We all know that a Willys was built to survive pretty much anything you can throw at it, and the owner of this awesome 1953 CJ-3B is a pretty hardy soul as well. Joe Beadenkopf drove this Jeep all the way from Westminster, Maryland, to Phoenix, Arizona, for the 2018 Jp Dirt ’N Drive presented by Jeep—roughly 2,300 miles one way to the starting point, then another 600-plus miles (about half on dirt) to Moab, Utah. You might think that Joe would have had enough seat time upon arriving for the start of Easter Jeep Safari week, but this trip was a small fraction of the miles he has happily driven in his flattie, having racked up a whopping 32,000 miles on it in just over two years.
Joe purchased the 3B as a stock, running Jeep complete with the F134 Hurricane engine four years ago. While he did enjoy its vintage (albeit underpowered) original condition, he knew it could do so much more, and so a process of rebuild and upgrades began. Today, the new and improved cross-continent daily driver is everything Joe wanted in an old flatfender Jeep. We want to thank Joe for being a part of Jp Dirt ’N Drive, and we congratulate him on winning our “Iron Backside” award for traveling the farthest distance to attend.
A Chevy 4.3L Vortec V-6 was Joe’s choice for under the hood. He used a later-model (2001) engine because it had better-flowing heads, but opted for the throttle-body injection system from an earlier-model engine. He says it’s reliable and easy to work on. The brake master cylinder was donated by a 1987 Chevy 1-ton pickup.
Joe started from the ground up when he decided to build his CJ-3B, right down to the 2x4-inch steel frame. The front axle is a Dana 44 from a 78 Scout and holds 4.10 gears and a Detroit Locker. Since the Scout axles are a bit wider than the stock Willys, Beadenkopf moved the spring perches out a bit. He opted for a spring-over axle conversion and it gave him roughly 6 inches of lift. He chose stock Jeep YJ Wrangler leaf springs, added flat-top knuckles, a high-steer kit, and disc brakes.
The rear axle is also a Scout Dana 44 (drum brakes) with a limited slip and 4.10 gears. YJ Wrangler rear leaf springs mounted over the axle and Rancho shocks make up the suspension. The Willys sports dual exhaust and a 15-gallon fuel tank from a Jeep CJ-7 with an internal fuel pump.
Keeping it simple and in the GM family, Joe chose the NV3500 five-speed manual transmission backed by a Dana 300 transfer case. He had to move the engine forward a bit and the rear axle back 2 inches to make it all fit. He also fabricated the crossmember pictured here.
The interior and dash are no frills. Bestop high-back seats, a Jeep CJ-7 steering wheel, custom rollcage, mostly stock gauges, and a steering column–mounted tachometer are the highlights. Our eye was drawn to the magnets mounted on the dash—Joe has driven this Jeep to every state represented, and he took part in the 2017 Alaska or Rust trip, driving every mile from Maryland to Alaska and back.
Jeep CJ-5 aluminum slot wheels give it a bit of bling, and the 33x10.50R15 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires handle the pavement and dirt miles well. The OD Green rattle-can paintjob finished off the vintage look of this wonderful Jeep perfectly.
Vehicle: 1953 Willys CJ-3B
Engine: 2001 Chevrolet 4.3 Vortec V-6 with throttle-body fuel injection
Transmission: NV3500 5-speed manual
Transfer Case: Dana 300
Suspension: Stock Jeep YJ Wrangler leaf springs, spring-over conversion
Axles: Scout Dana 44 (front and rear); 4.10 gears, Detroit Locker (front); LSD (rear)
Wheels: Jeep CJ-5 aluminum slot
Tires: 33x10.5R15 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain