by Chuck Frerichs, 1953 CJ-3B, Cherryville BC, Canada
My interest in Jeeps goes back to 1967 when we moved to Calgary, Alberta and I found out that hunting in the mountains would require four-wheel drive! The search was on and soon I was the proud owner of a 1947 CJ-2A. By early fall I was approached to join a 4 Wheel Drive Club, and you know the rest. By early 1968, a new CJ-6 was in my yard!After about five years of use and abuse the CJ-6 had to go, and was replaced with another 2A.
Somewhere around 1973 I found a 1955 CJ-5 project Jeep. It was a frame-up modified rebuild including 350CI Chevy with 400 turbo automatic and positrac rear differential.
In 1981 a move to British Columbia was in the cards, and with great sadness, my pet CJ-5 had to go. The Jeep sabbatical lasted from 1981 to 2007. With retirement in 2006 came travel and a bigger motor home. With a bigger motor home, mobility becomes a problem, bringing the need for a toad for day trips. What a good excuse to get back into Jeeps!
While in the 4 Wheel Drive Club, I got to see a few CJ-3Bs and they sure caught my eye, so the search was on. Because 3B's are so rare, we ended up with a 1984 CJ-7 (90K JPEG) which we flat-towed for the summer.
We were on a drive in the country one sunny day in early September and there it was! A tarp in the shape of a flatfender Jeep, half hidden by the corner of a barn. It just had to be mine! My lucky find just happened to be a CJ-3B. The farmer said he used it to plow his driveway but hadn't used it for the last couple of years because it needed a master brake cylinder. By October of 2007 we had it home.
In the spring of '08, off came the metal cab and then a thorough inspection. All was not good. The front fenders and rear fender wells had some serious rust problems and the front floor was missing and had been repaired with patches screwed on.
Soooooo, here we go! Tub replacement and full frame-up restoration. I wanted to keep it stock including 6V system; thus began my ten-month relationship with the amazing CJ3B Page, and Willys Overland in Toledo who really are great people to deal with.
A repli-tub was ordered from Willys Overland the end of August '08, and arrived mid-September along with a few obviously needed parts. For the next several months it was remove parts, clean, check out and repair or paint for re-installation. All new brake system including master cylinder, wheel cylinders, lines, drums and shoes. Also rebuilt the steering box and drag link.
Another few weeks went into cutting and drilling the holes in the dash. I didn't change the dash so there is no dimple for the e-brake (50K JPEG), but I made a new brace from the dash to the firewall. I know it's not stock but will have to live with it. It was now time to order more parts from Willys Overland and get the the radiator rebuilt. My son, who is also a Jeep nut (acorns don't fall far from the tree) took my T18 and made a tapered bearing conversion for the idler gear.
By February '09 I found Dave, an excellent body man and painter, through a friend. The third week of February saw the frame with the differentials and springs sent to be sandblasted and painted with a special hard frame paint. What a beautiful job! When Dave returned the frame to me, he picked up the tub, fenders, tailgate, hood, grill and windshield to be prepped and painted. After consulting with The CJ3B Page, we found the color we wanted was Woodstock Green. Dave matched it up very well, and did a super job on the body work and painting.
The motor was running good, so I pulled it out to send the frame for sandblasting and paint, and it was convenient to clean and paint the engine and tranny at that time.
By the time the frame came back, it was Mach 1 because we wanted to have the Jeep ready for a trip back to a 42-year reunion of the original 4 Wheel Drive Club, to be held on the August 2009 long weekend. When the body arrived back in April, the running gear was ready for a trial fit. All was good. It was also time for a final parts order from Willys Overland, including a new Tigertop. Then came the dreaded one-inch sag on the driver's side. One more call to Willys Overland and a set of rear spring were on the way. There is still a slight sag, but it's much better.
The old wiring harness was pretty much intact and in not too bad shape, but was from the early 3B with only one tail light, and turn signals added later. Working on a tip from CJ3B.info, I used 10 and 12-gauge wire, and basically followed the old harness with the exception of the fuse block on the firewall, and the wires to the rear I ran inside up over the fenderwell. I only have the signals hooked up at the front because the parks only have one wire, but I later came across the pigtail conversion shown on The CJ3B Page, and will probably change that later
I know -- the seats are not stock either! But at our age, comfort comes into play. They came out of a 2005 Dodge SX‚ all leather in case we get caught in the rain with no top. Once the seats were installed (70K JPEG) there was an immediate problem with the over-65 six-pack and the steering wheel (80K JPEG).
The problem was solved by cutting and shortening the bracket (70K JPEG) which holds the steering column to the dash. This allowed me to loosen the steering box and, after enlarging the hole in the floorboards, to raise the angle of the column. This brings the steering wheel up and away from said six pack. Job well done!
Start by cleaning gas tank before installing. Next comes new points, condenser, plugs and wires. New battery. Finally by the first week of July we get it started. Hooray, hooray! Jeep moves and brakes work. But -- trouble ahead. The motor won't rev up too high. A call to my mechanic and we decide to dismantle the old YK. Carb needs a rebuild, but we don't know how the jets are and we're running out of time.
You guessed it -- another call to Willys Overland, and a new Solex was on the way. The carb arrived about July 21 and the clock is ticking fast. When we got the new carb on and got the Jeep started, it was discovered that I had forgot to put the extra spring in the points, causing the points to float at high revs. Installed spring and problem solved.
Not yet! One more problem. From somewhere near the rear differential there was an ugly growl. By trial and error I ruled out the rear differential, transmission and transfer case. The U-joints seemed suspect, so changed those. Still the noise. After consulting again with my mechanic, we found that the rear drive shaft had been taken apart and put back together out of time. Retiming the drive shaft solved the problem.
We did make it to the 42nd reunion and had a blast. I haul the Jeep on a 16 ft. flat deck and it sure turns a lot of heads wherever we go. The other unit here belongs to our friends Stewart and Donna Geekie from the old club in Calgary. They are the couple who started the Antique Willys Association in Alberta. The Jeep is an early 2A that he rebuilt many years ago with a V6 and a 3A windshield.
My 3B is put away for the winter now. In spring 2010 I have a few little kinks to iron out. I must pull rear axles and install seals like I should have in the first place, install an inline fuel filter, and new O rings in the front hubs.
I am very pleased with how it turned out, although what started out to be a reasonably cheap project, turned out to be about a $17,000 rebuild. Thanks to my son Rob for helping me along the way, and as his favorite saying goes, Jeep stands for "Just Empty Every Pocket!" -- Chuck Frerichs
In June, 2014, Chuck stopped by to visit John Goering and his highly modified '55 3B in Bozeman, Montana, and John snapped photos of their Jeeps and spouses.
John says this view of the Tobacco Root Mountains is from the top of the divide between North Meadow and South Willow, west of Bozeman.
A great action shot taken north of Bozeman: "Chuck playing in the puddles on the Fairy Lake Road."
Chuck was hoping to return the favor by taking John on a tour around his area of British Columbia, during the BC Trail Ride in July 2016.
Thanks to Chuck for the story and photos, and John for his photos. -- Derek Redmond
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Last updated 1 March 2010 by Derek Redmond
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond