumbled onto ewillys and my father and we decided to purchase a jeep from the west coast.

My father called on over 50 ads from your site and eventually got a call back from the owner of a 1942 GPW with a SBC 305 in Portland, Oregon. The seller was willing to deal with shipping the jeep! Therefore, in early December of 2010, we blindly purchased the jeep sight unseen and prayed it would eventually arrive at the house. The jeep arrived at our house in Pennsylvania a few days before Christmas! The truck driver spoke very little English, but did advise that the jeep ran very poorly and had almost no brakes at all. However, a few negatives could not overcome to excitement my father and I shared upon confirmation that we had not wired some stranger thousands of dollars for a mythical willys, and the jeep was wonderful.

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After the long awaited arrival of the GPW we decided to that even though the gas tank said “remove from boat when fueling,” and the seats were mounted on handy angle we would test the brakes and drive the jeep if at all possible. We determined that we could take a short drive down the cul-de-sac since I could not physically push the jeep when the brakes were applied. As we drove in front of the house the transmission was screaming louder than the motor and steering column was far from safe. That being said, we had to see what a barely running 305 would do in the light willys jeep. Therefore, taking the condition of the jeep into consideration it felt like we were flying when we came back past the house. We began to slow the jeep far before the stop sign and made the turn into our drive way to end our first drive. To our surprise, when my father depressed the clutch pedal to the floor the clutch did not disengage, and as you can imagine this quickly became problematic because the one brake that was sort of working could not even begin to slow the v8. This put us on a crash course with the garage door! Fortunately, my dad is quick on his feet and killed the ignition in the nick of time which allowed us to stop before hitting the house.

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Since our maiden voyage the willys has come a long way and afforded me the opportunity to learn more about vehicles than I could have ever imagined. My father and I are both over 6’2” and could not comfortably fit in the original seat locations. Thus, we removed the handy angle that was used to mount the seats and moved them back roughly 6 inches with steel mounts this time. In the first few years we made our own wiring harness, added an RCI fuel cell, new gauges, a new column, a horn, g-force harnesses, GPW headlights, brake lights, turn signals, and redid the brakes.

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We continued to check on ewillys and eventually bought an additional T-90 and Dana 18 from NJ. We then took the best parts from two junky T-90’s and Dana 18’s and made a decent drive train. As the project progressed we updated the axles with a set out of a CJ5 that had much larger brakes and 3.73 gears. Once we had the jeep to this condition we did hours and hours of bodywork and had the jeep repainted a 2013 factory jeep color, orange crush.

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Even though we were pretty happy with the jeep at that point decided to keep making it better and added a sway bar from a TJ along with new shocks and a steering stabilizer. Wow, did it handle better! Then, we decided to rebuild the 305 with flattop pistons, an RV cam, Weiand intake manifold, Holley 4 barrel carb, and turned it into a very powerful 305. We had so much fun building the 305 we decided to build a larger motor and acquired a 1976 400 cubic inch SBC that was almost 100% junk. After many hours we turned it into an extremely aggressive v8 that is perfect for the jeep. It has 9.7:1 compression, a Comp Thumpr cam, Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold, 4 barrel Edelbrock carb, and headers. Once the 400 was installed we purchased a 4 speed Muncie and mated it to the Dana 18. We were able to reuse the custom hydraulic clutch that we had put in for the 305, but upgraded to an 11” clutch.

Mainly I wanted to write you so I could thank you for helping me find the jeep that has brought me so many wonderful days with my father, and a project that I will never forget.

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4 Comments on “Robert and His Father’s Rebuild

  1. Paul Wadas

    Robert, The best part of your story and adventure is the amount of time that you and your father spent together. Those are hours and memories that can never be replaced. Your Ford looks fantastic. You and your Dad are two lucky guys. Good luck in the future. Paul from Indiana

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