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1948 Willys Overland Jeep Truck - Backward Glances

Posted in Features on February 12, 2014 Comment (0)
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1948 Willys Overland Jeep Truck - Backward Glances

It was more than a little schizophrenic at Willys-Overland after World War II ended. One faction wanted to restart Willys’ car production ASAP. The other wanted to capitalize on the wartime jeep by creating a niche market building the CJ, the Willys Station Wagon and the Willys truck. The latter faction won, more or less, though Willys did get back into the car market for a few years in the ’50s.

What emerged in 1946 and 1947 were the Brooks Stevens-designed Willys Station Wagon and Pickup. The Wagon debuted in 1946 only as a two-wheeler (getting 4WD in 1949), but the pickup emerged in May of 1947 in both two- and four-wheel-drive models. Oddly, the two-wheelers were rated as ½-tons and the 4x4s as 1-tons. Both were powered by the same four-cylinder flathead that had powered the wartime jeep, albeit with a few upgrades and a whopping 3hp rating increase.

Yeah, it was no powerhouse, but what the Willys 4x4 pickup lacked in engine output it made up for by being almost unique in its class. Besides the Dodge Power Wagon, it was the only production 4x4 pickup you could buy. The Power Wagon was bigger and burlier, but costlier and thirstier as well, so the two trucks contrasted enough to share the market well.

The ’47 and early ’48 pickups were nearly the same but detail changes came by midyear of 1948. They had an all-metal stepside bed that measured 80x48.5 inches and the 4x4s were rated for a 5,300-pound GVW with a 3,300-pound curb weight. The pickup’s front wrap and cowl matched the Wagon style but the trim options were a little more basic.

Ron Stauffer’s ’48 Jeep Truck rolled off the line in Army Gray paint and spent the first four or five years of its life in the Army. It was bought surplus by a farm field tile company and was towed behind the ditching machine to the farms where tile was to be laid, then used to haul tile and provide transport to the site. The rest of its history is a blur of hard work and neglect until Stauffer bought it in July of 2006. It was in sad shape, and it took Stauffer almost four years to finish a restoration. He upgraded from the bare-bones Army spec truck to a two-tone Riviera Gray/Bermuda Blue color scheme and added the chrome accoutrements that were optional at the time. Ron Stauffer’s ’48 Jeep Truck rolled off the line in Army Gray paint and spent the first four or five years of its life in the Army. It was bought surplus by a farm field tile company and was towed behind the ditching machine to the farms where tile was to be laid, then used to haul tile and provide transport to the site. The rest of its history is a blur of hard work and neglect until Stauffer bought it in July of 2006. It was in sad shape, and it took Stauffer almost four years to finish a restoration. He upgraded from the bare-bones Army spec truck to a two-tone Riviera Gray/Bermuda Blue color scheme and added the chrome accoutrements that were optional at the time.

The Go Devil four-cylinder was rated for 63 rip-snorting horsepower but was different in many small ways from the wartime engine. A Warner Gear T-90 column-shift backed up the engine, the T-90 having a slightly lower gear spread than the T-90A used in the CJ (3.44:1 First gear versus 2.80:1). The transfer case was the same as the CJ, the Spicer Model 18. The front axle was a Spicer 25, very similar to the CJ, but the rear was a Timken 51540 split housing semi-float rear axle with a 10-inch spiral-bevel ring gear and rated for a 4,800-pound axle load.

The Willys truck was also called the “Jeep Truck” to help capitalize on the wartime exploits of the military jeep. With many upgrades, including the addition of a six-cylinder engine that delivered more-than-adequate power, it was offered for sale through 1965, though production stopped in 1964. By then, it was a very dated truck.

The Jeep truck broke little new ground in its long production life, but was one of the earliest 4x4 pickups a person could buy. Light and compact, it was perfect for many jobs on both the commercial and the private sides. It sold very well through the ‘50s when the other American truck makers finally got wise and began offering a factory 4x4 option. Today, they are a stylish collectable that offers Jeep fans a way to get off the CJ bandwagon.

This ’48 is owned and was restored by Ron Stauffer, who is a noted Indiana car collector and restorer. Ron specializes in ’40s and ’50s Ford V-8 cars and has a collection of show-winning cars in that category. He has a few oddballs in his large collection, including the Willys truck and a ’41 Ford GP prestandardized jeep. He said the style of the Willys trucks has always attracted him, and when he saw the early-style interior, he just had to restore one.

The Details
Vehicle: 1948 Willys-Overland Jeep Truck
Owner: Ron Stauffer
Estimated value: $21,000
Engine: 4-cyl, Willys Go-Devil L-head
Power (hp): 63 @ 4,000 rpm (gross, about 55hp net)
Torque (lb-ft): 105 @ 2,000
Bore & stroke (in): 3.13 x 4.38
Comp. ratio: 6.48:1 (7.0:1 opt.)
Transmission: 3-spd, Warner T-90, column-shift
Transfer case: 2-spd, Spicer 18
Front axle: Spicer 25
Rear axle: Spiral-bevel, Timken 51540, semi-float
Axle ratio: 5.38:1
Tires: 7.00-16
L x W x H (in): 182.5 x 73.16 x 74.5
Wheelbase (in): 118
GVW (lbs): 5,300
Curb weight (lbs): 3,330
Fuel capacity (gal): 15
Min. grd. clearance (in): 8.125
Approach angle (deg): 48
Departure angle (deg): 50
Ramp breakover (deg): N/A

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