The Núpsstadur Jeppi

1953 CJ-3B, Núpsstadur, Iceland


It first appeared in Jeeps in Iceland on CJ3B.info in 2002, and over the next 10 years this Jeep at Núpsstadur Farm on the southern coast of Iceland, became perhaps the web's most-photographed CJ-3B, appearing in many travelogues, photographers' galleries, and stock photo libraries.

Since the death of the elderly brothers who owned the farm, the Willys is gone, but this Jeppi (pronounced "yeppi" in Icelandic) will live on in perhaps thousands of photos taken by tourists and professional photographers, many of which can be found on the web.

2005This 2005 picture by Ingibjorn Gudjonsson from Sweden clearly shows why the colorful Jeep nestled below the rocks was so appealing to photographers, but the story behind the Jeep is as unusual as its paint job.

License plate Z221 is an old-style pre-1989 Iceland plate, with the "Z" indicating Skaftafell district, where there were only 221 vehicles at the time the Jeep was originally registered.

The Nupsstadur Farm

Right sideNúpsstadur is located not far from the towering cliffs of Mt. Lómagnúpur, about 320km (200 miles) east of Reykjavik, and just west of Skaftafell National Park (see a map of Iceland, 200K JPEG).

Chris Holland wrote to CJ3B.info in 2002, "I am stationed in Iceland as part of the US Air Force contingent here, and I found this 3B in Núpsstadur. It appears to be in running condition as the vehicle's registration is current."

RearChris also commented, "As you can see, being just a few kilometers from the ocean, the salt water has taken its toll on the body. The body has obviously been altered to create a seamless hardtop with doors, and whoever did it appeared to do a good job. I didn't even realize what they had done until I had walked all the way around it."

2002The CJ-3B was a 1953 model, and is likely what is known in Iceland as an "Israelsjeppi" -- one of the Jeeps assembled by Kaiser-Ilin Industries in Israel and traded to Iceland for fish between 1953 and 1955 (see Israel Jeeps on CJ3B.info.) The steel hardtops were installed by the Willys dealer in Reykjavik. Fifty years later this one was clearly suffering from corrosion, but it had been kept repaired and painted.

2003After seeing Chris' photos, Magnus Sigurjonsson went on a family excursion to look at the Jeep in 2003. He photographed it in its beautiful setting, in front of some of the turf and stone farm buildings which make Núpsstadur a rare surviving example of a pioneer farm on the Icelandic frontier, dating back to the 17th century. Magnus reported the farm and the Jeep belonged to two elderly brothers over 90 years old, one of whom still occasionally drove the Jeep.

Inside one of the buildings seen here is a blacksmith shop (170K JPEG, photo by Andrew Lavigne, 2012.)

The farm is also the home of one of the few remaining turf churches in all of Iceland, dating from the mid-1600's and now maintained by the National Museum. The tiny chapel (130K JPEG, photo by Erik De Keyser, 2009) has belonged to the farm since the mid-1700's.

2003Mt. Lómagnúpur, seen in the distance behind Magnus and the Jeep, is a peak of only 765 meters (2500 feet), but because 670 meters (2200 feet) of that height is a vertical cliff rising from sea level, it's a dramatic landmark.

Lómagnúpur is mentioned in Njáls Saga, the longest and most famous of the medieval Icelandic sagas. In the story, written around around 1280 AD, the mountain is the home of a giant who carries an iron staff. He can be seen on Iceland's coat of arms as one of Iceland's four guardian spirits (see the map of Iceland, 200K JPEG).

2003In the background here is the chapel, and the new farmhouse built in 1929 by Hannes Jónsson, on the farm which his mother's family had owned since 1730. Hannes was also the local postman, and a guide to the rivers and glaciers in the area, and he and his wife Póranna Póraarinsdóttir had ten children. Two sons, Eyjólfur and Fillipus Hannesson, stayed to work the farm after Hannes died in 1968 at the age of 88.

Eyjólfur and Fillipus would have been in their forties when the Jeppi arrived, if it was purchased new in the early 1950s.

