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1947 Willys CJ-2A On A Budget

Posted in Features on April 18, 2017
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There are many contributing factors to building a successful off-road toy. For most, the budget it the biggest. Bill Kreisel of Folsom, California, was in the middle of building a trophy truck, but progress was slow and he got bored. When Bill got bored and the new race truck was draining his budget, he got creative.

It all started with a rusted out ’47 Willys CJ-2A tub. With no chassis under it, Bill had to figure out what he wanted to do. He quickly found a great deal on a DJ-5 mail Jeep and liberated the chassis and running gear from it. “The marriage of the two was surprisingly easy,” Bill explained. “The frame width and mounting positions are almost identical.” He even kept the right-hand-drive arrangement.

The “CJDJ” stood out in the massive sea of motorized recreational vehicles of all sizes and shapes that sprawled over the floor of Johnson Valley during King of The Hammers.

To make enough room for the postal Jeep’s 258ci six-cylinder, he mounted a GPW grille 4 inches farther out and stretched the hood to match. The body of the Jeep had lots of rust, but Bill was good with that. He welded in tube substructure places where the panels had turned into Swiss cheese. To get to the patina Bill wanted, all the paint and body filler was sanded off. He then washed it with acid and had a three-day-long salt water spray done. Once the finish was to his liking, he coated it with PPG-2042 clear coat.

Bill kept the stock AMC postal powerplant (4.2L I-6) under the hood, and it is backed up by a TorqueFlite 727 automatic transmission. The stock driveshaft runs to a Dana 44 rear axle loaded with a PowerLoc and 3.08 gear set. The front suspension was left mostly stock while the rear was dropped about 4 inches, and the factory mail Jeep drum brakes were retained at all four corners.

The 4.2L inline-six was left alone, with the exception of the modern-day cone air filter. The GPW’s grille was pushed out 4 inches to make enough room for it.

Why This Jeep

We found this little two-wheel drive Willys at King of The Hammers, and it bombed around pretty well. The ’47 CJ-2A on a mid-’80s postal frame is light and nimble, fun to wheel, and cheap. Bill said he has less than $1,000 into it, not including the wheels and tires.

Vehicle: ’47 Willys CJ-2A

Chassis: ’80s DJ-5 Mail Jeep
Engine: 4.2L I-6
Transmission: TorqueFlite 727
Transfer Case: N/A
Suspension: Stock leafs (front), spring-under rear with custom leaf springs (rear), and Monroe shocks all around
Axles: Two-wheel drive beam with stock outers and drum brakes (front), Dana 44 with PowerLoc and 3.08 gears
Wheels: Pro Comp Steelies
Tires: General 31x1050R15

Bill kept the right-hand drive set up during the rebuild. It makes the little Willys even more unique.
The new tires and wheels cost as must as the rest of the vehicle, but made a huge improvement in the Willys’ driveability.
The basic rollbar, chopped windshield, and natural patina add to the ratrod look Kreisel was after on this build. Bill had considered stripping the paint off the tailgate but has grown to like it just the way it is.
The front beam doesn’t serve much purpose beyond keeping the tires connected to the suspension. Even missing a front driving axle, the CJDA is a solid and vey functional dirt-road cruiser. And no, the image is not flipped—that is a right-hand-drive steering system.
The nature-made dirt removal system is great when it’s time to clean up. Just don’t drop anything while driving!
Bill built the rock rails that tie directly into the frame. They also help keep the body from falling apart due to rust.
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