Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Year of the Jeep

After months of searching, we finally found a jeep for my son. Spending countless hours watching e-bay I began to realize that the same jeeps were bought in Michigan and then three weeks later appearing in New York again at a higher price. It finally got to the point where I gave up looking and came to the conclusion that if it were meant to happen, then it would happen. And then it happened.

What started as a 1954 Willies M38A1 that had been sitting in a garage about 5 miles from the house waiting to be restored by an 85 year old man, became our new project . My friend Jim and I went out and hooked it up to his truck. As we prepared to leave, the gentleman motioned for me to take a couple of boxes of jeep stuff he wouldn't be needing anymore. Those boxes ended up containing brand new brake parts. Not some brake parts, but every brake part needed to redo the brakes. Master cylinder, wheel cylinders, brake shoes, brake lines. The entire brake system in a box. So I drag it home and the kid and I start the renovation/restoration process. Install all the new brake parts, new u-joints, change all the fluids, re-pack the wheel bearings, etc.

Look down through the floor boards and see grass, but that is a later project that can come after we get it running.

Then began the getting it running part. Should be easy for me...this is what I do for a living. What began as a simple carburator rebuild turned into a major journey to locate a submersible Carter single barrel carburator. Seems the reason our jeep wouldn't idle was because we were missing the idle jets and a couple of other really important internal components that are necessary in a carburetor. Well, by talking to a couple of local jeep rebuilders, I was directed to an oldtimer in Palatka Fl. The way it was explained to me, this guy has everything and anything related to the military version of the CJ. 2A, 3A, Surrey, Truck, Mutt, trailer, you name it, this guy was supposed to have it. The day finally came where the kid and I could take the time to drive up and meet this gentleman. About an hour and a half later, we arrived at his shop. No sign of the guy and I thought it was going to be a wasted trip. Instead, we found a note tacked to his front door telling everyone where he was. Today, yesterday, the day before, it was about a month long and every day he just added a new log. At the bottom of the list is an invitation to look around and relax, he would return before dark. Well, 20 minutes later here he comes driving down the road with a tub from a CJ2A in the back of his truck. Just had been to the paint shop and picked it up. Seems to be his next project. Well, we spent some time getting to know each other and then he took us on 'the tour'. I saw more jeep parts than I have ever before in my life. About 40 tubs, countless frames, engines, engine parts, doors, hoods, fenders, lights, carburetors, air cleaners, if it was related to a military jeep, he had it. About as long as you are reading this and wondering when I am getting to the climax is about how long it took to get to the carburetor shed. Found an old carburetor, exactly what I needed, then it took another 45 minutes to get to the price. Now think about this for a minute, we have been in a field in Palatka Fl for over three hours now and are just now getting to the reason for the trip. Oh yea, forgot something very important. I was told to bring lots of patience and Deep Woods Off. I, as usual only remembered one of the two items. It seems that Palatka Florida is the mosquito breeding capital of the world. So I am getting eaten alive by the damn things and still haven't gotten a price on this carb yet. In true horse trading tradition, before we could discuss the price, Grandpa George had to show the kid his last project. Sitting in the far corner of his property is a primer grey CJ-5.
Seems he had finished a mechanical revival of this jeep and was waiting for the owner to pay him. It had been a couple of months since he finished it and was going to get a title for it and sell it for what he had in it. Now you have to understand that besides his pickup truck, this Jeep is the only civilian motor vehicle on his 5 acre plot. Well the kid saw this jeep and took a liking to it. I also liked it a lot because my local NAPA store can get me any part for it I would need. No more gallivanting all over central FLA to locate parts. Well, back we go to the shop with a stop at the storage trailer to see a couple of hoods and fenders stored in one of his buses. He has about five storage units on his property and every one of them is on wheels. George says this is easier because then he can move them when he wants. Not sure why he would move them, but's not my show. Back at the shop the talk finally turns to the cost of this carb. Seems 300 bucks is the going rate for a used, complete, military submersible carburetor. Including the snorkle, but not the rubber tubing or clamps. The kid was kinda reluctant to get the carb and go home so I asked him what was up? He sorta looked at me out of the corner of his eye and says he wonders if we could trade jeeps. Trade what jeeps I ask and he says our 54 Willies for his 67 CJ5.
I looked at the kid and told him that it was his jeep, trade if he wants and if he can get a good trade. Damn, that added another hour and a half to the trip. Up shot of the whole trip was that the kid and Grandpa George struck a deal. Cost the kid a couple of bucks kicker, but he got a jeep that ran and was street ready. You can only imagine the kid's mom's expression when we got home from that trip. Not only did we not have a carburetor, but we had traded off the Willies for another Jeep. Couple of weeks later we took another journey up to Palatka with a trailer and brought it home. Wasn't much to look at, but damn it was the kid's.
It is now registered and has become a great little machine to get us fishing, or to the beach.