If you could invest $80,000 in your CJ-3B, what would you aim for? A Jeep that looks like it just rolled out of the showroom with every option? Or a unique, head-turning custom vehicle with almost every component replaced or modified?
The late Brian Leetch of Camas, Washington, opted for the custom job, but without losing the look of the original. From the front, the stainless steel and Super Swampers are eye-catching, but details like the parking lights, clean hood line and simple bumper say "Willys Jeep."
Brian had the 1953 CJ-3B on the market for $40,000 in 2007, and it has been sold a few times since then.
This build-up took two years, plus 400 hours of custom body work, and has less than 500 miles on the drivetrain. Brian's investment includes $15,000 in stainless components; fenders, grille, windshield frame, fender flares, and all latches. Finishing touches include Weld wheels, and paint and flames by Kevin Bishoff.
The side view reveals the ceramic-coated custom headers and exhaust, heated seats moved back four inches, and Brian's nicely-designed roll cage (with front defrost inside.)
Neatly fitted under the hood is a Chevy 406 by AC Nutter racing engines, with roller timing, AFR aluminum heads, Holley 830 carb on top of an air gap manifold, and MSD 6AL ignition control box. The custom four-core aluminum radiator has a NASCAR electric fan, and NASCAR pulleys and pumps. Horsepower measures over 585 on a dyno.
The extensive custom sheet metal work includes the elegant dash with glove box and air conditioning, and the floor pan center console. Note the "Willys" shift handle. The Flaming River steering includes all-stainless column and linkage. The 7500 watt sound system has six 6-inch speakers and two 12-inch subwoofers under the front seats.
The rear view is all symmetry, with twin exhausts and flush LED taillights flanking a traditional tailgate done in stainless. The 18.5 gal. stainless fuel tank is under the bed, and the battery is tucked inside the left rear fender.
The postal Jeep frame has outboard rear springs and 2006 Tahoe front springs. The Dana 300 transfer case drives Dana 44 differentials with 4.11 gears and air lockers. Brakes are discs all around.
The late Brian Leetch had plenty of experience customizing flatfenders, and it shows in this vehicle.
Thanks to Brian for the photos. See also a drawing of the Jeep, on the High Hood as Art page. -- Derek Redmond
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