The DJ-3A Dispatcher

Sibling of the CJ-3B, 1955-65


The two-wheel drive Willys DJ-3A "Dispatcher" has a lot in common with the CJ-3B, besides dating from the same era. It was an inexpensive Jeep whose design was largely an efficient, practical recycling of existing tooling and technology. And it is largely unknown today in North America; people are always trying to figure out what this Jeep is.

The DJ made its debut in 1955 as a 1956 model, advertised both as a convertible recreational vehicle (a bit ahead of its time) and as "America's Lowest Priced Delivery Vehicle." Designed around the body style and L-134 engine of the former CJ-3A, the Dispatcher was the first Jeep since the early CJ-2A to have a steering column-mounted gearshift.


The above illustration from Willys folding brochure W241-6 shows most of the variations of the DJ-3A, not including the Surrey version.

See also the cover (90K JPEG) and middle (400K JPEG) of this blue brochure. The back cover included a list of specifications (380K JPEG). There were several other brochures for the DJ-3A; see also Form W-301-6 (140K JPEG) in yellow.

Distinguishing Features

The Dispatcher had turn signals, a large round speedometer cluster in the center of the dash, T-handle emergency brake to the right of the speedo cluster, and vacuum-operated driver-side windshield wiper. Heater/defroster was optional. DJ's started out with both 6- and 12-volt electrical systems, but by 1958 or so, they were 12-volt with 6-volt optional, possibly for export use.

DJ-3A's used the same basic frame as the CJ's, with a few modifications due to being only two-wheel drive. The rear frame bracing that goes from the side of the frame into acentral point that provides extra support for the rear cross member anddrawbar hitch, is missing on the DJ's, as the rear-mounted fuel tank (with filler neck above the right taillight) fits in that area.

The front axle is a simple solid beam, but some DJ's have been retrofitted with four-wheel drive which can make identification trickier. The original rear differential on the DJ's has the "pumpkin" centered, rather than offset like the CJ's, and the rear end is not as heavy duty. The rear axle used on the early DJ was the spicer 23 rear axle w/gear ratio 4.56:1, while the later DJ used a Spicer 27 w/gear ratio of 4.10:1. Wheels had 4 lugs, and were 15-inch up until about late 1962 or so, when the size dropped to 13-inch wheels, still with 4 bolts.

The L-head 134.2 cubic inch engines had their engine number stamping beginning with "3J" followed by a 5-or 6-digit number. Willys didn't refer to the engine as the "Go-Devil" in the DJ, but it was nearly identical to the Go-Devil except for the carb being turned 90 degrees. The positive crankcase ventilation system coming out of the side valve cover was a was a road draft tube rather than feeding into the intake manifold. The Donaldson air cleaner used on the CJ's was optional on the DJ-3A, but most had the small mesh-type air filter. The oil fill tube was different and had a loop on top instead of the twist cap on the earlier models, but still had the oil level on the stick. External Fram oilfilters were optional. Rather than having a foot starter button, they had a key start.

Parts List illustrationDJ-3A Jeeps had several different body styles which remained constant through production (with minor exceptions on the Surreys which began in late 1959 and carried through to 1964.) During the DJ-3A production years, Willys/Kaiser did not use any body-style designations in the serial numbers, so we don't know how many of the various body styles were made.

Open Body

DJ-3AOpen body, no top or doors, might or might not have tailgate. Floor shift or column shift, channel iron front bumper, rear bumperettes, small hubcaps with large "W", 15-inch 4-lug wheels. If tailgate-equipped, spare tire mounted on right rear corner of body. If no tailgate, the spare tire mounted on the solid rear panel.

This photo is Chad Anderson's 1960 DJ (and basset hound.)

Parts List illustrationTo complicate the identification of an original DJ-3A, they were built with three different types of windshield: the taller CJ-3A style with vent below the glass, and the shorter CJ-3B style with or without opening (ventilating) glass. The ventilating version is very rare.

This illustration from the DJ-3A Parts List does not include the hardtop windshield seen below. Another rare item mentioned in the Parts List is a standard tool pouch for mounting on the passenger seat; very few seem to have survived.

Navy DJ-3AThe DJ-3A was used for all kinds of light-to-medium-duty jobs that didn't require four-wheel drive, even in the military. This U.S. Navy DJ was classified as a Truck, Utility, 3200 GVW, 4x2.

A U.S. Air Force version was given an M38A1 body and apparently also an F-head engine.

Canvas Top

Continental Airlines DJ-3AOpen body with various top configurations: half or full, with doors, tailgate or no tailgate. Channel iron front bumper, rear bumperettes, small hubcaps with large "W", 15-inch 4-lug wheels. If tailgate-equipped, spare tire mounted on right rear corner of body.

The 1960 Dispatcher in this photo, owned by Steve Mehls, was used by Continental Airlines for towing luggage wagons at the old Denver airport. Airlines also used Dispatchers as mobile airport loading ramps, with the right rear quarter cut diagonally to carry the sloping ramp. See Airport Jeeps on CJ3B.info.

Convertible Top

Rear viewSoft top with sloped rear window curtain, white wall tires, chrome front bumper, rear bumperettes or optional chrome rear bumper, rear mounted spare tire, small hubcaps with large "W", 15-inch 4-lug wheels.

Colin Peabody found this rear view factory photo of a convertible DJ. Colin says, "It appears to have been taken in 1955, due to the 1955 Ohio license plate on the Jeep. It has the early CJ-3B/CJ-5 taillights, and rear bumperettes rather than the Surrey-type rear bumper."

See also the full-color anyone for tennis? (140K JPEG) advertising photo from the collection of Todd Paisley.


Surrey at Camp JeepThe Surrey (sold by Willys Export as the "Gala") was a trim option that was offered beginning in mid-to-late 1959 and continued through the 1964 model year. Surreys came in three standard colors -- Tropical Pink, Cerulean Blue and Jade Mist (green) -- and had a number of unique details.

See much more on DJ-3A Surrey/Gala Jeeps on CJ3B.info.

The Surrey version got a lot of publicity and is still popular with collectors, but Willys had more sales success with the Dispatcher as a no-nonsense working vehicle.


Willys photoFull metal delivery body with sliding doors for driver and passenger, and sliding door above tailgate that locked in the up position inside the body. Driver and passenger doors had windows that went up and down. Doors could be locked in the rearward open position. No spare tire mounting was offered with this body style as the passenger door couldn't have been opened with a right side mount, nor could the tailgate and rear door be opened with a tailgate mount. The fiberglass ribbed top protruded several inches over the front windshield frame, and a wider windshield bolted to the standard body. It had 15-inch, 4-lug wheels, with small hubcaps having the large "W". In 1963-64, the size of the wheels became 13-inch, with 15-inch being optional.

DeliveryThis Willys photo was probably taken in Toledo, and Westhaven Pharmacy's brand new 24-hour delivery Jeep was perhaps just being delivered itself, since it doesn't appear to have a license plate yet. The telephone number GA3-2478 was likely a "GARFIELD" exchange chosen in honor of U.S. President James Garfield, who was from Ohio.

A similar but full color shot (with the woman in the background in a slightly different position) was used on an advertising postcard (120K JPEG) promoting the Dispatcher's gas mileage (see the back of the postcard, 50K JPEG.)

Hardtop removedAlthough early models of this body style still had the original Jeep door openings (see an early catalogue page, 120K JPEG) they were changed in 1957 to a full opening with an extended floor to make entry and exit easier for delivery drivers. The door opening was cut at a sharp angle downward from the rear to the floor, as seen in this example with the hardtop removed.

Mail DispatcherThe Jeep Mail Dispatcher (220K JPEG) built for the USPS had the full door openings, plus full side windows and right-hand drive. See also a Mail Dispatcher specs sheet (110K JPEG).

Few other Dispatcher hardtops had side windows, but a 1964 DJ-3A with serial number 8203 24461 (60K JPEG) has rear side windows, which may be the reason for the 8203 prefix (see "Serial Numbers" below.)

Mail Dispatcher This nicely made hardtop with swinging rear door was fabricated in the Netherlands, and is seen here on a Netherlands State Police DJ-3A. Photo courtesy of Jan Hogendoorn. See more photos in A Man and His Jeep on CJ3B.info.

Other Prototypes

Pickup prototypeA longer-wheelbase concept apparently called the Dispatcher 100 (right) did not go into production. This mini-pickup version, and a version of the convertible known as the "Sportif," have both been attributed to designer Brooks Stevens.

The Sportif (110K JPEG) had stylish steel doors with plastic side curtains, a continental-style spare tire on an extended rear bumper, and a more rakish soft top.

The name Dispatcher 100 was later used for the DJ-5 Dispatcher which replaced the DJ-3A in 1965.

Serial Numbers

SN plateSerial numbers through 1963 begin with the model number 56337 which translates as follows: 56= DJ; 3 = CJ-3B/DJ-3A body; 3 = 4-134 L-head engine; 7 = 2-wheel drive.

In late 1963 for the 1964 model year, Kaiser changed the model prefix for DJ-3A models to 8202, 8203, 8204 (Surrey) or 8205, with 8202 plates (50K JPEG) most often seen. Production serial numbers remained consecutive with previous years. They began with 10001 in the fall of 1955 for the 1956 model year.

The serial number plate is located in the engine compartment, on the passenger side of the firewall on a metal plate. The tag seen here is from Colin Peabody's 1960 Surrey, with the model prefix 56337 followed by the 5 digit serial number which should also be stamped on the top of the right frame rail, just ahead of the body mount. If you look straight down on the frame just behind the battery box, you should see it.

The serial number gives an indicator of the year the DJ-3A was built, which may or may not coincide with the year on the registration or title. Since Jeeps didn't change much from year to year, Willys and the state MVD's would allow a dealer to sell a leftover vehicle as a later model. For exampe, records show DJ-3A Jeeps having a serial number indicating they were built in 1960 and not sold until 1962 or 63, and they were titled as of those years.

Thanks to Colin Peabody and Bruce Agan for much of the information here. Thanks to Todd Paisley, Steve Mehls, Mike Albright, Bruce Agan and Colin Peabody for the photos. -- Derek Redmond

If you own a surviving DJ-3A, Colin Peabody (colins60vette@cox.net) would be glad to include it in his database of serial numbers.

See Dispatcher Details for pages of research on technical details of the DJ-3A.

Also on CJ3B.info, see Delivery Jeep Bodies.

Return to Siblings of the CJ-3B.

FacebookVisit CJ3B.info on Facebook.

CJ3B Home | Contents | Search | Links | 3A and 3B Community

Last updated 23 January 2018 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond