Blog entry #3 August 8, 2013 – History of our Jeep

1950 Willys-Overland Jeep Station Wagon – 2012

History of our Jeep

                 Engine:            134 cu. in. 4 Cylinder “F” head
                                    72 hp @ 4,000 rpm
                 Transmission:          3 Speed Column Shift
                                        2 Wheel Drive with electronically Actuated

                  7 days to the start of out trek

As we approach the start of our trek on August 15, 2013, we thought you might enjoy learning something of the history of our Jeep.

In 1977 we found our 1950 Willys Overland Jeep Station Wagon advertised in the local paper in Saline, Michigan, our city of 5,000 people.  Years earlier, I had rebuilt a few cars and thought that monkeying around with a “project car” would provide a little diversion from my job as a plastics engineer.

The ad caught my attention because the wagon was a 2-wheel drive model with overdrive, similar to one I had driven as a fraternity pledge when eight of my pledge mates and I “deposited” one of our fraternity brothers in the Kentucky countryside; a six hour drive from our college in central Ohio.

Overdrive is a must for touring with the early Jeeps, as the combination of a 538:1 rear end and a 135 cu. in. 72 hp 4-cylinder “F” head engine that doesn’t like to cruise above 2800 rpm, would otherwise restrict sustained top speed to less that 40 mph.  The 1.3 to 1 electrically actuated overdrive raises the cruising speed to over 50 mph!

I thought the wagon would make a fun project because it was relatively simple (no power equipment or solid state devices) and the asking price was within reach for a guy with a wife and 2 preteens.  The Jeep had been manufactured at the Willys-Overland plant in Toledo, Ohio, and then purchased by a gentleman in Biloxi, Mississippi for $1885.10.  In the mid ‘70s it was transported to Michigan where we purchased it for $250.

When my asked by my wife how long it would take to get the car into decent running condition (it had no brakes, was badly “bio-degrading” and smoked a lot), I told her 6 months tops.  Wisely, she added two years to my estimate, as that was the time it took for me to do the original restoration in our family garage.


           Before restoration – 1977                               6 months into restoration – 1977

We lived in Michigan, and the engine rebuild came up during the winter; so naturally, I convince my wife that it was imperative that the engine be assembled in the controlled temperature of our family room.  She was good-natured about it, but did complain that the cylinder block did not make a good end table, as her wine glass kept falling into the cylinder bores.

While in Michigan, we had many fond memories of our preteen age girls sitting on the tailgate as we participated in local parades.  As originally envisioned, we also put the Jeep Wagon to work hauling construction materials for many home projects.

When we moved to Cary, North Carolina in 1992, we brought the Jeep to that location.  That year we founded Applied Technologies, Inc., a product design and engineering firm in Cary.  Once again, the Jeep was called upon to haul materials for several home projects.  With the rear seats removed and the tailgate down, the wagon will hold 22 bales of pine straw!  It was still in decent enough shape to run in a parade or two.  This time my grandchildren sat on the tailgate.

In 2000, after 20+ years of outdoor storage and moderate use, it was time to either sell the Jeep to someone who would probably convert it into an off-road monster, or re-restore it myself.  Fortunately, my wife encouraged me to keep the wagon and bring it back to its earlier “beauty”.   With some skilful assistance with the body prep and painting, we went back through the jeep, replacing the windows and rubber components, re-chromed much of the bright work and refreshed the interior and drive train.

Shortly after the second restoration, we took time off from our engineering business to take the wagon on a 2 week tour of North Carolinas’s Outer Banks and second trip to western Pennsylvania that included a stop in Charlottesville, VA, a run down the Blue Ridge Parkway to Boone, NC, and a return to our home in Cary, NC via Pilot Mountain, NC.

In 2002, we found and restored a 1959 Hobie long board.   We built a custom set of roof racks to mount the 9’ 6” long, 45 lb. surfboard on the Jeep.  This addition seems to have broadened the age group of curios onlookers.

The original owner had purchased a warrantee that entitled the owner to a free inspection every month or 1000 miles at an authorized Willys Overland dealer.  Since Willys Overland Motors, Inc. became Willys Motor Company in 1953, which was then purchased by Kaiser-Jeep Corporation in 1963, which in turn was purchased by American Motors Corporation in 1970, which was then purchased by Chrysler Corporation in 1987, which merged with Daimler-Benz in 1998, I wonder if my local Mercedes dealer will honor the warrantee.

We have found (actually always suspected) that there are not too many people strange enough to have restored a Willys Jeep Station Wagon.  As we travel back roads or display the wagon, this fact, plus its weirdly attractive appearance, have provided us with the opportunity to talk to many warm and interesting people.  I particularly enjoy hearing people reminisce of their personal experiences with early Jeep Station Wagons.  So far, I have not heard of anyone else who used one for kidnapping.

In the fall of 2002, after being won over by the enthusiasm of a Club member, we joined the Triangle Chapter of the Antique Automobile Club of America.  We have since been participating in many of the activities conducted by the fine members of this organization.

In 2003, we drove the Jeep to Biloxi, Mississippi to show it to its original owners who were then in their early 90’s.  We have subsequently driven it to Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania; as well as Florida, Tennessee, and Kentucky for AACA national events.

Blog Entry #2 August 7, 2013 - Engine Preparations
Blog entry #4 August 15, 2013 – On the road; Cary, NC to Johnson City, TN