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Ben Neil's '50 CJ-3A

Posted in Project Vehicles on November 1, 2001
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Photographers: John Cappa
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Ben Neil is a man of few words, but that’s OK. His ’50 CJ-3A says a lot about him. The tires, bumpers, and rocker guards tell you this guy likes to play on the rocks. The mildly improved motor tells you that Ben is not concerned with land speed records, but he does want to get to the other end of the trail. The front axle says he knows that even good things can be bettered. The red paint says he’s got a wild side under there somewhere. The brakes say he likes to stop with authority, but most importantly the whole Jeep tells you that Ben is a patient man who knows what works for him. And if Ben is feeling talkative he just might tell you about his flattie, and how and why he built it.

Chassis & Driveline

To keep things simple yet effective Ben stuck closely to the plan that the Willys engineers finalized so many years ago. He has kept the 134ci L-head four-cylinder in place and made a few upgrades to keep the fun time at a maximum and downtime to a minimum.

Improvements come in the form of a Jacobs ignition system, a Solex carburetor, Oberg oil filter, and a power steering system from a Cherokee. To stick with the theme of a mild restomod, the T-90 was taken out and fitted with a 3.34 First gear from a Willys truck. This lower First coupled with the custom 4.86 low-range Spicer 18 and 5.38 stock ring-and-pinions helps keep the little flatfender creeping up the trail. The rear Dana 44 received minor improvements in the form of some disc brakes, a Warn full-floating kit, and a spool. The stock Dana 25 was dropped in favor of a Dana 30 spinning disc brakes, and an E-Z Locker. For a little bit of a boost, four Rancho 1-inch-lift springs were bolted to the Jeep’s frame and then carefully mounted to the axles with some trick homemade high-clearance U-bolt plates.

Body & Interior

To protect the CJ-3A from rocks and overly enthusiastic Willys groupies, Ben constructed some custom bumpers as well as some trick rocker guards. The interior was kept basically stock with only a few upgrades like a steering wheel cover, a CB, and some seats out of an ’84 Cherokee. To protect the passengers of the flattie from a rollover, a 6-point rollcage was installed and painted to match the body.

Wheels & Tires

To save a bit of weight, the stock steel wheels were replaced with a set of 15x7 aluminum rims, which hold some 32/9.50x15 Super Swamper TSLs.

Good, Bad, & What It's For

This ’50 CJ-3A was built for trail riding fun and putting down the highway between trails. Let’s face it, the L-head coupled with low gears makes speeding down the road as unlikely as encountering the Yeti on the trail.

What We Think

There are probably quite a few people out there who have been surprised by this flattie’s ability on the trail. It looks stock, but has all the right modifications to make it work. It’s different, and shows how these very capable Jeeps can be better with just a few changes.

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