By Bill Goodwin
Bill writes: "You are free to publish the article on your web site. If you do please note that it was written last year. Military Vehicle magazine used it for the same reason as it applies to all early Jeeps. As you know things change as now everyone is able to offer the raised Willy's. As far as I know repro grills are still not legally available. The grill is a Chrysler trade mark and they will not permit anyone to make or sell repros. I hope this has or will be changed as there is a need for them. I touched on it but one must have a correct and straight frame or more work will be required to make any body fit. I will be happy to add more or answer any questions. If you have room and want I have pictures of my entire project. You may also edit it down and delete my reference to beer as I do not want to offend anyone. MV allows a little humor. Again Good Luck with your web site. Bill P.S. I highly recommend everyone subscribe to MV Magazine as the tech tips and list of vendors with parts for all Jeeps is the most complete of any magazine and it is not sold on news stands."
Here's the article:
You have studied it, contemplated it, looked at it, and drank a beer. Or like me a few more beers. Conclusion: Like mine your prize Jeep needs a new body. If you flip through the pages of this magazine you will find vendors with complete body kits for sale. You will find even more adds on the internet. Note: All current Jeep body’s are manufactured in the Philippines! (see note at end of article) What do you need to know? First drink a beer and sell the jeep. No? Drink another beer. Ok assuming you have a correct and straight frame, here’s the low down. Now that you know everyone gets the body’s from the same place what’s the difference? Who do I buy from and Why? What do you need to know up front. First these body’s are generic. They come very close but do not just bolt on. You will have to do some drilling, filing, cutting and fitting, How much? Depends on who you buy the body from, hence the price difference. Before you part that much beer money. Read all the fine print in the ads and talk, talk and talk some more to the vender you want to use. You will also have questions after you get it home. Ask what holes are pre drilled. (steering, pedals, gauges, tail lights etc) Look at your Jeep and see what holes are there now. Make a list and go over this with the vender. Be sure you understand what does NOT come with your kit. How you define complete and how the vender defines complete might not be the same. Do not assume anything is included, ASK. Grills do not come with these kits as they are trademarked. Mounting hardware does not come with these kits. I highly recommend you use a vender who will take the time to go over all this with you. Shipping: Some venders do not stock the body’s. They are drop shipped from an importer. Kits can only be shipped by a motor freight Co. (Big Beer Trucks) Most of these carriers will not come in a private driveway or even a home address. They are not required to help you unload and well-created kits can weigh over 1 thousand pounds. (some venders will bring the kit to a show or meet at little or no extra cost) Now my story: Open a beer and read on. This is not my first frame off but it is the first I time I did not put the same body back on. My Jeep is an early 46 CJ2A. I know its not a MB but hay, its is close as you can get. What I’ve gone through should be much the same if it were a MB, M38 or any CJ type. The vender I chose offered the raised Willys on the hood, windshield, and tailgate, was only 500 miles from home, and did most of the pre-drilling I needed. He took the time over the phone to explain just about every aspect to this project. I decided to pick up the body since the entire kit will fit in a full size pickup truck. Do this if you can. I was able to discuss and see where problem areas are likely to be, and they were, with a few more. Next, the steps and order I used. First body test fit went well? Ops! (Spilled my beer) When setting body on the frame I use long Phillips screwdrivers in the mounting holes. You can align the holes and skew the body around a little. Sure enough had to trim out around shifters. The toe board holes were slightly off center. The steering column did not want to line up. The clutch pedal would not come up to toe board. Checked rear and side overhang. Important: check clearance between engine and firewall. Need this for accelerator linkage to work. Mine was ok. On MB’s gas tank sits outside and below top of frame. Check all clearance here. If you use floor mounted starter switch check clearance under floor. Test fit gas pedal and linkage. Do not make any corrections yet. If body tub mounting holes are not pre drilled, do not drill them until fenders are bolted to frame, then, pull body to fenders. When test mounting do not fully tighten any bolt. Wait until fenders and grill are on, as you may have to skew the body for everything to line up. Mount steering column now. Mounted left front fender & Grill, good fit. Tried right, nope, not a hope, beer time. I recommend you mount the Left fender first. It is critical that the steering column lines up with the dash mount, and remember the brake and clutch pedals have a upright support between them. In short this only allows a small amount of left to right skew. I had to trim some excess from this upright for clutch pedal to come up to toe board. Fenders mount to the frame and do not move in any direction unless you round out holes! Right fender needed some trimming to fit and clear shock tower and grill mount. Rear of fender had to come in just a smudge. Had to cut the rear lower mounting pad off so bottom of fender would fit just over the frame. I will use 2 L brackets here. Moving the body over to the right would throw off the steering & pedal adjustment, and change the left fender fit.
