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A Celebration of Working Jeeps

Posted in Events on September 29, 2015
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Jeep rallies occur all over the fruited plain, but we can't think of one quite like the Willys Jeep Rally in southern Ohio. Typically occurring in the spring of the year, it has the elements found in just about any other Jeep rally: It features a show-n-shine, parts vendors, a trail ride, presentations by Jeep experts, and the chance to create a focal point in the Jeep universe with like-minded people. It has one other thing most Jeep rallies don't: working Jeeps at work.

If you didn't know that the first civilian Jeeps were built primarily as work vehicles and not for recreation, then you've been skipping Jeep class. When civilian Jeeps first hit the market in 1945, only a tiny percentage of people used a Jeep for the types of recreation we do today. The majority of Jeep buyers put them to work, and an entire aftermarket existed to build the tools and accessories needed to create the vehicular equivalent of a Leatherman multitool. Remember, these were the days of everything to everyone, when a department store like Sears had everything needed for modern life, from socks and underwear to a car. Along those lines, a plethora of products existed to put your Jeep to work in ways not seen today. Today we use specialized tools and vehicles for most jobs. Back then you could be out shopping in your Jeep today and plowing the fields tomorrow.

The Jeep collection and restoration hobby has been active for a long time, and once the community got bored with seeing row upon row of restored Jeeps on display, they began looking in other directions. All it took was a quick look back into the history books to see the new direction. Before long, the long-lost accessories of old began reappearing on restored Jeeps. Those working Jeeps from back in the day that had survived their lives of endless toil were dragged out of the woods and restored. These unusual rigs made great eye candy in shows, but the next step in this evolution was to put them back to work. It took a while for the organizers of the Willys Jeep Rally to find a place where working Jeeps could be celebrated with working Jeep demonstrations. However, the Hueston Woods venue has proven to be the ideal headquarters for the event. The 3,000-acre Hueston Woods State Park, near College Station, Ohio, has a great lodge with plenty of space for the show and recreational opportunities for guests. Most important is the nearby John Ittel farm, where the demonstrations take place. John is a well-known collector of working Jeeps, and his large farm has plenty of room for the demos, plus enough acreage for a vintage Jeep trail ride.

About 100 Jeeps were on display or being demonstrated, and there were a lot of visitors walking through the static display at the lodge and taking the shuttle to demonstrations at the Ittel farm a few miles away. The Fat Boys Jeep Club and the Miami Valley Four Wheelers helped with the event. If this sounds like fun to you, or you have a working Jeep you want to show off, get ready because the 2016 Willys Jeep Rally is slated for June 3-4, 2016. See you there!

John Ittel (white hat, hands on controls) demonstrated the use of a '50s vintage Model GW-125 Jeep-a-Trench from Auburn Machine Works. The Jeep-a-Trench came in several varieties over the years. This one could cut an 8-inch trench up to 5 feet deep. The unit combined gear and hydraulics to run the digging ladder, the auger-conveyer, and propel the Jeep slowly forward or backward. The unit weighs about 1,800 pounds, and the kit included overload coil springs. Required Jeep options were a front PTO, governor, heavy-duty rear springs, 265-pound front bumper weight, and 7.00-15 tires. These units tended to be very hard on the Jeep chassis so intact survivors are uncommon. This one is mounted on a '60 CJ-5.

In the foreground, the red '53 CJ-3A is running the conveyer belt via a rear PTO and a shaft. The Pasture Green '46 CJ-2A half-cab in the background is running a '40s McCormick 10C hammer mill via a rear drum PTO and a belt to turn corn cobs into feed. Belt driven implements were common in agriculture from the first steam-driven power sources of the 1800s to well into the 1950s. Several companies offered drum PTOs for Jeeps but 10-spline, 540-rpm shaft drives replaced belts in most applications. In 1953, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, home of the Tractor Test Lab, tested a '53 CJ-3A Farm Jeep, and it produced 35.23 belt horsepower at 2400 rpm.

Here is an all-star vintage lineup. Mike Mark's restored Potomac Gray '48 CJ-2A is in the foreground, complete with a rear PTO, chaff screen, and front weight. And yes, the red seats are factory! At the far end is Art Contoni's low-mile, unrestored '48 CJ-2A, also with a front weight, chaff screen, and rear PTO. In the center is Don Hartzell's Normandy Blue '46 stick shift.

When the 75 hp F-134 engine was introduced in 1950, everyone wanted to swap out their flatheads for the more powerful F-head. On the low hood jeeps, the problem was clearance because of the overhead intake valves. Some hackmeisters simply cut a hole in the hood. Other used shorter carbs (the short Holly from the Ford 144ci six was common) or oddball air filter arrangements. Some went with a sidedraft Carter. There was a vintage kit to install a sidedraft Carter YH carburetor on F-134 engines. We're not sure who did the kit but have seen several. So far, the commonality is they all seem to have been found on Jeeps from Colorado. We have a feeling the late, great Mile-Hi Jeep Club in Denver might have had a hand in them. The YH was used in triple form on the '53-'54 Corvette Blue Flame Six and was seen also on the turbo Corvair. Doug Timme's '48 CJ-2A was converted to an F-head long before he restored it, and he decided to leave the vintage conversion in place.

Vendors were on-hand selling everything from arts and crafts to NOS parts, and there was also a swap-meet area.

Well known Jeep and AMC historian and author Patrick Foster was on hand to sell and sign books, as well as give a presentation on Jeep history at the banquet.

Johnny Morris and Zack Sheppard from Beckley, West Virginia, were selling a staggering array of NOS Jeep parts from WWII into the AMC era. Brand-new cylinder heads still in paper, new GPW connecting rods, and gasket sets sill in the W-O boxes were only a few of the NOS goodies to ogle.

Watching Jeep machinery at work is how to gauge your level of Jeep-geekness. If you enjoy watching John Ittel make holes with a '50s-era Danhouser posthole auger on a '53 CJ-3B, then you classify at least to Jeep-geek Level 2. If you'd rather do anything else, including watching paint dry, Jeep-geekness isn't one of your problems. The restored '53 CJ-3B is using the auger on a rare Stratton three-point hydraulic lift. And since everyone always asks, those are tires from a skidloader.

One of the perennial favorites of the show is Rick Riley's unrestored '66 CJ-5 with a Go-For Digger. It worked at a mine in Wyoming before landing a spot in Riley's extensive collection of Jeeps. The fun part is that Riley lets you try it out, which is fun to do and watch. The Digger conversion included a narrowed Dana 70 DRW rear axle, a lot of frame support, an 11 gpm pump, and a front blade for filling in the trenches.

Young Michael Verst will not soon forget his chance at the controls of the '66 Go-For Digger. Likely, it will be something he tells his own children about someday. Think of Alan Jackson's 2002 song, Drive.

By the time this '63 CJ-5 was built, Jeep had moved past pushing the agricultural pursuits hard, but the pieces to do so were still available. Even with only a one-bottom plow and mellow ground, the Jeep is working pretty hard. In about 15 minutes of steady work, the diffs get hot enough to be uncomfortable for an ungloved hand.

The white '63 CJ-5 mounts a Newgren hydraulic lift, a design that fit completely under the Jeep. A Newgren single-bottom plow is being used. In the right soil, a two-bottom plow is possible, but that's maximum effort for Jeeps, generally speaking. Jeeps never made good tractors, and the work is very hard on the drivetrain in the long term. When properly adjusted, you can cut an 8 to 10-inch-deep furrow.

This '63 CJ-5 mounts a Stratton hydraulic lift, another of the designs that fit under the body. It's using a blade of unknown manufacture to smooth plow furrows from the previous demo. This could be used by a rural landowner to maintain a dirt or gravel road, and this is one job where an old Jeep can still be useful. Some of Ittel's Jeeps are set up with hydraulic lifts in back and snowplows up front, which could make for a very useful Jeep for a person in the country.

Ittel's Michigan Yellow '46 CJ-2A has a lot of neat options. The half cab is one of the better and more weather-tight designs but was only offered for a couple of years early on. It also mounts a Monroe hydraulic lift, which is carrying a '50s-era Cherokee hydraulic mixer. The Jeep's Hy-Vo hydraulic pump is also running a hydraulic motor on the auger that is transferring shelled corn from the grain wagon in the background to the mixing drum or the trailer via the hose Ittel is moving. The duals were an aftermarket kit for providing more stability for hydraulic lift-equipped Jeeps

The various aftermarket hydraulic systems could power a variety of machinery, including tools like this '60s-era Von Runden chainsaw. Ittel has had it on static display at previous shows but got it operational and demonstrated it for the first time in 2015. Here, two lumberjack wannabes saw through a log to the delight of a small, but admiring, crowd.

The Von Runden hydraulic chainsaw runs from a rear PTO-driven pump (green color) attached to a splined rear PTO. This CJ-3B is also running a Newgren hydraulic lift and Newgren bucket scoop.

Ittel's white '63 CJ-5 is running a belt-driven ‘30s vintage Wisconsin Pulverizer and turning rocks into gravel. This is how a guy could make his own gravel for a road if he had the time and the Jeep. The Jeep was actually working pretty hard here.

The '64 CJ-6 is towing an Allstate single-wheel Jeep trailer full of corn and also carrying a Hesse Hornet air portable compressor. The compressor uses a Jeep L-head engine in which cylinders one and four provide the horsepower and two and three are adapted to make compressed air. It uses an extra-heavy flywheel to help balance out the pulses but it only runs a little more than 1,000 rpm. This is a Hornet Model H unit that could supply 33 cfm at 120 psi running at about 850 rpm. We have one '50s vintage brochure that indicates these were often used in the tire industry on service trucks.

When Tom Ogle started as a letter carrier in 1980, he drove a '76 DJ-5 Postal Jeep just like this. What did he do when he retired from the Postal Service in 2012? Buy a '76 Postal Jeep and restore it. His display, with him wearing period Post Office attire, was one of the more popular and fun at the show.

Well, yeah, it does have a Hemi. It's a '50s vintage 392ci Chrysler Hemi V-8 that's been massaged a bit. Bill and Penny Hixenbaugh did a spectacular resto-mod on a '56 Wagon, and they drive it a lot. The Hemi hands power off to a built 700R4 and a Ford 9-inch rear axle. It's wicked fast!

Rick Keighley’s ’49 CJ-3A has a lot of show, along with a lot of go. It has a Ford 302ci V-8 with a T-18 behind it, and a Model 18 with the 2.46:1 gears from a Model 20 inside. The transfer case also features a Warn overdrive for cruising to the trail. Dana 44s are used at both ends with 5.38:1 ratios and ARB Air Lockers

Alan Johnson's '43 Willys MB is a veteran on a couple of fronts. The less obvious is that it participated in the 2012 MVPA (Military Vehicle Preservation Association) Alaska Highway Convoy, which covered 4,100 miles. Johnson used this trailer as a home away from home, and we think he also camped out at the Rally.

Harold Harrison's early Willys Ratrod Pickup got our attention. We particularly liked the nice bodywork on the grille that gives it that steam locomotive cowcatcher look.

John Ittel made a mild, but fun, trail on his farm that covered 6 miles and took about an hour to run. OK, it wasn't hardcore, but it was the best the area had to offer and wasn't too tough for the old Jeeps.

You don't often see restored military Jeeps on trail rides but it's always a treat when you do. Alan Johnson's '43 is no hanger queen, having driven the entire distance of the Alcan Highway towing a trailer in 2012. He obviously isn't afraid to get it dirty either.

Don Hartzell enjoyed stretching his '46 CJ-2A's legs a little on the trail ride. This is the first time this Jeep saw dirt after a two-year restoration. It's a mid-year production stick shift '46 with a largely unknown history prior to being used for many years as an ornament in an Indianapolis bar. Hartzell also has a '42 Ford GPW and a '44 MB.


Willys Jeep Rally
Hueston Woods State Park

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