This article was written by Georgia MVPA club member Richard Grace and published in the National MVPA Army Motors edition #89.
For this issue of Army Motors, I'd like to share with you about the rarest flat-fendered military jeep. This model is so rare that most listings of Jeep models omit all reference to it. Most Jeep collectors have never seen one in the 96h.' It is the first Jeep contract after World War 11 and the only Jeep purchased by the U.S. Government between World War II and the Korean Conflict. In addition, it is the first production Jeep with permanent deep water fording capabilities. If you haven't guessed by now, I will not keep you in suspense any longer. This rare vehicle is the Willys CJ-V35/U. On February 1, 1950, contract N8ss-2660 was approved for 1,000 units “especially adapted for general reconnaissance or command communications” and “constructed for short period underwater operation such as encountered in landing and fording operations." In other words, a waterproofed, radio jeep. Production began in March 1950 and the total of 1,000 units were completed by June 1950. Engine serial numbers have the prefix letter 'V' and start with number 10001 and chassis numbers have the prefix CJ-V35 and, also started with number 10001 ending with number 11000. The Department of the Navy, Bureau of Ships (BuShips) was the procuring agency and Willys Overland Motors of Toledo, Ohio, was the sole contractor. The entire contract was intended for use by the United States Marine Corps. All of the illustrations, in the various manuals, show the vehicle in U.S.M.C. paint and trim.
So, what does a CJ-V35/U look like, you ask? From the outside, very much like a CJ-3A, with the following exceptions:
Under the hood, however, it looks more like an M38, with the fully waterproofed ignition and charging system and the pressurization system for the transmission, transfer case, and fuel tank. The main difference is that the M38 carries two, 12-volt batteries, while the V-35 has only one 6-volt battery. The ignition timer (distributor) is of the Bendix-Scintilla type, with both the coil and the breaker mechanism enclosed in an aluminum, waterproofed housing and is quite different from the later M-series unit.
One deviation from the previous military contract vehicles is that no black-out lighting was provided. The light switch, similar in appearance to the MB rotary style, has only three positions: ‘park’, ‘off’, and ‘drive.’ There are two seven-inch headlamps, two civilian style parking lamps, and only one combination stop and tail lamp, mounted on the left hand rear.
The Navy designation for this vehicle was: Truck ¼ - ton 4X4 V-35/U (the /U stands for underwater) ‘for general radio use.’ All came equipped with the 12-volt, auxiliary generator, driven by a V-belt from a power take-off mounted on the rear of the transfer case. The auxiliary generator was mounted in a metal 'dog-house' between the two front seats. Two battery boxes were mounted immediately behind each front seat and held two 6-volt batteries, providing 12-volts of power for the radios. A waterproofed radio cabinet was mounted across the rear of the vehicle. The antenna mount was on the left hand fear corner. The deep water fording capabilities of the V-35 were evolved directly from the MX-735 waterproofing kit, developed in 1947 for retrofitting to the G-503, WWII Jeeps. Willys engineers, working with the Marine Corps, developed the seated ignition and charging systems as well as the pressurization system and modified many MBs and GPWs to this system. The V-35 was the first production installation of the MX-735 System and was a prototype for the NI-series that were produced in quantity for the Korean Conflict.
Just how rare is the CJ-V35/U ? Author, Lawrence Nabholtz, writing in the book, Off Road Jeeps, states that he "has heard of only three known to exist." More recently, author and jeep expert Fred Coldwell, wrote to me that Cliff Tebeau of Oregon has one and that he only knew of five others around the country. It seems like a pretty rare bird doesn't it?
Fortunately for us here in Georgia, they aren't quite so rare. Harold West, a fellow Georgia Chapter member owns CJ-V35 #10752 and the demilled, stripped remains of two others. I own CJ-V35 #10033 and know of at least four others in the area that I haven't been able to purchase. Why so many in Georgia? It seems that in the late '50s through the mid-'60s, the Georgia Forestry Commission obtained ii number of V-35s from the Marine Corps base in Albany, Georgia. These were staged at the Georgia Forestry Headquarters in Macon, Georgia, and were mainly cannibalized for parts to keep the Jeeps stationed at county forestry units running. Jeeps, equipped with fire plows, made up a large portion of the rural forest fire fighting force. As a volunteer fire fighter, in the early '60s, I remember a neighboring department having a (red) Jeep, set up for fighting brush fires. At the time, I assumed it to be a modified M38. Thinking back, I'm pretty sure that it was really a CJ-V35. No, I don't know what ever became of it. Harold West's V-35 still carries the Georgia Forestry Department shields on both sides as well as the original hood number, #U.S.M.C. 162690.
With a vehicle this rare, parts must surely be hard to come by, you might think. Not necessarily so, as many of the parts are standard MB units and many more are civilian CJ-3A parts. There are some peculiar items, however, and when I obtained my V-35 #10033, it had been ‘civilianized' and a good many of the hard-to-find parts had been discarded. Shortly afterwards, I was at a large, antique auto swap meet, walking around with a prominent ‘JEEP PARTS WANTED' sign on my hat, when a guy stopped me with, "what kind of Jeep parts are you looking for?" "Well, what kind of Jeep parts do you have?" I responded. He proceeded to tell me that he had stripped an old 'navy' Jeep, years ago, and that all the parts that he had taken off, were still in his barn. An exchange of phone numbers and addresses took place on the spot and a few days later I was looking over a pile of, you guessed it, CJ-V35 parts. For a relatively small price, I bought, four combat wheels, the radio antenna mount, the sealed generator and regulator, the clamps for the fording pipes, a box full of small parts, and the complete engine, serial number V-10013, that he had taken out years before. A few weeks after that, a fellow Georgia Chapter member came up to me and asked if I wanted a V-35 fuel tank. He had one in his M38 and didn't like it because of the smaller filler neck. A quick trade was made and he went home with the correct M38 tank while I went home with the V-35 unit which is similar to a CJ-3A tank except that it has the late MB style indentation on the right front corner, to clear the power take-off drive.
I think that the main reason for the rarity of this model is that they are frequently confused with the more common CJ-3A and thus overlooked by military collectors. A V-35, which has been stripped and civilianized, begins to look very much like its civilian cousin. Hopefully, with the illustrations and descriptions in this article, you'll take a little more time the next time you go out to look at an 'army jeep’ that turns out to be a civilian version. It just might not be civilian at all but an example of the rarest military flat - fendered jeep. If any one out there has a CJ-V35 or knows someone who owns one, please contact me with the serial numbers of the chassis and engine. Harold West and I are trying to compile a listing of all the known V-35s. The list is up to a dozen or so right now and we’d like to see it grow as a result of the feedback from this article.
My contact information: