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Flatski Proves That Old Jeeps Never Die

Posted in Features on July 23, 2015
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If a Jeeper from the late ’40s or ’50s somehow managed to time travel to present day, they would be absolutely blind-sided. Putting aside the hundreds of technological and cultural advancements, the Jeep market would be an alien world. The JK Wrangler especially would be so far out of their imagination they likely wouldn’t believe it had the same DNA running through it as the CJ-2A they were just bouncing around in.

Now let’s take a trip down memory lane with Eric Filar’s “Flatski,” a ’46 Willys CJ-2A that got lost in time. Filar and his twin brother, more commonly known as The Filarski Brothers, were born into the off-road world. They have been involved in every aspect of the off-road lifestyle since they were old enough to drive. Rockcrawling, desert racing, and even winning the Baja 1000 four times over the years in various classes have kept them in tune with their passion. During that time Filar had always lusted after a stock flatfender. It finally came to be through a series of unlikely events.

Willys CJ-2As are some of the most recognizable Jeeps ever built. These little beasts are what started the craze, after all.
The CJ-2A isn’t a very big vehicle. The tiny footprint and versatile components make for an agile off-roader.

Filar’s friend, George, was headed from Colorado to meet up with him for a Baja 1000 prerun. Unfortunately, George broke the ring-and-pinion in his prerunner the day before he was to leave. Filar, who lives in Southern California, told him to head down anyway as he had a spare 9-inch third member out of his Jeepspeed racecar they could install.

For the next two years after the successful prerun, George would continually ask Filar what he owed him for the parts. The answer was always the same: “Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out down the road.” George then called Filar and asked if he had any interest in a junky old flatfender he had been admiring a few months prior. A quick “yes” popped out and suddenly the two were squared up.

The Flatski had its original Dana 41 pulled out some time ago. An iconic Dana 44 out of a ’50 CJ was put in its place.
The leaf-spring suspension was simple and effective, and it was so easy to service and modify that it was used in Jeeps until ’95 when the YJ was discontinued.
The Flatski rolled off the factory line with a Dana 25 front axle that similar to the slightly larger Dana 30. Note the closed knuckles and drum brakes.

Filar’s intention was to leave the ’46 flatfender bone-stock in nearly every way. He rebuilt the stock Carter carburetor, adjusted the brakes, and dropped a Lock-Right into the rearend. Then he took it out on the trails. The setup was no rollcage, windshield folded down, and wielding the tin-cup cup holders.

The original Go Devil flathead four-cylinder engine pushes out about 60 hp. That’s a meager number compared to a Pentastar V-6, but the Willys weighs so little, it’s generally plenty of power for tackling the terrain it ventures over. Backed by the original three-speed T90 manual transmission and a Spicer Model 18 transfer case, the Flatski has a high level of reliability. The vintage-style rubber and original wheels are bolted to a Dana 25 front axle and a 10-spline Dana 44 rearend nabbed from a ’50 CJ. The differentials are loaded with 5.38 ratio gears that are great for the rocks, though they do limit the top speed at around 40-50 mph. The suspension is entirely stock.

With 134ci of Go Devil glory motivating the Flatski, it goes down the trail. Sixty horsepower isn’t much, but it’s enough for this Willys to get the job done.

A minimalist interior still fills the tub. The original Willys/Jeep badge still sits on the passenger side of the dash, and an “Everything is going to be OK” sticker reminds the occupants this real American vehicle will get through whatever it’s on. The original 10-gallon fuel tank remains below the driver seat, and a usable, era-correct ice chest is bungeed down in the rear of the tub to keep a few cold drinks on hand.

CJ-2As didn’t have much for an interior. A steering wheel and a pair of seats were just about it.
Vintage tin cans are screwed to the floorboard for convenient cold beverage storage. The original fuel tank sits below the driver seat just as it did from the factory.
One of best parts of Flatski’s interior is the original Willys Jeep plate still on the dash.

The Flatski isn’t about getting from point A to B; it’s purely about the experience. Not only does it regularly hit the trails at Ocotillo Wells and Big Bear, California, Filar uses it on a daily basis to pick up his six-year-old daughter from school. “I love the looks on the faces of all the soccer moms in their new SUVs when I pull up with the windshield down and tailpipe puffing out smoke.” Filar explains.

There are no plans to make any modifications to the little rig. Filar says he wants it to age like a fine wine. The green paint is slowly falling away to reveal the original yellow and that is just how he likes it. A whopping 6,100 miles have ticked over on the original odometer and there will be plenty more added. The best thing he has done to it, in his words, is the Lock-Right. This has allowed him and his little Jeep to go places that many wouldn’t believe possible.

Filar is happy with the natural patina his little CJ is rocking. The original yellow is poking through with very little rust.
Small and nimble, that’s the game. The short wheelbase and narrow track width allow this little flatfender to have lots of line options on the trail.

On Father’s Day weekend, the Flatski went through the John Bull, which is Big Bear’s most difficult off-road trail. Countless JKs have traversed the John Bull, most typically on 35s or 37s, and this stock CJ-2A ran through it with no problem. The narrow body and 80-inch wheelbase helped the Willys to have many more line options around or over obstacles than larger vehicles. Decades of vehicles with larger tires have changed the terrain, made holes bigger, ruts wider, and turns more technical, but the The Flatski still handles them with ease.

A stock flatfender doesn’t have a whole lot of flex in the suspension. It makes up for it though with its extremely light weight.

The Flatski is a true testament to the heritage of the hobby and passion. Going bigger can be loads of fun, though it isn’t necessary. Even a stock Wrangler, while not nearly as cool as a stock flatfender, can find a place on the dirt roads we enjoy.

The Flatski fits through places that would make a JK driver build up beads of nervous sweat. Tight turns are easy as pie with a wheelbase that is two-thirds that of the modern-day Jeep.
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