The Brothers

The HannessonsThe two brothers lived their entire lives at Núpsstadur Farm. Eyjólfur Hannesson (left) died in 2004 at the age of 97, and Fillipus Hannesson (right) died in 2010 in his 101st year. They were both buried in the family cemetery behind the chapel (550K JPEG, photo by Andrew Lavigne, 2012.) This small poster in the window of the white farmhouse commemorates the "last farmers at Nupsstadur."

Fillipus 2002A rare picture is this beautiful late-afternoon shot of Eyjólfur and the Willys together, with Lómagnúpur in the background, taken by Sigurdur Stefnisson in 2002.

From a 2004 interview with the Hannesson brothers at Icelandic news site mbl.is:

"'You both have a valid driver's license?' I ask.
'Yes, but it must be renewed annually; they need to measure vision and more,' says Eyjólfur.
'They are afraid to ask, they just renew,' says Fillipus."

Fillipus HannessonGunnar Nikulásson captured what I believe is a unique photo of the Jeppi in action, driven by Fillipus.

In a 2006 interview with Iceland Review Online, Fillipus commented that he was not afraid of driving on his own, because the roads were good and the weather was much better than it used to be. He said the wind from the north was now getting warmer as the ice was disappearing from the glaciers.

Faces of the North by Ragnar AxelssonA portrait of Eyjólfur (right) appears in the book Faces of the North by acclaimed Icelandic photographer Ragnar Axelsson.

In a 2004 obituary his niece Gudrun Ómarsdóttir wrote, "Eyjólfur was a unique man, cheerful and playful, probably one of the few remaining who at eighty years old would run in the last game with the kids. I will always remember my uncle with great warmth and gratitude for the kindness and endless attention he showed us. He taught us to respect nature and animals, large and small, and laughed heartily at my fear of spiders.

"I'm so accustomed to talking about the brothers in a single word, and it saddened me greatly to think that this will end nearly a century of Eyjólfur and Fillipus living together."

The Final Years

2008In 2008, Dan Pinson wrote to CJ3B.info: "We just completed a trip to Iceland in June and while there photographed a 3B in sad shape. I then noticed you have pictures of the Jeep we photographed. Thought you might be interested in an update."

It unfortunately appeared that the Willys was no longer being driven, now that Fillipus was 99 years of age. Dan's front view photo (280K JPEG) showed the extent to which the distinctive hardtop had rusted away to reveal the wooden frame underneath, as well as the 2005 inspection sticker remaining on the windshield, indicating that Z221 was no longer on the road.

2008Also from 2008 is a distinctive winter shot by the UK photographer known as 13 Days. Although the winters are long in Iceland, most photos at Núpsstadur are taken during the summer tourist season.

Incidentally, the brothers put studded tires on the Jeep for the winter, and in the later years the changeover was a challenge for them.

Eyjólfur and Fillipus' older sister, Margrét Hannesdóttir, died in Reykjavik in 2011 at the age of 107, at the time the second-oldest person in Iceland (wikia.com).

20162016Since Eyjólfur Hannesson died in 2010, the Jeep had not been seen or mentioned in articles about the farm, and I was not able to confirm what happened to it. But in 2016 I received a note from Istvan Takacs, who had looked into one of the sheds during a visit to the farm, and found the Willys sitting inside, waiting. Istvan took these photos, including a unique interior shot revealing some green paint.

In 2023, Oriol Rodriguez wrote to say, "Just wanted to tell you that it's still there. Sorry I got no photos, the shed was closed and the car was very partially visible through a small opening."

2008 I still have some hope that one day the Jeppi at Núpsstadur will be restored so it can once again be seen in the Icelandic landscape, as in this 2008 photo by Elva Jonasardottir:

Thanks to Dan Pinson, Magnus Sigurjonsson, Chris Holland, and the other photographers. -- Derek Redmond

See also a CJ-3B in an Icelandic Movie,Children of Nature (Börn náttúrunnar), 1991.

Return to the Index of Unusual Photos on CJ3B.info.

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Last updated 28 November 2023 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond