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1950 Jeep CJV35/U

Rarest military Jeep ever?

Jay KopycinskiPhotographer, Writer

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.

Body and Interior
Most military Jeeps of this era used blackout lighting for the headlights, but this model had unique trim rings and bezels that extended forward of the lamps in lieu of blackout components.

That easy-on-the-eyes OD green is Gillespie Coatings USMC Semi Gloss Forest Green PN 24052 and the yellow hood numbers are representative of the property numbers that were assigned to this series of vehicles. The CJV35/U models were delivered from Willys with semi-gloss paint, unlike many other military vehicles of the era, which were supplied in lusterless (flat) paint. Any CJV35/Us that found their way towards the front lines would have been repainted in flat hues. Stamped Willys lettering is also unique to the CJV35/U, as other military vehicles of the era did not have raised lettering on the hood or tailgate.

The seats are restored originals and seatbelts have been added for safety, but would not have been present from the factory. The rear seat was added where the radio gear would have resided. It is a period piece, but would not have been originally installed in this Jeep.

The dash has a full complement of gauges from Willys Overland, including a special waterproof speedometer to survive those dunks in the wet stuff. Before taking the Jeep swimming, the handle on the dash was pulled to seal and pressurize the drivetrain. All of the original brass and zinc information plaques have been skillfully reproduced. Almost all existing original specimens are faded or illegible. Seven CJV35/U models went to the Netherlands in the 1950s and one original is preserved in a museum there. Robert De Ruyter, a Jeep fan who lives in the Netherlands, was able to photograph the pristine original plaques and reproduce them to exact dimensions using a screening/etching process.

Like other military vehicles, this model has no keyed ignition switch. Instead, to start the engine, the dash switch needs to be turned to the run position and then the start plunger on the floor depressed to engage the starter. Due to the lack of an ignition key, the lock dangling from a ring on the lower dash was an early anti-theft device. The idea was to shift the transmission in reverse and lock it there using the lock and the short length of chain.

The original vacuum system is intact and was used, along with a hand-operated valve, to power the windshield wiper on the driver side. The passenger-side wiper was hand operated. Period-correct reproduction wiring is used throughout, and Mike has strived to accurately reproduce the vehicle as it would have rolled out of the factory. Mike is still chasing a few elusive original parts to replace one here or there that are not completely original to the CJV35/U specs.

Good, Bad, and What It’s For
Mike has done an excellent job staying true to what the Jeep would have looked like when it rolled out of the factory before being loaded on a transport. Little details, well reproduced, such as the data plates and period-correct wiring give a glimpse of some of the time spent on this Jeep. We probably wouldn’t have put the civilian back seat in it; we’d have gone all the way and hunted down the radio equipment for the back of the Jeep—but that’s easy to say since we’ve never actually tried to find any of that super-rare equipment. Also, uncut axle U-bolts drive us absolutely batty, and the fact that they look chrome in a sea of semi-gloss just draws the eyes to them.

Why I Wrote This Feature
There aren’t many of these Jeeps out there, and the likelihood of our readers seeing one that is in this great of a condition is almost non-existent. So, when I found it and realized some of the unique features of it, I knew I needed to shoot it and bring it to you. —Jay Kopycinski

Hard Facts
Vehicle: 1950 Willys CJ-V35/U
Engine: Willys Overland “Go-Devil” 134ci four-cylinder
Transmission: T-90
Transfer Case: Spicer 18 with PTO
Suspension: Factory heavy-duty 10-leaf spring packs (front and rear)
Axles: Dana 25 (front);Dana 41 (rear)
Wheels: 16x6 two-piece combat wheels
Tires: 6-16.00 NDT tube type
Built For: Putting leathernecks on the beach to combat Communism.