Things To Consider When Purchasing A CJ Jeep For Restoration

Things To Consider When Purchasing A CJ Jeep For Restoration
May 4 2022

The popularity of the early CJ Jeeps is exploding as enthusiasts race to get their hands on classic jeeps of days gone by. Specifically, the WWII-eraWillys MB and early Willys CJ-2A and CJ-3A are among the most sought-after models, followed closely by the Korean War-era M38 Jeeps. These early models are affectionally referred to as the flat-fender or flattie and have long been a crowd favorite for modernizing.

However, with a growing interest in outfitting Jeeps for off-roading adventures, finding one to rebuild and restore is becoming more complex. For those die-hard Jeep fans ready to purchase and rebuild an old Willy back to its glory, here are some aspects to look for when shopping for a classic jeep.

Interior And Dashboard

It's challenging to find an early Willy Jeep with an original dash as, over time, many get chopped up for various non-factory gauges and radios or CBS. Many people won't mind the changes to the dash, but if you are hoping to restore a flat-fender to its glory days, you will need to find one that still has its factory large-diameter steering wheel and seat frames.

Custom seat cushions and covers can easily be added, and even replacement steering wheels can be found; however, flat-fender dashes are different. The flat-fender dashes don't unbolt like the later CJ-5 and CJ-6 models, so restoring a butchered one requires extensive sheet metal repair.

Flatfender Tailgate, Taillights, And Tow Hitch

The back end of these vehicles is similar to their dashboards as they often get chopped to the point of no return. During the 1960s and 1970s, it was common to remove the back of the flat-fender's tub and install tail light packages. Not all replacement tailgates are stamped with "Willys," so a tailgate with a blank center is most likely a reproduction.

While a tow-hitch is a nice feature on a Jeep, it may interfere with the Willys' off-road departure angle and has since been removed from the vehicle. If you want the factory tow hitch added, remember you'll need to ensure the frame rails and rear cross-member of the jeep are sound.

Flatfender Frame And Windglass

The flat-fender had a variety of windshield types, such as fixed glass, kick-out glass, central vents, and vestigial vents. You can often transplant these windshields across the different models and remain faithful to the era. When you are shopping for the vehicle, consider that you may have to accept an aftermarket frame or factor in the cost of a used frame that fits the model into your price negotiations.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot to consider when purchasing a flat-fender for restoration, but with the specialized Willy's parts available at quality dealers, you will be pleased with the outcome.

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