COAL: 1946 Willys CJ2A – Chapter 3, Catch & Release

Photo Attribution: Greg Gjerdingen from Willmar, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo is not my Jeep, but is a reasonable representation.  It appears I never took any photo’s.  A couple of weeks before the Dodge Rampage tried to kill me, I bought an early 1946 CJ2A off a transferring sailor that couldn’t afford to take it with him.  The Navy was willing to pay to ship one car.  He and his wife were going to drive another.  He couldn’t afford to ship it or put it into storage.  I had $77 in my pocket.

So why didn’t they just drive two cars?  The short answer is that it would roll start but wouldn’t crank.  It wouldn’t even jump start.  The wiring was a mess and the gas tank leaked.  With the clean engine that he said he’d just rebuilt it was worth more than I had.  It was probably worth more than the $750 I sold it for the following June.  The $77 I had was more than he was going to get if he left it in the apartment complex parking lot and the moving van was about to leave so I became the proud owner of my first Jeep.

This was a Very Early Civilian Jeep.  I recall the serial number being in the low 16000’s.  The body had the tool indents on the driver’s side and based on what I’ve since learned it should have had a column shift transmission.  If it had its original engine it had chain driven timing just like its WWII predecessor.  I do recall that it ran well and once I’d solved the starting issue it had good compression and didn’t leak (much).  I’ve been told that when an old Jeep doesn’t leak oil the sump is dry.  The cranking issue turned out to be embarrassingly easy to solve.  The previous owner had neglected to reinstall an engine ground strap.

It took a couple of paychecks before I could afford to replace the gas tank which JC Whitney provided for $160 (including shipping and sales tax).  Rebuilding the wiring harness had to wait until spring when I got the Rampage back from the body shop.

As with any open vehicle the Jeep was a blast to drive.  Even during the winter months when it was my primary transportation and I was dealing with the leaking gas tank.  The soft top it had did provide a full enclosure which cut down on the windchill and kept me mostly dry.  The CJ2A had the T90 which was a more robust transmission then the T84 on the WWII Jeep and was geared for a 65 MPH top speed (vs the 60 MPH top speed of the WWII Jeep).  Still young and a little foolish I got pulled over at 65 MPH twice.  The first time was by a local police officer who had a similar Jeep and couldn’t believe that it would actually go that fast.  I’d have to guess that the claimed rebuild was for real.  The second time I got a speeding ticket from a State Trooper.

In June I finished my training at the Navy Prototype Training Unit and was in almost in the same boat as the guy I’d bought the CJ2A from.  A high school friends parents said that I could store one car in their driveway.  I listed the Rampage and the Jeep for sale in the local Pennysaver.  Within hours of the paper hitting the street the Jeep was sold.  By the time I came back from the Med in December I was regretting having sold the CJ2A, but I wouldn’t be without a Jeep for long.