When we settled back into the farm after returning from Saudi Arabia, we gradually accumulated the various vehicles needed to work the place. After a pick-up truck, the next "necessity" was a jeep, or so it seemed. We got an old CJ2-A, the civilian version of the WW2 Willys Jeep, and not long thereafter, a neighbor stopped by to see if we might be interested in an old jeep he had on his farm.
It turned out that his jeep was not a CJ2-A but was an M-38. The M-38 is known sometimes as the "Korean War Jeep" and sometimes as the "best of the flat fender jeeps" and was a post-WW2 improvement on the basic Willys MB/Ford GPW, the original military jeeps. It was equivalent to the civilian CJ-3, by Willys. The M-38 had a sturdier transmission and transfer case and was also fitted out to run submerged, as during amphibious landings, which had become popular during the war. It also had a 24 volt waterproof electrical system and was compatible with the electrical systems used by NATO. It had several other differences, such as a single pane windshield and a tailgate, a gas tank with a larger filling pipe, to permit easy filling from "jerry cans", and the tools (ax and shovel)relocated to the passenger side. Between 1949 and 1952 over 45,000 were produced. The jeep we bought was in rough shape, but it was enough different from the CJ2-A to be intriguing, and Gene decided to restore it. A slippery slope, as it turned out, involving lots of research, searches for parts, flea markets, and meeting some fellow collectors and restorers of old military vehicles.
The M-38 was supplanted in 1952 by the M38A-1, which was a very different vehicle, powered by a new engine, with one valve in the block and one in the head, with horsepower increased from 60 to 75. The new engine was taller than the old engine, and necessitated a higher hood, which resulted in the curved hood, and curved fenders, of this version. The M38A-1 was designed for the military and is one of the few vehicles that came over into the civilian market almost unchanged. The military version did have the submersible features of the M-38 and the 24 volt electical system, but was pretty much indistinguishable fro the CJ-5, the civilian version otherwise.
We suspect that word got around that some fool was buying old jeeps, so before long, we were approached by various folks with jeeps for sale. By the time we were done, we owned twi CJ-2A jeeps, a GPW, the M-38, and two other M-series vehicles, an M-170, and M-725. And two CJ-5s.
The GPW ("General Purpose Willys") was the Ford-manufactured version of the Willys WW2 jeep, designated "MB". The one we had was pretty much a bucket of rust, but the engine would still turn by hand, so it had promise. Time ran out on us, however, and it never got restored. The M-170 is a military version of the CJ-6, basically a CJ-5 with an extended wheelbase. The M-170 was the ambulance version. The one we had was in pretty good shape, but needed an engine overhaul, which was still underway at the time we sold it during our move. The M-725 was also an ambulance, basically a militarized version of the Kaiser Jeep one and one-quarter ton truck. In the military, it came as the M-715, a pick up truck version, and several other variants with differing utility boxes on the back, including a telephone and communications version (M-726) and the ambulance. This series was also 24 volt and entered service in 1967 and was dropped in 1969, due to problems with the engine and other maintenance issues. The M-725 we had was an Air Force version, but we repainted it in army colors. With a six cylinder, 130 horsepower engine, it was pretty good on the road, and Gene used it to to the M-38 to meets. The CJ-5s were simple working farm vehicles, with one having a snow plow to keep the driveway open in winter. And unlike the other jeeps, that one had a heater/defroster.
A gallery of photos follows:
The farm workhorse. The CJ2A that started it all, on one of the farm roads to the wood lot where it spent a lot of time. It carried me over to fell the trees and cut and split the wood and then went back the next year to pick up the dried wood and haul it to the barn yard in its trailer. It also was the vehicle the kids first learned to drive, off the highway on the roads around the farm. And it did some pretty impressive acrobatics in the sand pits at the back of the farm. In this picture it is in its final livery, the home done camouflage paint job done in the farmyard. The jeep was a simple beast, without any pollution control, and had the fuel tank mounted behind the driver on the rear bench seat. In this picture, you can see the chain saw case in the back.
The only things connecting the engine to the body were the fuel line, the exhaust pipe, the throttle and the choke. I once changed a ring gear on this jeep in two hours, pulling the engine in the workspace by the side of the barn and pre-heating the ring gear on a charcoal grill before heating more with a torch and dropping it into place on the flywheel. And grilled some chicken for lunch on the charcoal.
The first photo is of the M-38 at the beginning of restoration, with the body off. I sand-blasted the frame and cleaned off all the "extras" added through the years. Same with the body. As I cleand up the body, I found that the original olive-drab paint layer had been the old WW2 flat finish paint, which had been over-painted with the post-war satin finish paint. As I started working on it, the neighbor who had sold it to me dropped by and, when he saw what I was doing, he asked if I wanted the windshield, too. It was half-buried in the manure pile behind his barn, but in the end, cleaned up pretty well. The second photo shows the M-38 completed. About $8-10,000 in restoration costs over several years. The red jeep in the background is the CJ2-A "farm jeep" before the camouflage paint job.
Here's a shot of the painting of the farm jeep. I gave it an all-over coat of a sand color, then the kids went to work with several colors of greens and browns to give the jeep its final color scheme.
This is the M-170 - a CJ-6, basically a CJ-5 with longer wheelbase, but the military version. The "M" designation indicates it is compatible with NATO standards and has the 24 volt electrical system. This particular vehicle was an ambulance, and could carry up to four litters in the back.
The M-725 was also an ambulance built on the 1 1/4 ton Kaiser jeep frame, with a six cylinder 130 horsepower engine. It was a better over-the-road vehicle than the M-38, but still pretty rough. I took and EMT friend for a ride in it once, and her comment was that "Ambulances have certainly improved since this was built". It was a good vehicle to take to a rally however, and it could easily tow the M-38. It was a primitive sort of camper, with the litter racks making four "bunks" in the back.
The first picture shows the M-725 when it arrived at the farm, still in Air Force color. The second shows it after re-painting. The third picture shows the two restored vehicles ready to head out to a rally.
The second CJ2-A. This one was road-worthy and registered. I started to restore it and we took it along to Oklahoma, where it was given to a friend, who had always wanted a jeep.
The second picture shows the two CJ2-As parked by the barn, with the blue one undergoing some engine work.
Here are a couple of photos of the south side of the barn with various jeeps in various states of repair, restoration, maintenance, or just resting. We called it the "dis-assembly line".
One of the better things about the zany hobby of restoring old military vehicles is that you get to meet other people with similar interests or obsessions. In our case, we met up with the Merrimack Valley Military Vehicles Collectors Club and went to numerous rallies, trail rides, and parades with that group over several years. They held a big rally every year at Weare, NH. The first picture shows a few of the vehicles at the Weare Rally in 1993 and the second photo is of the club and family members on a fall trail ride.