Rarest military Jeep ever?
The year was 1950. We were five years past the Second World War and the Soviets had just detonated their first nuclear bomb during the summer of 1949. The Cold War was evolving and tensions were building toward the invasion of South Korea, which occurred in June 1950.
It was about this time that the U.S. Navy contracted the construction of 1,000 Jeeps, designated as the CJV35/U. These Jeeps were destined for use by the United States Marine Corps. They were similar to the CJ-3A civilian Jeep, but had unique features specific only to this military model. The CJV35/U was designed to be able to ford deep water and had a snorkel ventilation system for the engine and other drivetrain components. Equipped with a PTO-driven generator and radio gear, it was intended to serve in a forward-observer position to direct artillery fire towards enemy combatants.
Production took place at the Willys Overland plant in Toledo, Ohio, over a period of about four months. Serial numbers for the CJV35/U ran from 10001 to 11000. This was the only military contract for a Jeep that was fulfilled between the end of WWII and the beginning of the Korean Conflict. Today there are less than 100 of these Jeeps still known to exist. While there are surely other CJV35/Us unaccounted for, the ones that are currently inventoried are not all complete vehicles. Some are only aged tubs and piles of dilapidated parts.
We found one of the finer specimens in existence today, owned by Mike Wixom from Gilbert, Arizona. His ’50 CJV35/U was delivered to the U.S.M.C. in May, 1950 and is serial number 10492. Mike is unsure of the military history of this Willys, but knows that it made its way to Arizona where it served as a hunting Jeep from 1970 until 2008, when Mike acquired it. Once in his possession he sought to restore it to its former glory. He called on the assistance of Tanner Lamb at LambFab in Gilbert to tackle much of the restoration process.
Since this Jeep is so uncommon, it took some efforts to gain knowledge of some of the vehicle details. Through the help of fellow military historians and other owners, Mike and Tanner were able to put back together what time was slowly erasing. Their dogged persistence in research and careful rebuilding has paid off, resulting in the striking vehicle you see here. Mike estimates he spent up to 500 hours simply tracking down some of the information and elusive parts needed to revive this historic vehicle. This CJV35/U has thankfully been preserved as an interesting slice of our military history.
The factory frame got a once-over. For a Jeep that was made to go swimming the ocean for amphibious assaults, the rust-free condition of the frame is unbelievable. It was coated in semi-gloss black paint and the factory heavy-duty 10-leaf spring packs were gone-through, repainted, and hung off the frame in the factory locations. Additionally the C-style shackles show the brass bushings just like they did when this Jeep rolled off the factory floor. The oil-filled Monroe shocks are also factory-spec. The round rings on the front bumper are lift rings used to crane these vehicles on and off of ships during deployment.
Under the hood sits a 134-cube “Go-Devil” engine. The flathead engine (commonly referred to as an L-head) is such that the valves are oriented beside the piston instead of overhead. Output was 60hp at 4,000 rpm with 105 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. Compression comes in at a mere 6.48:1 ratio, which helped to burn sub-standard fuel that might be found on the battlefield. Atop the flathead engine is a one-barrel Carter YS carburetor that is waterproofed for submersion.
The CJV35/U was designed to allow for short-duration operation at a water level about one foot over the top of the hood. Where most Jeeps of the era drew air from under the hood, this Jeep had a snorkel attached to the oil-bath air filter and draws air through it from above the top of the windshield. The engine crankcase is kept at slight positive pressure using a special ventilation system to keep water out. The transmission, transfer case, fuel tank, master cylinder, and a portion of the vacuum-driven windshield wiper system are also vented to the air filter to keep these areas free from water during fording. The Bendix distributor features mil-spec water resistance, and the 6-volt electrical system was built to withstand higher exposure to water.
Power from the four-cylinder engine passes through a Borg-Warner T-90 three-speed transmission to a Spicer 18 with a 2.43:1 low range. Bolted to the T-case is a PTO unit, which was used to run an auxiliary generator for the radio gear. An aluminum Lockheed Warner brake master cylinder is mounted under the driver-side floorboard and is vented to allow for deep water fording.
Under the front of the Jeep is closed-knuckle Dana 25 front axle. Out back, the rear axle is a Dana/Spicer Model 41. Both axles are packed with 5.38:1 gears and open differentials. Putting the power, such as it is, to the ground is a set of 6.00-16 NDT (non-directional tread) tires which are mounted on steel 16-inch, two-piece combat wheels. This is a split-wheel design with the two halves being held together using eight bolts.