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Flatfender Jeeps - Jeep Autopsy

Posted in Project Vehicles on August 7, 2007
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Photographers: DaimlerChrysler Corporate Historical Collection

Down the road, the Autopsy series will deconstruct military jeeps (pre-Jeep jeeps), so we'll save much of that history lesson until then. But for now, you can get away with the most skeletal of education: the first civilian Jeep was the CJ-2A, which was the Son of Willys MA, the original army rig. The CJ line lasted all the way through the CJ-7 (and long-wheelbase CJ-8) until it was "replaced" by the Wrangler YJ in 1987. The flatfender is the Jeep that started it all, and its durability has remained even as it has evolved from CJ to JK (and to rounded fenders). Flattened fenders also appeared on the Willys wagon and pickup, both of which lasted until 1965.

The '45 CJ-2A, the civilian vehicle that started it all.

Postwar vehicle development was "programmed to fit wartime 'Jeep' to peacetime needs at home and abroad." The first Universal Jeep out of the gate for the buying public was the CJ-2A in 1945, and some of what set it apart from the MB military version was an external fuel cap, bigger headlights, a tailgate, and having the spare tire mounted on the side. In 1946, the world met the Willys wagon, followed the next year by the Willys pickup. (For the two of you who care, the two-by DJ-series and the pink, fringy Surrey model got their humble-also known as "postal" and "flamboyant," respectively-beginnings in the flatfender era, too.) In April of 1953, Willys-Overland's plants and office supplies were bought by Henry Kaiser, who renamed the company Willys Motors. But 10 years later, it became Kaiser Jeep Corporation.

The Worthless Fact:
In 1950, Willys-Overland registered the Jeep name as a trademark for its civilian vehicles.

Wheelbase: {{{80}}} in. L-head inline-four
Overall length: 130.8 in. Displacement: 134.2 ci
Overall width: 59 in. Bore x stroke: 3.125x4.375 in.
Overall height: 69 in. Compression ratio: 6.48:1
Curb weight: 2,215 lbs. Horsepower: 63 @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: Warner T-{{{90}}} Torque: 105 @ 2,000 rpm
Transfer case: Spicer Model 18 Induction: 1bbl Carter carburetor

First out of the box was the CJ-2A, which lasted until 1949 and brought the CJ-3A (although you could briefly buy them at the same time); one way they differed was that the 3A had a one-piece windshield. In 1953, the alphabet progressed with the introduction of the CJ-3B, which featured a taller grille, which was done for engine upgrades. The 3B stuck around until about 1966 in the United States.

The Willys wagon was available as a station/utility vehicle (all-purpose car is what it was first labeled by its maker) or as a panel-side delivery truck. The wagon was all steel, which made it notable at a time when most wagon-style vehicle bodies were made from wood. The two-wheel drive that both it and the pickup had were not as noteworthy, although around 1949, four-wheel drive was in store. In 1950, 1/2-ton front-wheel-drive and 1-ton 4x4 pickups were available and a V-grille design appeared. The wagon had a wheelbase of 104.5 inches (the two-by was half an inch shorter), was 176 inches long, almost 72 inches tall, and 74 inches wide, with a curb weight of 3,345 pounds. The pickup, meanwhile, came in at 3,200 pounds with the four-cylinder, 3,357 pounds with the six-cylinder, and an overall length of close to 184 inches; it was 73 inches tall and 76 inches wide, and the wheelbase was 118 inches.

The Fact:
The CJ-2A was originally priced at $1,090.

Being a military brat meant the CJ-2A did get some MB wares, including its engine, the Go-Devil 134.2ci L-head four-cylinder. When the Jeep graduated to 3B high-hood status, the engine became the slightly taller F-head, which made 75 hp at 4,000 rpm and 114 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. Its compression ratio was 6.9:1 (7.4:1 was a high-altitude option), with a 3.125x4.38-inch bore-and-stroke. The pickup and wagon also sported the L-head at launch. An available 161ci six-cylinder Hurricane for the two-wheel-drive wagon and pickup made 90 hp and had a 7.6:1 compression ratio (with optional 8.0:1), with a 3.125x3.050-inch bore-and-stroke.

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In 1954, the six-cylinder for the wagon and pickup was a 226.2ci Super Hurricane L-head, which made 115 hp at 3,850 rpm and 190 lb-ft of torque at 1,800 rpm and had a compression ratio of 6.86:1. In 1962, the Tornado 230ci OHC six-cylinder was unveiled. It produced 140 hp at 4,000 rpm and 210 lb-ft of torque at 1,750 rpm. Its compression ratio was 8.5:1 with a 3.34x4.38-inch bore-and-stroke, and it had a unique spheroidal combustion-chamber design for better thermal efficiency and fuel economy.

1956 Jeep CJ-3B

The Jeeps of yesteryear didn't enjoy the availability of multiple factory drivetrains and gearboxes like today's Jeeps. CJs, wagons, and pickups used a standard three-speed synchromesh Warner T-90 transmission; Overdrive was available on two-wheel drives. The 3B received a T-90C, which featured a slightly deeper First gear than the 2As, and the Willys truck received the T-90E, which offered the slightly deeper First as well as a deeper Second and Reverse. Even though the T-90 was a stout transmission, its three speeds left something to be desired.

1947 Jeep wagon

The transfer case was a Spicer Model 18 with a Low-range ratio of 2.46:1. It typically came with two shifters. One controlled High range, Neutral, and Low range and the other kicked the front-axle drive in and out. Both front and rear outputs are offset to the passenger side, leaving plenty of room for a PTO to be bolted to the back of the T-case. It later became the location for bolt-on aftermarket Overdrive units. One of which, known today as the Saturn, is still available from Advanced Adapters.

1950 Jeep pickup truck

Underneath was a full-floating Model 25 front and semifloating Model 23-2 rear axle coupled with semielliptical leaf springs. Midyear ('46-'49) CJ-2As got a Model 41-2 rear, and midyear ('49-and-later) CJ-3As and CJ-3Bs got a 44. The CJs had a 5.38:1 gear ratio, while the pickup and the wagon claimed 5.38s with the four-banger and 4.88s with the six-cylinder (although Jeep engineers claim at one point the wagon had 4.27s with the six and a rumored 6.17 gearset was available for the truck). Matched to the optional Overdrive were 5.38s.

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