Stretched 1942 Willys MB Custom
A 1942 MB with some interesting body, frame, and wheelbase mods
It's not much of a secret that we like old iron. Don't get us wrong—things like air conditioning and heat that actually work are really nice to have, but there's just something about old Jeeps in general, and flatties in particular, that speaks to us. It also doesn't hurt that in a sea of four-door JKs, the only way a highly customized Willys like Steve Dunn's '42 MB could stick out more was if it was painted fluorescent pink. When we first laid eyes on Steve's Jeep during check-in day at the 2019 Dirt 'N Drive Presented by Jeep, we knew we had to take a closer look.
It doesn't take a Jeep aficionado to notice that this is not a classic restoration—nor is it a traditional build with a spring-over and some 35s. While the tires are indeed 35 inches tall, this MB embraces the current trend of low lift and big tires. It's a cool look, and one we'd like to see more of with vintage iron. Some of the modifications Steve made are obvious, such as the custom canvas top with unique zip-up doors, but others are a lot more subtle. For instance, it's not immediately obvious that there's a custom frame under the body that has been stretched 8 inches. And both the front and rear axles have been pushed out closer to the ends of the Jeep for a total wheelbase stretch of 12 inches. Not only did this make it a lot roomier inside, it also improved stability and approach and departure angles.
Keeping things low while still clearing 35-inch tires is a challenge for any flatfender, but Steve managed to pull it off without ruining the MB's classic lines. The front axle is a wide-track Dana 30 borrowed from a CJ-7, while the rear Dana 44 was donated from a 1971 CJ-5. The track-width increase helped with tire clearance, as did some wheelwell massaging in the rear. The Jeep is sitting on stock leaf springs from a YJ, which are significantly longer and wider than the original springs for a more supple ride and additional flex. Much of the rest of the Jeep is equal parts classic modification, like the Buick odd-fire 225 under the hood with a Motorcraft 2100 carb, and a little modern innovation with BFGoodrich KM2 tires and disc brakes at all four corners.
The 2019 Dirt 'N Drive was the first outing for the Jeep in its current configuration, and all things considered, it did pretty well. There was a hiccup on the first day when the 4.56 gears locked up on the front axle because it turned out someone may have forgotten to fill the differential with oil. Fortunately, a local shop in Farmington just happened to have everything needed to get the frontend fixed up on the same day. We didn't hear about any other mishaps during the trip, and the little MB delivered Steve and his wife, Susan, to Moab in time for the victory dinner. Would they have been more comfortable in a roomy four-door JK? Probably. Would they have had as much fun and earned as many style points? Probably not.
Vehicle: 1942 Willys MB
Engine: 225ci Dauntless V-6
Transfer Case: Dana 18
Axles: Wide-track Dana 30 (front); Dana 44 (rear); 4.56 gears
Suspension: Stock YJ springs with Boomerang shackles
Wheels: Pro Comp steelies
Tires: 35x12.50R15 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2
Other Stuff: Custom 8-inch frame and body stretch, wheelbase stretched 12 inches, 1.5-inch DOM custom rollcage, rear full-float axle conversion, disc brakes at all four corners