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'48 Jeep CJ-2A - A Comedy Of Errors

Posted in Project Vehicles on November 1, 2007
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Last summer, I had a nasty hankering for a completely stock flattie. I had been scouring my online sources when I stumbled across a '48 CJ-2A listed for $2,000 in the California high desert. The photos looked good, he said it was all stock and running, and he claimed to have paperwork. He also pulled a sleazy salesman trick on me that got the desired effect: "A guy is on his way from Arizona to get it right now. First come gets it." I had my trailer loaded and was racing to his meth lab before you could say, "Bad idea."

Let me paint a picture for you. I arrive at his hovel in the methamphetamine production capitol of the world alone, driving a decent tow rig, pulling a nice trailer, and holding $2,000 in my pocket. I don't have a pistol, a baseball bat, or even a butter knife, and my only means of self-preservation is a cell phone that doesn't have a prayer of getting a service signal. The Jeep is in the backyard of his shack, surrounded by a chain-link fence. A not-too-friendly looking pit bull with one chewed ear and a gimpy right eye is roaming in and out of the only shade provided for it: the shadow cast by the Jeep. As I step out of my pickup, a 300-pound, 6-foot-4-inch, nasty, greasy Big Biker Boy appears from the screened porch and extends a filthy, scabby paw for me to shake. Mmmm, Purell.

We slide through the fence, and the hell hound makes a lunge for me. Thankfully, I caught a glimpse of the rope around the dog's neck, so I didn't scream like a sorority girl in a haunted house. He kicks the dog in the ribs, grabs the rope, and ties it off on a water spigot near a dead tree. Uh, animal cruelty. Good times.

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I start to give the Jeep a quick walk around, but out of the corner of my eye, I catch movement in the rusted, screened-in porch. As I contemplate an escape route, I keep one eye on the figure inside and make small talk about the Jeep. "Oh, yeah, it's got a 12-volt conversion . . . (inner monologue: when the shotgun appears, throw the cash one way and vault over the fence the other way. He'll never catch you, and if you get around the corner of that neighbor's house 50 yards away, you'll be out of effective buckshot range) . . . You say your dad did all the bodywork? Interesting."

Fearing the worst and just wanting to get out of there with my skin intact as quickly as possible, I heard myself saying, "I'll take it." The rational portion of my brain was too busy keeping track of the person in the porch to intervene. As I handed over the cash and Big Biker Boy forked over a ratty wad of ripped paper he called the title, the dude's old lady-let's call her Party Mama-came out from the porch. In a toothless, tongue-slapping dialog, she said something to Big Biker Boy, but I was too busy trying the key to translate. A dead battery stymied my quick escape and my tow rig was out of jumper-cable range, so I had to wait while they searched for the "keys" to their car so we could jump it. A quick twist of a screwdriver later, and he fired up his truck and jumped the flattie's battery.

Although the engine fired up, I quickly noticed some real bad juju under the hood. First, the stock fuel pump was bypassed and a parts store electric was rigged in. The Jeep wouldn't stay running unless you kept the rpm up, but a bad sputter and white smoke out of the exhaust signaled bad news. A quick pull of the dipstick showed an oil milkshake, and the stock radiator was scaled up and looked clogged. I dropped the tranny into First, and the Jeep lunged forward with much grinding. I looked over at Big Biker Boy, who had earlier told me he frequently drove it around. Sure, dude, whatever. I made it onto the trailer, strapped it down, and hightailed it outta there thinking I'll never do that again.

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Once at the nearest gas station, I gave it a real going over. The front driveshaft was in the bed, as were the front drive flanges and most of the oil-bath air-cleaner parts. The tranny wouldn't shift out of First gear and the T-case levers were frozen in 4WD Low range. The rear driveshaft was held on at the T-case with only two nuts, the passenger front axleshaft was fragged, and the body looked like . . . well, like Party Mama's face.

So that's my story. I paid way too much for a pile of 2A that needs everything, including a new tub (the old one is just too hammered). Follow along as I tap the 4WD Hardware catalog for enough parts and pieces to get the Jeep moveable on my property. Send an e-mail to me at and tell me what you think I should do with the Bindle Bucket. Wanna see a full resto? Want me to drop in a Buick 225 and Waggy 44s? Want me to stick a rag in the gas tank and light it? We'll see.

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4 Wheel Drive Hardware
wef, AK
Peter DeBella

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