This '51 Willys CJ-3A is perhaps one of the finest examples of a classic adventure vehicle we have yet to run across. In some respects, this clean little Jeep is a historical monument to the friends and family of its owners that have been exploring the deserts and mountains of California for the past 50 years.
This particular beauty of a Willys was owned by Tom Davis of Arcadia, California. Unfortunately, Tom has passed on to greater trails, so we never had the chance to meet him in person. We would have loved to have spoken with him in great detail about his Jeep. Tom purchased and rebuilt the Jeep in 1982. As you can tell, he spent many nights in the garage rebuilding, tinkering, fabricating,and polishing this little gem. All the work was completed by Tom with a little help from his brother, Jon Davis, and a few close friends. Tom fiddled with this Willys so much that somewhere along the line it became known as "the other woman."
Powering the CJ-3A is a 153ci Chevy four-cylinder engine. This was a very popular swap for flatfenders. The engine was completely rebuilt using TRW forged pistons, polished and shot-peened rods, a Howard cam and Clifford geardrive, a custom-built intake manifold, a Carter AFB 575-cfm four-barrel carburetor, a Deuce Factory coolant overflow tank, and the engine was balanced and blueprinted. A Ford Top Loader four-speed transmission (gets its name because it has an access cover on the top of the main case) pushes its power through a Model 18 transfer case. The Willys front axle is a Dana 25, and the rear is a full-floating Dana 44. Both axles were fitted with Powr-Lok limited-slip differentials for traction and geared to 5.38:1. At each end of the axles, 11-inch Jeep station wagon brakes were used for increased stopping power. The CJ rolls on 15x8 Kelsey Hayes wheels with 32x10.5R15 BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires.
The adventure trailer is genuine Willys and was initially converted to a camp rig back in 1948. When Tom got a hold of it, he completely stripped it by sandblasting, primed and prepped it, and then shot it with a coat of PPG Dove Gray acrylic enamel to match the Jeep. The trailer sleeps three people with WWII Navy bunks - two bunks fold out to either side of the trailer with one bunk inside. As you can see, the trailer is fitted with a full complement of camping storage and gear.
The interior of the Jeep speaks for itself. It is clean and looks as good as factory if not better. The dashboard displays Stewart-Warner gauges. The steering column and turn signals are Ford. According to the serial number on the old Ramsey 8,000-pound PTO winch, it's one number off the winch that sits on President Reagan's Jeep CJ at Rancho del Cielo in Santa Barbara, California. It's hard to imagine this Jeep sold for a little over $1,000 brand-new, but all things are relative. We have no idea what the future holds for this little Willys, but maybe someday, generations from now, it will find itself in a museum for all to enjoy.