Andy Balistreri (known online as cj3bdiver) has a '56 Willys which is a treasure in a couple of ways: first, Andy is almost finished a complete restoration; and second, he knows the complete history of the Jeep from when it originally left the Willys dealer. This second fact is fairly unusual; when a vehicle passes through a number of owners over 50 years, records often get lost. One of the most common questions I hear from new owners of old Jeeps is, "How can I find out where it was originally sold?" It's often an impossible question to answer.
In this case, the Jeep was originally sold to United Airlines in San Francisco, who used it as a baggage hauler for a number of years. (The photo here shows another CJ-3B loading a United Airlines Viscount in Atlanta in 1966. Photo by John F. Ciesla, from Airport Jeeps of the 1960s on CJ3B.info.)
Andy picks up the story: "It was then sold to the man that actually drove this Jeep at the airport. After the guy purchased it he turned it into a hunting Jeep. He hunted out of it for about 10 years till the motor finally went. He then had the motor in the shop to be rebuilt and in the meantime he bought a '47 Willys that was all set up. When he got the motor back for the 3B he dropped it in and never touched it."
"My brother-in-law was putting a windshield in a car across the street from where this Jeep lived. My brother-in-law and I had been talking about getting a hunting Jeep, and when he saw the Jeep in the guy's front yard he asked him if he wanted to sell it. The guy says sure and he wants $1000. I got the call about it and went to look at it. When I got there the guy put a battery in it and it fired right up. I gave him the money and drove it home. I replaced the clutch and pressure plate and took it to our hunting property and that year it ran great. After about 7 years of hunting, the motor finally went again. The Jeep sat in my garage for about 2 years till I decided to pull the motor and get it rebuilt."
"I took out the motor and then I pulled the tranny and transfer case and before I knew it, the body was sitting next to the frame. That was 3 years ago. The frame was sandblasted and painted, the front and rear Danas were taken apart, cleaned, painted and rebuilt. I took the T90 and got casings for it because the old ones were cracked -- same for the transfer case -- and rebuilt them myself. The tub was in such bad shape I decided to get a new tub from Willys Overland.
"I had a friend of mine from the Bay Area Auto Spa paint the body for me, and he went the extra mile and filled all the spot welds and cherried out all the waves in the body and the fenders and hood. He had the body and parts for about 9 months and he would not let me see it till it was done. I told him I didn't want to spend a ton of money for body work since it was only a Jeep. When I picked it up I couldnt believe how nice it came out, but when I got the bill it was just $750.00, for paint and materials. I guess when your godson's dad owns the place you get family discounts."
See also a left side photo (80K JPEG.)
"The motor was rebuilt by a friend of mine in Sacramento who normally builds motors for drag boats. I called him one day and told him I had this Jeep and needed a motor rebuilt, and when I brought the F-head to him he laughed and told me I was nuts and he'd never done an engine like this. I told him take it as a challenge and do the best you can. That he did -- the motor fired right up and I haven't made a adjustment to anything since I started it on February 29, 2004."
"I replaced everything on this Jeep from nuts, bolts and washers, to cotter pins. It's brand new from front to back, and a lot of the credit goes to my wife for putting up with all the long hours I spent cleaning and scraping the mud and oiled dirt from all the parts I took off. I also have to give a ton of credit to all the people on CJ3B.info who answered my questions, and to the folks that had the parts I could not find."
Thanks to Andy for the photos. -- Derek Redmond
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