Third Time Lucky

by Bernd Bidlingmaier, 1955 CJ-3B, Germany

Bernd is in Germany, near Stuttgart, and is a longtime reader of CJ3B.info. He has also owned this early-1955-model Swiss Army Jeep for over 30 years now, so most of these photos go back many years. When Bernd bought it, the Jeep had been repainted in a light brown by a Swiss farmer, but he returned it to something close to the original Army green, and this third stage of its life has resulted in lots of good memories. -- Derek Redmond


Before I bought the Jeep in 1992 from a dealer. He told me he purchased it from a farmer in the Swiss Alps, but mentioned the first owner of the Jeep was the Swiss Army. The Swiss data tag (90K JPEG) says: year of manufacture 1954, chassis no. 57348 11230 and engine no. 4J-75020.

Trailer The Jeep was in bad condition, not running, with the engine in the back. Parts of the body were eaten several times by corrosion, and "repaired" with diverse materials -- metal, epoxy, putty (there must be artists out there in using this stuff), lots of layers of paint. On the hood we found the remnants of a red cross, so perhaps the Jeep was in use by Swiss Army medics.

Body before After tearing the car down we decided that we can use/repair the hood, grille, partially the windshield frame, partially the front fenders, seats for driver and passenger, the gas tank after cleaning and sealing it inside, the front part with firewall, dashboard, and a small part of the transmission cover.

Bodywork My Dad and the whole family were a big help -- they did the upholstery for the seats, the canvas top and much more.

Body repaired The other parts (including back seat, tailgate, top linkage, mounting for spare...) were built by us. The finished body was blasted, thermal sprayed with zinc, and primered with epoxy.

Galvanized The frame was not that bad, although it showed quite a bit of corrosion and four of the spring mounts were gone/broken. But nothing we could not fix. After grinding, the frame was hot-dip galvanized and primered with a special epoxy to get a good adhesion for the paint on the zinc.

Painted Regarding the axles, transmission and transfer case, we decided to leave them alone. They were cleaned and painted, new oil and seals. During 2007 to 2009 they were rebuilt. Lots of the gears had to be replaced, all new bearings, and we added lockers in both axles.

Finished We only checked the engine because it had been rebuilt in the past (the block was cracked and welded earlier, crankshaft ground, oversize pistons....) We did build a new exhaust from stainless steel. In 2020 we rebuilt another engine from an M38A1; this one is now in the 3B. Good F-heads are getting rare here.

Dash We decided to stay with the 6V system, and built a new wiring harness. The starter was quite good but after we fired up the F-head we saw that the generator needed a new electrical winding. In the meantime we used a 6V generator from a wrecked VW Beetle.

PTO In 2018 the 3B was upgraded with a trailer hitch. To get the needed 12V supply for the trailer from the Jeep´s 6V system we used a voltage converter and built a little relay box, both mounted under the dashboard. It works great and we use an old trailer from 1960. It is quite short and just fits with the little Jeep.

In 2021 we thought about adding a winch at the front. We decided to go with a Koenig PTO winch because the Jeep is still 6V. The winch is mounted in a cradle, quite low. Thanks to Ken ("Oldtime") for Winch Wars -- good information.

PTO Also, an overdrive was added. The PTO model 41 requires a driveline which is really not parallel to the frame -- I think it works only with the OD (and its adapter) and the non stock exhaust. The advantage of this setup is that the output flange of the PTO is quite high and well protected. The driveline runs above the crossmember.

Rear view We really love the little 3B. For years the car was not driven a lot; there was a time the Jeep stayed in the carport for years. Happily this changed, and during the summer it is used almost every day now -- having fun, getting to the grocery store, hauling firewood, visiting friends. The Jeep has now been with me for thirty years, and the time has left lots of good memories of this 3B. -- Bernd Bidlingmaier

Thanks to Bernd for the story and photos. -- Derek Redmond

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Last updated 25 March 2023 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
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