New Life For an Old Dog

by Nick Tsigounis, 1963 CJ-3B, North Carolina

Flame RedThis 1963 Willys CJ-3B (serial no. 57348 94558) was one of the first Jeeps featured on CJ3B.info, back in the mid-1990's when it was painted green. Nick Tsigounis purchased it from Dan Fedorko in 2005, and has done a major body and paint job on it (left). Here's his story. -- Derek Redmond

BeforeI hauled the Jeep home over 350 miles on a rented U-Haul trailer. It took about 8 hours and a tank and a half of gas. Getting gas was difficult due to the trailer hitch only riding 3 inches off the ground; most gas stations have a small ramp to get into them. The safety chains dragged on the ground so much, they almost wore all the way through by the time I got home.

It was not in bad shape. Some of the lines were off but I didn’t know why until this restoration. As many know, I had mostly fixed only what I needed to; a battery, a general tune-up, new fluids, etc. I enjoyed running the Jeep more than working on it.


One of the previous owners had changed the color from Presidential Red to a green. I wanted to change it back to red, and in February of 2009 I got into a conversation with my neighbor and soon-to-be good friend Tim Hauck, about painting the Jeep. It turned out he used to work at the Jeep factory in Toledo, Ohio when he was younger. He had painted another neighbor's daily driver, and I asked if he felt up to painting my old Jeep. He said sure. He said I could start by getting the Willys down to a paintable surface.

StrippedI picked up my Metabo 4-1/2" grinder with a wire wheel, and went to work, although I know nothing about painting and bodywork. Five hours of flying Bondo and paint later, this is what Tim saw. While he didn’t mention it until we had finished painting the Jeep, he told me that when he saw the stripped-down Jeep, he could only wonder what he had gotten himself into. We found large holes, unsupported brackets, and general rot.

Nick and TimHere's the two of us inspecting a 5" x 6" hole that one of the previous owners had filled with a combination of Bondo and miscellaneous pieces of metal (nails, angle iron, strap, etc.) The pieces of metal weren’t tied to anything; they were just mixed into the Bondo. This hole was where the spare tire hung from (130K JPEG). I knew it was loose but didn’t know why.

PatchTim replaced all the Bondo-filled holes by welding metal plate I got from old hoods and doors at a local body shop. Most of the time I was Tim’s assistant but every once and a while he would have me try some of the more simple stuff.

FillerThe next phase was body filler to straighten out the lines on the Jeep. I have never worked with this stuff before but I now know you must work fast. I used a combination of Evercoat Rage Xtreme and Everglass. The coats were very thin. We applied and sanded, applied and sanded, applied and sanded, applied and sanded, applied and sanded, applied and sanded, applied and sanded, applied and sanded, applied and sanded....

To be very honest, there was more than one occasion that I couldn’t see why I was sanding so much. My friend Tim has a great eye for detail though, and it showed in the finished job.

PrimerAfter a section had been straightened and sanded smooth, we applied primer/sealer. Since this work could be fixed if I messed it up, Tim let me do a lot of the priming. I actually liked it. But while it was enjoyable, I can now understand that painting is 80% skill, 15% art and 5% luck. There are so many factors that affect the final outcome. I believe that our work is top shelf for a couple of "shade tree" mechanics. Dare I say, the body is better than when she rolled off the assembly line.

I decided to use PPG Shop Line products, due to cost. All my restoration material came from Car Color in Winston Salem, North Carolina. The tally for everything (body filler, primer/sealer and paint) was about $800.

TimHere is TIm with the Jeep following painting, which we did on the frame in his garage. Painting is the most difficult part of this whole process. I struggled with the color decision. I wanted this little CJ to stand out from the crowd but I also wanted to keep it as original as possible. While Presidential Red is a fine color, I ultimately decided to go with a PPG "Flame Red." It was one of their stock colors, which kept cost down, and it does stand out. The first thing said by everyone who saw the Jeep right after painting, was the same: "WOW, she sure is RED!"

BedOne of the modifications the previous owner did was to put a piece of 3/16" steel plate in the bed. It covers the bed floor and walls of the wheel well.

We did need to fabricate the tailgate latches (100K JPEG). We did this by cutting a piece of angle iron and drilling out the holes. Then we welded on the sides. The stainless chains and shackles came from Home Depot. The chain covers came from some wonderful neighbors, Ross and Kathy. Ross came up with the idea of the cover being stitched over the hook, and his wife Kathy did the stitching.

Ammo boxAs we all know, there is no real glove box on these things. Instead of an underseat tool box, I opted for the 50 cal. ammo box. We painted it at the same time we painted the Jeep, and it fits between the seats and matches perfectly. I keep my jack, wheel chocks, oil, gas additive, flashlight, gloves, registration card, insurance card and windshield protectors for the hood blocks inside it. It looks great and is very functional.

DashThe dash for the most part is original. There are a few holes that appear to be original but I have yet to identify what they actually were for. I did use the heater tube hole for my oil pressure gauge. It looks like the manufacturer put it there. I also bought a "lifetime guarantee" speedo/instrument cluster from 4WD.

Other new items (wiring harness, gas tank filler gasket, radiator, rear lights, etc.) came from Walck’s. Carl at Walck’s seems to really know his stuff. Most of the exterior bolts and screws have been replaced with stainless steel hardware -- this will help to avoid rust in the future.

Windshield downI have decided not to put the top back on. In reality, I will only drive it in dry weather and it is garage kept. I run with the windshield folded down most of the time anyway. No need for the top.

NickThis project would have never gotten off the ground without Tim’s knowledge and assistance. I not only got a beautiful Jeep but gained a good friend. I only hope he caught the CJ-3B bug so I can return the favor.

I also want to thank everyone from the CJ-3B Bulletin Board who has and will give me help on this old dog. I also hope I can help someone else.

Here I am with the Jeep. -- Nick

Thanks to Nick Tsigounis for breathing new life into this old dog, and documenting the project for us. -- Derek Redmond

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Last updated 14 November 2009 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond