Family Ties: Two 1951 Willys CJ-3A Jeeps
Every so often we find “family builds”—Jeeps that were restored or built up by father and son, brothers, sisters, mother and daughter, and so forth. You get the idea. Sometimes it’s a single vehicle, sometimes there are two that are radically different, and other times there are two that are almost identical. Some have been built at the same time, while others are built decades apart. Regardless of the who, what, where, when, and why, they all have been interesting.
These two, in particular, are very interesting, and we thought we should share them with you. Dave (father) and David (son) Peifer own these 1951 Willys CJ-3As. Both reside in Southern California and have the deserts and mountains of the Southwest as their backyard for backcountry exploration. Dave owns the blue ’51 and David owns the silver and blue-flamed ’51. They are remarkably alike, and yet each has its own unique characteristics.
The blue 3A was purchased from a second owner in 1967; it was a runner with a soft top, a towbar, an original rear seat, and a “Willys Heater.” Its build began shortly after that, and Dave says he used it “to go Jeeping, exploring, and camping in the great outdoors with my family.” The silver 3A was a barn find in 2003, and it came from a second owner who knew the original owner, had no rust, and had the original keys and spare tire lock. It was no surprise when David, who had been on all those family trips in his Dad’s ’51 CJ-3A, told us, “I learned to drive in it and have a lot of good memories in it, so I wanted to build the same-year Willys for my family to enjoy.”
Both run Chevy V-8s. Dave’s is stuffed with a 1970 355ci V-8 that was rebuilt by Blair’s Automotive in Covina, California. JE 9.5 pistons, Edelbrock cam and Edelbrock RPM Performer intake manifold, Quadrajet carb, Mallory ignition, custom headers, and MagnaFlow exhaust are highlights of the 355. A Chevy 350ci V-8 built and blueprinted by Sherm Taylor in Upland, California, hides under the hood of David’s Jeep. It features Scat rods, Speed Pro Racing moly rings, Keith Black 9.8 pistons, ported and polished aluminum Edelbrock RPM Performer heads, Weiand Stealth intake manifold, ProForm 750 carb, Mallory ignition, Advanced Adapters headers, and MagnaFlow exhaust.
Behind the engine, each carries some serious drivetrain equipment as well. Dave’s blue ’51 uses a Muncie M21 tranny with a Centerforce clutch and Hurst shifter. It also has a Model 18 transfer case with a 1 1/4-inch shaft conversion to pass the power down to a Dana 25 front axle stuffed with a 5.38 open differential and a Dana 44 with a 5.38 Detroit Locker. A T10 tranny with a Centerforce clutch and Hurst shifter and another Model 18 transfer case with a 1 1/4-inch shaft conversion drive the 4.56 limited-slip–filled Dana 30 front axle and the 4.56 Soft Locker–loaded Ford 9-inch real axle in David’s sliver ’51.
Frank Wagner performed the frame boxing and built the custom engine mounts on the two Jeeps in Irwindale, California. Both 3As sit on a stock-length wheelbase with an inch of body lit, 2 inches of Rancho Soft Ride leaf-spring lift, and Bilstein reservoir Rancho shocks out back. Dave used Rancho gas shocks up front, while David went with more Bilstein reservoir shocks on the front end. Both use Saginaw steering boxes to help turn the tires; Super Sport Radial HPT LT315/70R15s on 15x10 (4-inch backspace) Center Line Convo Pro-V wheels for Dave, and Cooper Discoverer S/T 33/12.50R15s mounted to 15x10 Unique steel wheels for David.
Interior treatments diverge a bit, but both remain simple and darn close to stock, at least in appearance. Dave went with bucket seats from a Mach 1 Mustang, a custom ’cage, Stewart-Warner and Auto Meter gauges, and a Lecarra steering wheel. Unique to Dave’s 3A: a working 3A windshield air door, custom tube seat frames, rear Willys jump seat, and that original “Willys Heater.” David’s silver 3A got PRP seats, a custom ’cage, Auto Meter Pro-Comp gauges, and a Lecarra steering wheel.
Both bodies are as “factory” as they can possibly be, with some minor adjustments and massages here and there to support modern equipment. Bumpers are all custom jobs, and Dave runs an LED lightbar and billet towing mirrors. The paint schemes are different, but not as far apart as they may seem. Dave had L&G in San Dimas, California, lay on the gorgeous deep metallic blue, and then he sent it over to Schartel in Hesperia, California, for the pinstriping and graphics. David let V&S Body Shop in Pomona, California, handle the super silver coating. Then, Ron’s Colorworks in Upland, California, created the pinstripe flames.
This pair of gemlike-quality 1951 Willys Jeep CJ-3As had us doing a double take when we first found them at a local Jeep show. We had to blink a couple times to be sure we weren’t seeing some sort of Jeeping mirage. Their builds were so similar that we thought the same person must have built them. Our first guess was close. One followed the other, as a son filled with great memories of growing up wheelin’ in one decided to build another (with a few personal touches to make it unique), and now the two Jeeps can help create even more long-lasting memories for three generations of the family.
Dave went with bucket seats from a Mach 1 Mustang, a custom ’cage, Stewart-Warner and Auto Meter gauges, and a Lecarra steering wheel. Unique to Dave’s 3A are a working 3A windshield air door, custom tube seat frames, rear Willys jump seat, and that original “Willys Heater.”
Interior treatments diverge a bit, but both remain simple and darn close to stock, at least in appearance. David’s silver 3A got PRP seats, a custom ’cage, Auto Meter Pro-Comp gauges, and a Lecarra steering wheel.
Hard FactsVehicle: Dave’s blue 1951 Willys Jeep CJ-3A
Engine: 355ci Chevy V-8
Transmission: Muncie M21
Transfer Case: Model 18 w/ 1 1/4-inch shaft conversion
Suspension: 2-inch Rancho Soft Ride leaf springs; Rancho gas shocks in front; Bilstein reservoir shocks in rear
Axles: Dana 25 w/ open 5.38 gears (front); Dana 44 w/ 5.38 Detroit Locker (rear); 11-inch early-Ford drum brakes on all four corners w/ Micro-Lock line lock
Wheels: 15x10 Center Line Convo Pro-V
Tires: LT315/70R15 Super Sport Radial HPT
Hard FactsVehicle: David’s silver 1951 Willys Jeep CJ-3A
Engine: Early-’60s Chevy 350ci V-8
Transfer Case: Model 18 w/ 1 1/4-inch shaft conversion
Suspension: 2-inch Rancho Soft Ride lead springs; Bilstein reservoir shocks on all four corners
Axles: Dana 30 w/ 4.56 limited slip (front); Ford 9-inch w/ 4.56 Soft Locker (rear); late-model CJ master cylinder and disc brake upgrade
Wheels: 15x10 Unique steel
Tires: 33/12.50R15 Cooper Discoverer S/T