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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.