1951 Family Adventure Willys Jeepster

This rad restored 1951 Willys-Overland Jeepster has spent its entire life as a family adventure-mobile

Brian GabrielPhotographer, Writer

When World War II ended, Willys-Overland knew that all of the soldiers coming home had a taste of the Jeep and what it was capable of. There were already plans in the works to produce a CJ Jeep civilian version of the wartime steel hero. Willys-Overland was also getting back into its sedan production as well, but it was felt that there needed to be a sporty vehicle somewhere in between to bridge the utilitarian and passenger series automobiles. The Jeepster was the fruit of that labor, and it was produced from 1948-1950, with some leftovers (like this one) being sold later as 1951 models.

The owner of this superbly restored 1951 Jeepster is Dave Close. Dave’s father purchased it in 1953 as the family adventure vehicle, and as the family vehicle the Jeepster was driven by everyone in the family at some point in time. Each of his three sisters drove it as their first car in high school, and when it was Dave’s turn it was also his first slick set of wheels. It had a lot of hard miles on it after a while, eventually going into disrepair and sitting in a field back in 1971.

Fast-forward 26 years to 1997, and Dave got the itch to get it back on the road. A restoration project soon followed that would take 10 years to complete, tinkering away here and there with his kids helping along the way. The hard work and attention to detail paid off big time when it was finally complete. Take a look.

Why This Jeep

These original Jeepsters were only two-wheel drive, but that didn’t slow anyone down. This Jeep was used, abused, and put away wet in true Jeep style. Dave vividly remembers his dad getting the Jeepster stuck during a stream crossing once, and when the front doors were opened the stream flooded the Jeep as it rushed though. There’s no doubt there are a hundred other stories this Jeep would tell if it could talk.

Hard Facts

1951 Willys-Overland Jeepster
Engine: L161 Lightning I-6 flathead
Transmission: three-on-the-tree column shift T-96 with auxiliary BorgWarner overdrive
Suspension: Independent A-arms with single transverse leaf spring (front) and factory leaf springs Axle: Stock Dana 23, open differential
Wheels: Factory steel wheels
Tires: 6.70-15 Firestone whitewalls
Other Stuff: Added turn signals, original AM radio outfitted with modern AM/FM and Bluetooth
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