I also had to trim the outer rear of the battery tray. Note: Steering column has no left or right, only up & down adjustment on frame. On models with folding grills you will need to be sure hinges and mounting holes line up. At this point you can lightly tighten all the bolts, see what falls off, and have a beer before the HARD part. Mount all under hood hardware, at least air cleaner assembly. You will need to drill hole for radiator support rod and it needs to pass over indent in air tube. Hood, hinge holes let you align and center it. You may have to slightly bend the rear up and sides out as not to rub cowl. Remember hood rests on felt at top of grill. Check fender to hood height as you can adjust front of fenders where they bolt to grill. Windshield: The curvature over the cowl was not exact on mine. Rubber would not fit unless I cut each end off. I understand this is a common problem. Mounting holes for rubber are not pre drilled. If you are good with sheet metal you might try taking off the lower panel and bending the bottom rail to fit. If you can use your old Windshield or can find a good used one do so. You can order the windshield later if you have to. Some venders will make sure the windshield fits before they ship. I called around and no luck until I talked with George at AJP. (Army Jeep Parts Bristol PA.) George had 3 MB reproduction windshields made in France. These are complete with all rubber and glass installed. He agreed to take it back if it did not fit. Parted with more beer money and voila it fit! As you know there are some differences between the MB & CJ windshields most notable height. Except for the lack of the Willys imprint, I prefer the MB. Your choice here. If someone has a better fix for this or where else a correct frame can be found please contact me and let our readers know. If you have a tailgate check the hinges as mine were too long to fit in tailgate slots. Had to grind off a little from each side. These castings are brittle so be careful. Now is the time to mark where you need to drill all the holes for everything that goes on the outside. Note on hood blocks: check with hood up & windshield down. At this point I took it all apart as drilling and cutting of tub was easier with tub on floor. Now is the time to check that everything fits in the pre drilled holes. I had to enlarge the speedometer opening. Mark and drill all the holes you need to mount everything that goes inside the tub and test fit. Check routing of all cables choke, throttle and parking brake. If holes are not in firewall you will have to cut them. Parking brake note: Mine did not come with the spring clip in the guide. (behind dash) I also had to enlarge the dash hole upward for handle to slide in and out. I understand this is another common problem. With care you won’t notice it. You can buy the guide with spring clip and it bolts right in. After all this is done I suggest you put it all together and check for fit and anything you missed. As of this writing that’s where I am. Almost ready for paint. Helpful hints: Use a chain hoist to lift the body on and off. Remove the shifters or at least the main transmission shifter. Cover top of transmission to keep anything from falling in. Steering gear and column: With left front fender off, turn shaft all the way to the left so arm gear is toward the rear as far as it will go and slide the column in as far as you can and steering box will drop down inside the frame clearing the oil pump. Caution: If you think of shimming steering box at frame to move column left or right be careful! Steering box must be secure and check that draglink clears engine during it’s full travel. Use the strongest bolts you can get to mount the body tub. Your safety counts here. My kit came with ½ inch thick hard rubber mounting blocks for the body. This keeps the transmission from banging the floor while driving. Do not over compress these blocks. Remember the body and frame flex when driving. If like me and you are not a pro, this is a job you can tackle. As you see the kit here is steel. Has anyone tried a fiberglass kit? You may run into some things I did not but, just maybe everything on yours will fit and go on right the first time. If you try this and get stuck, help is only a phone call or E-Mail away. Be safe, measure 3 times and cut-drill once, have fun and good luck. The vendors in MV have been of tremendous help with my project, and I hope you use them. Remember we don’t quit or walk away from our projects, we just get another beer.
Note: There may be others but: Every vendor I talked to, told me, “all body’s come from the same company in the Philippines”. I have seen ads claming some are made in Europe. As far as I know, no one sells re-production grills. The Grill is a trademark item. (as in Jeep ads) There is one vendor in Canada who advertises grills but as of this writing he has not got back to me. (Willys Acres, Ad in MV issue #98 ) I only found one vender who sells the raised WILLYS name like the original. (Willys Overland Toledo Ohio) The reason I chose them. Remember only a few years ago you could not get a re-production split windshield, so things change.
John: For your info. I hope this is something you can use. About me. I am not a professional mechanic or body man, just a average backyard mechanic. I have spent my working life in broadcasting and for the past 22yrs with the Voice of America in Washington, D.C. And live in Southern Maryland. I spent 3yrs in the U.S. Army (Signal Corps) 1yr in Viet Nam & 1yr in Thailand. For the past 30 years I have been fixing up and restoring cars as drivers for myself and with friends. I currently own 2 early column shift 46CJ2As, 69 Ford Galaxie Conv. And a 65 Triumph Herald 1200 Conv. With two friends who are neighbors we have done a complete frame off on a 61 MGA, 28 Ford Truck and a 34 Plymouth. Did you know the Plymouth has the same engine with little change as the M37s I drove in Viet Nam. Do I want a MV? YES but have wife. Maybe some day. Might sound odd but I want something different like a duce ½ fire truck. You might notice from the photos my current Jeep has been changed from a column shift to a floor shift and also to 12volts and upgraded to 11in brakes. Can supply info on this if you want.
You have many great venders in MV and so far the ones I have dealt with have been top notch. I could not have done my Jeeps with out them. Of note: Gary & Kevin at Surplus City Jeep Parts in Calf. George of Army Jeep Parts in Bristol Pa. And Walck’s also in Pa.
If you need clarifying or have any questions let me know. You may include my E-Mail address as I would like to here how others are coming with their projects and any feedback form your readers.