Features Research Archives

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Wild Man Willis Ray Willey

• CATEGORIES: Features, Old Images

UPDATE II: This post was originally posted in January of 2011 (yes, hard to believe it was eleven years ago!). The post covers some of the history about Willis Ray Willey, which is a pretty cool name for a site about vintage jeeps. Who else had a name that includes both “Willis” and “Willey”? Anyway, this post is full of some great and useful comments. It’s taken on a life of its own.

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UPDATE: Thanks to Mike for sorting out Willis’ real name. He was Willis Ray Willey, while his twin was Willard Roy Willey.

It might not surprise you that my interest in history has led me to become the family historian.  As a part of my self-assumed title, I make it a point to look through the family albums and scan images whenever I’m visiting.  This morning while looking through my grandmother’s album, which contains images from Fighting Creek, Idaho, the place her parents homesteaded in 1911 (they actually won a land lottery), I stumbled upon the unusual photograph of a man in an early motorcar that I show below.  I called mom over and asked her if she recognized anyone in the photo, as I didn’t.  She said she didn’t either.

About mid-day I was talking to my aunt (mom’s sister) and briefly described the photo.  I described the guy as ‘wild looking’.  Well, my aunt said that there was once this guy with the name of Wild Willy or something that used to be a colorful character around the Spokane area.  I got curious about who this guy might be and why the unusually nice photo, for a photo taken in 1933, ended up in a family photo album.

So, I powered up Google’s image search feature and input a variety of search strings until I spotted a picture of a guy who looked like the guy sitting in the car.  The story accompanying the photo said his name was Willis Ray Willey and, while he didn’t have a jeep,  he had quite the unusual, adventurous story.  So, I thought I’d share a brief summary of it.

To read more about Willey, visit this article from Nostalgia Magazine. Willey reminds me of the Camel Man, who Hein ran into a few months ago in Australia.

In the picture above, we appear to have Willis Ray Willey in his 1904 REO, the first year that the Ranson E. Olds Automobile Company built a car.  This photo was taken in 1933 (note the ’33 on the license plate).  The photo is taken with the Monroe Street bridge and the Spokane Falls in the background.  Willey planned to drive this car from Spokane to the 1933/1934 World Fair in Chicago.

You’ll note that Willey is only wearing shorts.  It turns out that Willey was a sickly youngster.  After examining him, a doctor suggested that he improve his constitution by exposing himself to the elements.  So, over time, he reduced the clothes he wore, eventually only wearing shorts whether winter or summer.

Apparently, that did the trick, as he never got sick, at least not until he was on his trip to the Chicago World’s Fair.  See, it turned out that simply wearing shorts wasn’t very common practice and, in fact, wasn’t tolerated.  People complained when they saw him and police would arrest him, with many arrests occurring on his way to Chicago.  According to Nostalgia Magazine, he did make it to Chicago, where he was arrested again. However, this time they cut off his hair and beard and he promptly got sick and remained sick for 3 months.

Now in the photo above, you’ll note that along the side of the seat it reads “Postcards 3 for 25 cents”.  One of the ways Willey made money was by selling postcards of himself; I guess he recognized just how much of an oddity he was.

If you look below, you can see two of the postcards he sold.  One is of him on Treasure Island in San Francisco, with a dog, a coyote, a turtle and multiple possums (click on photo and scroll down to see closeups).  The other is of him ice skating at LIberty Lake (thanks Jerry).

Yes, quite the character indeed!

 
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1969 CJ-5 “462” Profile on Hemmings

• CATEGORIES: Builds, Features

Bill shared this story from Hemmings about a restored 1969 CJ-5 with the 462 package.

https://www.hemmings.com/stories/2021/12/30/after-eight-years-of-commuting-and-four-decades-of-plow-duty-this-1969-kaiser-jeep-cj-5-has-been-restored-for-leisure-use

cj5-426-story-photo

 
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Saginaw Steering Conversion Video

• CATEGORIES: Features, videos

Bill was kind enough to share this video. I don’t have time to review it, so I don’t have any comment on it at this time.

 
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Video about History of Mitsubishi Jeeps

• CATEGORIES: Features

Again, I haven’t reviewed this video, but hopefully it’s done well.

 
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Mahindra Roxer Review (1 Year Later)

• CATEGORIES: Features, videos

Here’s one more video courtesy of Bill. It might be a practical vehicle for the right folks.

 
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The Passing of My Mother

• CATEGORIES: Features

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone for the kind words.

mom_dad_kim_dave_xmas_1973-2

Christmas 1973, dad, me, my sister and mom. This is one of only a handful of family pics as mom hated to have her picture taken. Boy, those are some early 1970s clothes!

This morning at 2am my mother passed away. She was 82. Over the course of the year she’s endured strokes and several heart attacks, but it was especially in the last month that she faded quickly, both physically and mentally. I am gratefuly she went relatively quickly, unlike my father, who passed in 2019 and whose stroke in 2002 set him on a slow decline for more than a decade.

As many of you know, this comes on the heel of my mother-in-law’s passing in September; we surely didn’t expect my mother to follow my wife’s mother so quickly.

My mother was born in Seattle in 1939. Her father was an aeronautical engineer at Boeing, where he worked, initially, in the famous red barn, the original home of Boeing. He was a fun, silly man who loved woodworking, singing, and mischief.

Her mother was tough as nails, having grown up on a farm her parents homesteaded in Idaho. Because of this, Mom grew up with one foot in Seattle, a suburban teen, and one foot in Idaho, a farmer girl.

She attended Franklin High School in Seattle. That’s important specifically because her group of high school friends remained a tight group to this day. Her passing means that her group has dwindled to only five and all five are surely heart broken this morning.

After she married Dad in Seattle, they moved to Renton in 1963. She gave birth to me in 1965 and lived in that same house until we moved her in November to the elder care home.

When my sister got into gymnastics, my mother did as well, eventually becoming a judge. She worked as a judge at multiple levels for over 40 years.

Mom’s farmer-girl side got great joy out of her seasonal garden. We learned to pick strawberries, shuck corn, collect peas, and much more. During the summers we ate fresh fruit from our property: strawberries, huckleberries, black berries, blue berries, apples, raspberries, cherries, along with the fresh fruit and herbs. That was all her (dad on the other hand loved to grow trees).

When my sister wanted a horse, mom was right there, supporting her efforts emotionally and financially, support that continued right up until the day she died. This relationship and support of my sister naturally meant that they were closer.

I, on the otherhand, more independent, was not as close to her. Over the years, mom and I grew farther apart as our politics and other issues divided us more. My separation/divorce from my first wife in 2000 really ripped us apart and we didn’t speak for more than a year. It was actually dad’s stoke in 2002 that forced us to start communicating again. Still, and sadly, there was always a bit of distance.

From the time I started eWillys in 2008, mom often checked the site. She really loved to follow our trips and was a frequent commenter on the posts. She was always amazed and proud of the warmth, friendship and kindness so many of you shared with Ann and I on our journeys.

Mom was also a big fan of my books. She always wished I would contact Hollywood so they would make a movie of the Amber Panels book. She never quite understood that rewriting the book into a screen play was a non-trivial under taking, me for which I did not have. Still, I’ve always appreciated her support of that notion.

Despite our differences over the years, I never doubted that she was kind, thoughtful, and had a big heart. Having lived most of her life within a 10 mile area, she developed many friends and collegues over the years and those folks are mourning her this morning.

Godspeed Mom on your journey to join Dad.

Obviously, eWillys will likely remain lightly updated over the next week. Best wishes all for a better 2022.

mom-kim-playday

One of the few pictures of mom driving the jeep. She and my sister are trying out a balance event at a jeep playday in the early 1970s.

 
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Collins Brothers Jeep Collection for sale

• CATEGORIES: Features, videos

Thanks to Bill for forwarding this video. There’s a lot of nice looking jeeps here. You can also learn more here: https://collinsbrosjeep.com/cj-for-sale/

 
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Merry Christmas 2021

• CATEGORIES: Artists/Drawings, Features, Postcards

Merry Christmas everyone!

It’s a bit of a somber Christmas in our neck of the woods. Mom has been struggling over the past week with lots of confusion and health struggles. After a 36-hour wait in the ER, she finally made it into the hospital Thursday night. She had an operation yesterday (the 24th) to remove fluids from the sac around her heart. The docs extracted 700ml (which is a lot) and left a tube in to drain more. Needless to say, this indicates her heart is struggling mightily. Without some kind of miracle, she probably has weeks left at the very most. So, Ann and I are having a quiet holiday season at our new home this year.

We hope everyone else has an enjoyable holiday season with your families and friends. And, I hope you all are blessed with good fortune in 2022!

This 1945 Christmas Card was auction on eBay in 2015:

1945-mb-merry-xmas-card

 
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General George Patton’s Jeep Driver

• CATEGORIES: Features, videos

Bill shared this video of General George S. Patton’s Personal Jeep Driver. He once removed a jeep engine in 40 minutes (and was very proud of that)!

 
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BAW BJ212 Available for 2021

• CATEGORIES: Features, Other 4x4s

Bill forwarded this article. Looking for a brand new, old school 4WD vehicle? Well, look no further than this Chinese/Russian BAW BJ212. Of course, while you may be able to buy it brand new, getting it to the states (or elsewhere) might be a challenge.

https://www.motor1.com/news/556070/baw-bj212-china-video/

baw-bj212-chinese-lores

 
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1961 Wagon Left to Rot, Now Runs

• CATEGORIES: Features

Bill spotted this short article about a wagon seemingly left to rot that was restarted.

https://www.autoevolution.com/news/1961-willys-jeep-was-left-to-rot-in-the-woods-takes-first-drive-in-30-years-177018.html#agal_1

1961-willys-jeep-was-left-to-rot-in-the-woods-takes-first-drive-in-30-years_1

 
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Jeep Sales and Service Sign Hamilton, MT $4000

• CATEGORIES: Advertising & Brochures, Features

It lacks a back panel, but otherwise looks good.

https://saltlakecity.craigslist.org/atd/d/grantsdale-rare-old-jeep-sign/7421635365.html

“This is a super hard to find Lightup Jeep sign from the late 50s. It also has Authorized Willys Dealer on it! Lites up and has no cracks or fading to the lens. The back was broken and removed some time ago. Has the original hanging bracket and all original electronics. Been stored indoors for the last 50 years! This sign is aprox. 3ft x 4ft w/o the arms”

jeep-sign-hamilton-mt1 jeep-sign-hamilton-mt2

 
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Custom Electric Jeep Mesa, AZ $2000

• CATEGORIES: Features, Models • TAGS: .

Thanks to Joe-in-Mesa for sharing this ad. This electric jeep was custom made by co-workers of the seller years ago. This price is “a couple grand” which I interpreted as $2000. Contact Steve Henry via email for more info Steve @ slhenryservice.com (remove the spaces from around the @).

mini-electric-jeep-mesa-az2 mini-electric-jeep-mesa-az3 mini-electric-jeep-mesa-az4 mini-electric-jeep-mesa-az5

 
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Willys Jeep on Farm as Tractor & Plow Video

• CATEGORIES: Features, videos

UPDATE: This video was shared in September of 2018. An oldie, but a goodie.

I saw this video for the first time yesterday. Near the end of it there are several jeeps featured doing non-farm chores. I’ve taken a few screen shots of them and added them below. The most interesting one to me is the red one with the extended rear (pic with guys carrying the washing machine).

We’ve run across these extended rears like this on a few jeeps over the years, but this is the earliest evidence of them that I have seen. The one on the back of the red jeep looks like to me like it was professionally made, leading me to wonder if it was a purchasable product.

stills-from-farm-as-tractor-video1 stills-from-farm-as-tractor-video2 stills-from-farm-as-tractor-video3

 
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Nate’s CJ-5 “Snowshoe”

• CATEGORIES: Features, videos

Nate built this custom-purpose CJ-5 from parts.

“This 1966 cj5 came to me in very rough condition. No engine or transmission. The tub was falling off and the windshield glass fell out on the way home because the windshield frame was all rotted out. I pieces it together from parts I could find cheaply and it turned out to be a really tight Jeep now. Still a work in progress with more modifications to come.”

 
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Jim’s USS Essex Photos With Jeeps

• CATEGORIES: Features, Old Images

Jim sent me the following pics ….

“I was recently entrusted with a collection of photos that were taken by Chief Photographer’s Mate Paul Madden while onboard the USS Essex during WW2. The pics of Madden are for a little background. The first pic is of him, the second is of him after returning from an air mission where he was wounded (shrapnel in the head)”

paul-madden-pics1-lores

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“The third pic is what happened to the Jap Zero that wounded him. The fourth is the Purple Heart he got for that wound.”

Jap diving on Essex missed.

Jap diving on Essex missed.

paul-madden-pics4-lores

“Below are some Jeep photos(attached) on board the Essex, which is the main reason for this post.”

Flight deck - Essex Jeep towing dive bomber

Flight deck – Essex
Jeep towing dive bomber

Continue reading

 
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CJ-5 At the LA County Fire Museum

• CATEGORIES: Features, Fire/Police/Industry Vehicles, Museums

Bob shared this article that explains more about the CJ-5 fire jeep (see the original PDF here).

1965-cj5-fire-jeep-lacounty-fire-museum1 1965-cj5-fire-jeep-lacounty-fire-museum2 1965-cj5-fire-jeep-lacounty-fire-museum3

 
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Part 1: Epic Willys Oregon Trail Adventure

• CATEGORIES: Features, videos

The Epic Willys Adventure Crew has put together a video showing highlights from days 1 & 2 of their 2021 summer adventure. Here’s a 20-plus minute video.

 
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Ray’s Surreys

• CATEGORIES: Features • TAGS: .

Ray’s put together a nice collection of surreys. You can see them in a pic he sent me. He’s working on the pink Surrey. If you happen to have the steering column shifter rods for a DJ-3A, he’s looking for them.

raymond-robins-dj3as-surrey-lores

 
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Plastic Turning Company’s Topless Top

• CATEGORIES: Features • TAGS: , .

UPDATE: This also ran in October of 2016. I’ve still not uncovered any more relevant information about these tops. However, I can tell you that the Plastic Turning Company suffered a break-in on March 15th, 1970. the company was located at 511 Lancaster St, Leominster, MA. 

In March of 1969, Four Wheeler Magazine featured Plastic Turning Company’s Topless Top. It was built from plexiglass and was offered in a clear and tinted model. The company was based out of Leominster, Massachusetts. Has anyone ever seen one of these out in the wild? I didn’t have much luck searching Google for other images.

1969-03-fourwheeler-topless-hardtop2-lores 1969-03-fourwheeler-hardtop-1-lores

 
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1943 Photo of Jeep Pulling Avenger on Carrier

• CATEGORIES: Features, Old Images

The Press photo below appeared in at least one newspaper. On October 18, 1943, the Chillicothe Gazette (Ohio) published this pic and caption:

1943-10-18-chillicothe-gazette-jeep-pulling-plane

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Published April 9, 2021: Based on the bumper, I’d say this is a GPW. I had hoped to locate the photo in a newspaper, but had no luck.

“Vintage original 1943 press photo of Grumman TBF / TBM Avenger with Jeep on Wake Island, (approximately 20cm x 15cm), with “Keystone” press stamp & description to rear. OK condition, with wear.”

1943-12-17-seagoing-jeep-carrier1

1943-12-17-seagoing-jeep-carrier2

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This pic and caption came from a 12/2019 ebay auction:
Good photo of a stripped(?) jeep maneuvering a Hellcat aboard an aircraft carrier.

“1943 Press Photo Jeep toying US Navy Hellcat aboard an aircraft carrier. This is an original press photo. Autos – Jeeps – Somewhere off Wake Island – They say there’s nothing new under the sun, but here’s a picture of a Jeep, familiar to all as one of the most useful of the many instruments used in this war to date, at a novel task – that of jockeying a “Hellcat” aboard a carrier. This was one of the “flat tops” used to pummel the Japanese on Wake Island, October 5-6. Note two other similar ships in the distance Photo measures 8.5 x 6.5 inches. Photo is dated 10-15-1943.”

1943-10-17-hellcat-jeep-carrier1

1943-10-17-hellcat-jeep-carrier2

 
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Civilian 1/4 Ton Low-Hood Grilles

• CATEGORIES: Features

UPDATE: This post ran in October of 2016.

A series of emails about grilles led to the creation of this graphic. I believe my draft below is accurate based on the research I’ve done today, but if you see an error, don’t be shy about pointing it out. The grille I’m least sure about is the 1959 and later DJ-3A grille. I’m looking for more evidence that the late DJs used grilles with horizontal holes for attaching the parking lights, a necessary change because they used different parking lights after sn 14103 in 1959.

grille-examples-flat

As further evidence, the graphic below shows an early and late DJ-3A parking light schematics. This was assembled by Bruce Again and posted at the former jeeosurreygala.com site. I’ve combined what he published and turned it into this image:

parking-light-dj3a-image

The CJ-3B grilles were changed in a similar fashion in 1956. Derek has covered this issue well. And, as you can see below, CJ-5s were also switched in late 1956 or early 1957.  Continue reading

 
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JEEPS: Junior Emergency Everyday Production-Picking Service

• CATEGORIES: Features • TAGS: .

Here’s one of those odd, jeep-related stories that has nothing to do with jeep vehicles. In this case, the April 26th, 1943, edition of the News and Observer out of Raleigh, North Carolina, published an article about the answer to a farm problem: JEEPS. The backronym stands for Junior Emergency Everyday Production-Picking Service, a group of mobile boys and girls who offered to help farmers with various farm tasks.

1943-04-26-news-and-observer-jeeps

 
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1943 Photo on Supply Route in Italy

• CATEGORIES: Features, Old Images

Looks like a slat grille.

View all the information on eBay

“1943 Press Photo American jeep passes workers on a supply route in Italy. This is an original press photo. Italy — An American jeep rolls along the broad supply route in an Italian wilderness that a short time ago was a mere mule-track. Skilled United States engineers literally carved out the road during the battle for Naples, using bulldozers, cranes and Italian laborers to rush through the job.Photo measures 9 x 7.25 inches. Photo is dated 10-12-1943.”

1943-10-12-italy-supply-route1

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1962 Custom Wagon Build From Australia

• CATEGORIES: Features, Jeep Rods, Unusual, Willys Wagons • TAGS: , .

Blaine shared this unusual wagon build from Australia. Note the side mounted air cleaners.

https://www.whichcar.com.au/features/gavan-julie-starr-thomas-1962-willys-jeep-wagon