“From fighter to farmhand!” was the tagline of one of the earliest civilian Jeep ads that appeared in February, 1945. At that point, the idea of recreational four-wheeling was gestating in the minds of soldiers still in battle and wheeling to live, but Willys saw big potential for a postwar Jeep in the agricultural and commercial markets.
As the government tested the limits of the uses to which a jeep could be put, military jeeps had been “farm tested” at an Alabama USDA tillage lab as early 1942. It was one of the few times they had been found wanting, but the engineers saw potential. Beginning in 1944, the first batches of Civilian Jeep prototypes, dubbed CJ-1, CJ-2, and Agrijeep, were constructed with many upgrades and underwent further testing by the USDA and the ag departments of universities around the country and showed marked performance improvements.
The mechanical improvements included lower axle ratios (5.38:1 versus 4.88:1), lower low-range ratios for the Spicer 18 transfer case (2.43:1 versus 1.97:1), a stronger transmission (Warner Gear column shift T-90 versus T-84), provision for center and rear PTOs, and changes to the chassis to accommodate a drawbar. There were many smaller mechanical and cosmetic changes, including the signature seven-slot grill with flush headlights. GI “numbutt” was partially cured by at least three times the amount of padding on the seats. Production CJs began rolling off the line starting in July of 1945, with 1,824 CJ-2As sold for the ’45 model year.
The aftermarket responded with a bevy of Jeep agricultural accessories that turned the Jeep into a plowhorse and farmyard workhand, but one that could be unhitched, hosed off and driven into town for shopping or Sunday-go-to-meeting. It all sounded great on paper, but in actual farm use the idea created by some of the advertising … that a Jeep could replace a tractor … proved somewhat delusional. It was proven both by farmers and test agencies.
The University of Nebraska, in Lincoln, had been America’s official tractor performance certification facility for some decades when a Jeep CJ-3A finally found its way to the test lab in 1953. Rated at 63 gross (54 net) flywheel horsepower, the Jeep’s 134ci four-cylinder developed only 25.4 drawbar horsepower (8.32-percent wheel slip) at its maximum-rated weight of 3,500 pounds.
Contrast that to one of the smaller tractors on the postwar market, the Ford 8N, which had a 119ci four-cylinder that developed 28 net flywheel horsepower yet produced 22hp (8.65-percent wheel slip) on the drawbar at its maximum weight of 4,140 pounds. Tractors that made similar flywheel power to the Jeep had drawbar ratings of around 35-40hp. The big differences were weight and the amount of rubber mounted. Plus, a typical tractor had the durability to till the fields year after year without missing a beat where a Jeep was used up very quickly that way. Jeeps did better on farms as a mobile powerhouse, running PTO-driven equipment and as a general farm runabout, though it’s lack of carrying capacity often made pickups a more useful tool for farmers.
Eventually, Jeeps found their place elsewhere. Willys-Overland, and the succeeding owners of the Jeep franchise, gradually backed out of the ag market for greener marketing pastures elsewhere. Before the ag bonanza ended, Willys offered a Farm Jeep package into the mid-’50s, with all the PTOs and ag gear in place. In 1951, you could buy a “Jeep Tractor,” which was a CJ stripped of just about everything, including lights, windshield, tailgate and all but one seat. It mounted a hydraulic lift, governor, drawbar, and a few other farming accoutrements. Not surprisingly, few were sold.
Today, a number of Jeep collectors hearken back to the early days of farming Jeeps by resurrecting the old Jeep ag implements. Most are for show but a few daring Jeepers are willing to put their vintage collectables into harness and make them turn dirt. Herb Huddle is one such collector and was willing to strap a plow to his ’46 CJ-2A and give an exclusive demonstration to Four Wheeler readers. We also shot some video of it, which you can see at www.fourwheeler.com/cj2a_plow_jeep_video.
Huddle’s Jeep can pull a two-bottom plow with 14-inch spacing in the sandy loam on his Napoleon, Ohio-area farm but in heavy clay, an early CJ can usually only pull a single bottom plow. Huddle grew up on a farm with a ’46 CJ similar to this one and knows well the capabilities of Jeeps from back in the day. That first Huddle Jeep was usually engaged for hay production, pulling a baler as well as tedding and raking. These were jobs it did well. The Jeep also served as Herb’s teenage transportation and established him as a lifelong Jeep fan and later a collector. This ’46 was his first restoration decades ago. Huddle now has an extensive collection of military and civilian Jeeps, International Harvester products, and vintage cars.
Vehicle: 1946 Willys-Overland Jeep CJ-2A
Owner: Herb Huddle
Estimated value: $11,350 (high retail, per NADA)
Engine: 134.2ci L-4, “Go Devil”
Power (hp): 63 @ 4000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 105 @ 2000 rpm
Bore & stroke (in): 3.13 x 4.38
Compression ratio: 6.48:1
Transmission: 3-spd manual, Warner T-90
Transfer case: 2-spd, Spicer 18 Front axle: Spicer 25
Rear axle: Spicer 41
Axle ratio: 5.38:1
Tires: 6.00-16 non-directional
L x W x H (in): 130.1 x 59 x 69
Wheelbase (in): 80
GVW (lbs): 3,500
Curb weight (lbs): 2,215
Fuel capacity (gal): 10.5