California Jeep With an Arctic Top

by Francesco Fragomeni, CJ-3A/3B, California, USA

This Jeep in San Diego is what Francesco calls a salad Jeep, built with a 1953 CJ-3B tub on a 1950 CJ-3A frame (and a Toyota motor.) He bought it that way, but has been doing some interesting new modifications to it, and has written up the story so far. -- Derek Redmond

Front I purchased my Jeep in April of 2019 after moving from San Francisco to San Diego. I never learned about cars when I was younger but always wanted to, so I figured now was the time. I wanted the Jeep as a sort of sink-or-swim type of experiment, to really learn how to work on a classic vehicle. I purchased it from a really cool older gentleman in Solana Beach who'd only had the Jeep for a short while but decided that he wanted something different.

Left It's a Frankenstein Jeep in the truest sense, in that it's built from a number of different Jeeps from slightly different periods plus a number of creative upgrades under the hood. It appears to be built on a 1950 CJ-3A frame (it was registered as such using the frame stamped serial 46644.) Documents passed down to me from previous owners show reference to the body tub as dating from 1953 although it no longer has any identification tags on it for me to confirm this.

Rear It shows considerable body work and the interior is coated in a bedliner material, but there remain signs of a PTO cutout in the floor between the front seats. Interestingly, the tub does not have a tailgate, and upon closer inspection, there are no signs that it ever had one.

Toyota 20R Under the hood, it's running a late 1970's Toyota 20R motor which I'll eventually replace with a 22R for a little extra boost. Considerable work was required to get the powerplant performing properly and after that came an overhaul of the braking system. A local brake guru, Ed Leon, designed and installed a totally custom front power disk brake system powered by hydroboost which is hydraulicly supported by the addition of a dedicated power steering pump.

Interior Beyond the mechanical work, a big priority was replacing the seats and finding a hardtop. When I bought the Jeep, it had what appeared to be mismatched donor seats from an 80's era van and a vinyl aftermarket CJ rear seat.

After those were replaced, I set out to find the perfect hardtop. I saw pictures of a CJ-3B fitted with an Arctic Top and knew that was what I wanted. Once I found the elusive Arctic Top, I set out on installing it using a bit of creativity and information found on the CJ3B.info page on Arctic Tops and some information shared by a couple of people who'd done similar builds. It took a little extra effort to get it to fit but it was totally worth it.

Right I retained my 3B windshield frame instead of using the Arctic Top windshield, by relocating the pivot points and setting the 3B windshield vertical. I used the hinge guide panels from the Arctic Top to properly locate the door hinges. Because the 3B windshield frame has the bent legs that attach to the cowl (as opposed to the straight legs of the Arctic Top windshield frame), wedges needed to be added to reinforce where the lower door hinges attach. The rest was just getting things to seat properly and hanging the doors so that they close and latch properly. Eventually I will replace the glass and paint.

Windshield hinge I made cast wedges out of a putty epoxy that'll later be molded and cast to make permanent aluminum wedges to reinforce the lower door hinges. The epoxy wedges are painted and work as a medium-term solution. (The wedges themselves are not weight-bearing).

Francesco I knew virtually nothing when I bought the Jeep and had never driven a manual car let alone a seven-decade-old vehicle with a three-speed T90 transmission. There's still a lot I plan to do to the Jeep over the long term but it's much improved, a joy to drive, and I've already learned so much more than I anticipated.

Thanks to Francesco Fragomeni for the story and photos of his project. -- Derek Redmond

See more on Arctic Tops on CJ3B.info.

See also another Orange Jeep in California.

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Last updated 6 February 2020 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond