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The 50 year 1955 Willys CJ 3B saga.

Discussion in 'Jeep CJ Builds' started by MTgeezer, May 7, 2022.

  1. May 7, 2022 at 2:35 PM
    #1
    MTgeezer

    MTgeezer [OP] Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2022
    Member:
    #6297
    Messages:
    33
    Gender:
    Male
    First Name:
    John
    Vehicle:
    55 CJ 3B
    Everything. sbc/AGEM22W/"Super"D18/D44s-ARBs/glass-Aluminum tub-fenders-hood-grill
    The saga of 50 years ownership of a 1955 CJ 3B-the golden anniversary . This is sort of a multi build thread which one could argue is still stuck in the 70’s. The 3B had 26k on the odometer when I purchased it in 1972, was completely stock except for the reinforcement the previous machine shop owner had added for a shop built snowplow. It sported the factory ½ cab soft top along with all the usual rust and dents. I have only a single photo of it as received:

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    You can see the Meyers hydraulic snowplow lift in that photo. It was mounted to a piece of 4x10x1/2” angle the full width of the stock bumper and plug welded to the bumper (it was hell to remove without destroying the stock bumper). The shop had also boxed the frame horns and added ¼” fishplate to the outside of the frame rails extending rearward past the spring hangers. That gap in the fish platting was filled in in build No 4.

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    The Willys was driven as received for about a year until I burned a couple of exhaust valves in the 134 F head trying to pull a SMALL U-Haul from Colorado to Montana with it.

    Enter “build” No 1. That build consisted of transplanting a 62 Chevy 327 in it with no other changes other than a poorly fitted used CJ 5 Whitco top. At this point, the odometer still had only maybe 30k on it and the Ross box steering/9” brakes were in good condition. I built the 327 with 0.030 TRW forged 11:1 pistons, Crane solid lifer cam and the “big” Chevy heads. The result, with the stock 5.38 gears was a bit of a sleeper. Alas, that engine succumbed to a crack in the rear of no 5 cylinder in late 74, not an uncommon occurrence in those early 4” blocks. The only existing photo of build No 1:

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    Sooooo, in early 1975 the frame off Build No 2 began. The chassis came together pretty quickly with a boxed frame, 1970 LT1 sbc, Muncie M20, Dana 18, stock D25 front axle and a warmed over 19 spline full float D44 with a Powr-Loc at the rear. A manual Saginaw steering box from a 73 Vette and 11x2” Bendix brakes were used. The battery was relocated under the bed behind the driver’s seat. A fiberglass tub and fenders were obtained. The project at that point (early 77) hit a bit of a two year hiatus when I took another job in another state and didn’t get much accomplished on the Willys for a couple of years. Following a return to Montana in 78, work resumed. It should stated the glass tub I got was for a 2A/3A and took a bit of work to turning it into a 3B tub. I made a few other changes to it in the process like a firewall recess for more sbc distributor room, added a glove box, and built tool boxes in the rear wheel wells. That tub is still on it, little modified since. The Willys still had the 5.38 gears but a Warn overdrive made it much more highway friendly. Another sleeper to say the least but that LT1 wasn’t too happy off road.

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    The seats were mid 70’s Subaru seats mounted to a beneath the floor square tube “subframe”.

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    By late 79, it was back on the road.

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    I had purchased an aftermarket steel hood for it (MD Juan?) but it fit so poorly the Willys got run for a while without one. I then made a “Saturday night special” with fiberglass sheet over a welded aluminum frame. The “special” actually lasted a couple of decades and some of that frame still resides under the current hood.

    The “Saturday night special” , North Meadow/McKelvey Lake trail near Cliff Lake, 1996.

    [​IMG]

    I ran the LT1 350 for about two years, the last year dumbed down quite a bit with a pair of 76 cc, 194 truck heads and a Performer cam which worked pretty well off road. But the replacement engine for that 350 was underway within the first year. It was a 381 sbc built with all GM parts. That engine was build No. 3. Also at that time, the GM truck radiator used for the 350 was swapped for a 19x26 Modine 4 row brass cross flow with a steel shroud, it received four wheel power disc brakes (78-81 CJ D30 parts), power was added to the 73 Corvette steering, and it received 2 ½” Rancho lift springs and RS5000 shocks. A new, large index D18 case was built with a Tera Low 3.15:1 gear set when those hit the market. In addition, when Auto Gear Equipment came out with their M22W, the Muncie M20 was also replaced. Over the subsequent 3 plus decades, cams, heads, induction were changed several times on the 381 with the last iteration equipped with Edelbrock’s RPM aluminum heads and Pro-Flo 2 EFI.

    A few Build No. 3 photos:

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    All the skid protection was also replaced with welded up 6061 aluminum versions about 2008 and a 24.5 gallon fuel tank/filler fabricated to replace the rear mounted 11 gallon Con-Ferr version that had resided there since 1975.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    To be continued.
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2022
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