Steelglow Gray '59

and a 1945 Holden Willys Ambulance


1959 CJ-3B, Joe Hires, Westchester PA

Left side Joe originally sent some photos of his super-low-mileage (1700 miles) Jeep in 2004. Then in 2017 he sent some new photos and said, "I finally had my 3B fixed up by Merlin Hanson in Maryland. He cleaned it, took dents out, painted, redid the seats, and added a rear seat (260K JPEG). The only mechanical issues were a seal by the e-brake drum, and gaskets and a tune up. He also replaced the water pump -- I guess it was leaking a little. As for the front bumper I decided to leave it bent because my brother bent it and I don't want him to forget it!"

"The seats were originally gray with red trim. The body and wheels were also gray, Steelglow Gray to be exact. Merlin says that it was a rare color -- not many people chose it."

For a good look at Steelglow Gray Poly (poly = metallic) see a closeup of the serial number (230K JPEG). See also Willys Paint Samples 1959-65 on CJ3B.info.

1959 receipt "My Dad bought this Jeep in 1959. He said a local quarry had it and didn't use it at all so they traded it to Murphy and dad jumped on it! My two brothers beat the hell out of it, hence the dents and scrapes, but it had no rust at all. It sat in my garage most of its life. The last time it was inspected, in 1988, it still had the original tires -- 15-inch Suburbanites. They were dryrotted from sitting, but they still had the nubbs on them."

Interior In 2020 Joe reached a mileage reading that matched the model year, and he was on the ball enough to grab a photo, but he says, "I didn't really do anything to celebrate other than reflect on everything it's been through, and I thought about my dad!"

Interior "I now understand why they call the F134 the Hurricane. I went through the hurricane here in PA in 2003 and my whole house got flooded and all of our cars were ruined including the garage. The 3B was submerged halfway up the engine block, then later the horn started going off, probably a short. So the next day I thought that the Jeep was ruined and I tried to start it thinking that it wouldn't start, but to my surprise it fired right up without skipping a beat."


"I also bought a '47 Bantam trailer (190K JPEG) which Merlin fixed up and painted Steelglow Gray. It was my wife's idea to purchase it and have him fix it up. She said it would be fun to use the Jeep for spring plant sales, but as you know there is not a lot of room in the back, so she said we should get a trailer. The sticker on the fender of the 3B is a U.S. Merchant Marine magnet (70K JPEG) in honor of my dad."

2004Here are the photos from 2004, prior to the restoration. Joe commented, "My buddy came over and took the pictures. The kid is his son -- can you tell he's a 3Ber all the way?"


Rear view The tailgate has a Murphy Lincoln/Mercury/Jeep sticker (80K JPEG).

"I use the Jeep to pull my log splitter and to patrol my property for wildfires, and just to have fun. It's had a pretty easy life and it will stay that way."

Holden MB Ambulance

Holden ambulance As of 2020, Joe's new restoration is a 1945 "Holden" ambulance. The name comes from the first batch of these conversions, done for the U.S. Marine Corps at the General Motors-Holden plant in Melbourne, Australia. (See more about the Holdens in Willys Military Ambulances on CJ3B.info.)

For this project Joe enlisted Parke Oehme, of Oehme Bros. War Horse Garage in Lititz PA. Joe says, "The Holden was in sad shape, owned by a friend. He, Parke Oehme and I are all WWII reenactors. He traded it to Parke for a 40s-vintage forklift, and Parke approached me about it because he knew I was into USMC stuff. So I went and looked at it and fell in love with it. I bought it from Parke and he and I came up with the idea that he would restore it, I would fund it and I would help, to learn more about vintage builds."

Holden ambulance "We pretty much had to start from scratch for the Holden side of it. It's a '45 Willys. It had an industrial L-head in it, so I found a 2/1/45 block and had it rebuilt by Parke at the War Horse Garage, who also did the welding and fabrication. I just helped out. All the welds for the superstructure were period correct. They were gas welded, and to make it more realistic we even smoked Lucky Strikes! Awesome fun project!"

Holden ambulance "I got interested in Holdens years ago when I saw a picture of one and thought they were neat, but never dreamed I would own one! I have researched them extensively and started a log of existing ones in various stages and I can only find seventeen in the world, mostly the second batch of Fords and the third batch of Willys, both of which were assembled at Camp Pendleton from Aussie-made kits. I am getting ready to co-author a book on the subject with Merlin Hansen."

Holden ambulance In addition to the framework that allows the jeep to carry two stretcher cases and two sitting wounded, this rear view shows the unique little rear door.

Although Joe is in Pennsylvania, he has a Vermont plate because of simpler registration requirements there.

Steering wheel Joe describes the biggest surprise of the project: "On 13 May 2019 we were moving it from one place to another for reassembly and paint, and that's when we noticed "Tilley" carved in the steering wheel. Another friend started digging through USMC records, and found two Tilleys; one didn't seem to be an ambulance driver type, but the second came back as a guy named Thomas Tilley of Illinois, who was wounded on 13 May, 74 years prior on Okinawa!"

Thomas Tilley "So more digging and we found his obituary and it listed his children and grand kids. Thanks to Facebook we reached out and the family got really excited after we explained what we were doing, and they confirmed 'granddad drove an ambulance on Okinawa.' Unbelievable -- it sent chills down our backs! So from then on the Tilleys wanted to be kept in the loop on the restoration, and have become friends."

Here, Pvt. Thomas Tilley holds an Imperial Japanese Army war flag. He was injured in the back by shrapnel on Okinawa on 13 May 1945

Steering wheel And here's Joe reenacting the photo, with the Holden as it approached completion.

Thanks to Joe Hires for the photos and information. -- Derek Redmond

See more Willys Military Ambulances on CJ3B.info.

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Last updated 14 December 2020 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond