Story of a Long-Box Willys

by Dean Thiem, Oak Harbor WA, USA

Dean Thiem found his 1953 CJ-3B with its after-market body extender a few years ago, and he has since rebuilt the Jeep from top to bottom, including reinforcing the extender. Here's the first chapter in Dean's story of that project. -- Derek Redmond



Chapter One: Her Fault

Wives can be frustrating at times. My wife just doesn't understand that you can't go four-wheeling in a 26-foot motor home even if the 20 year old map says it's a good road. And no, we can not put the canoe on the motor home roof. It would be too tall not to mention a bit difficult to get it up there. So she says buy me a Jeep to tow, then. We went looking at new Cherokees and the price scared us. The wife kept making comments about if we invest that much we would not enjoy taking it off-road.

Then Being a good husband I set out on a Jeep quest. Well, I found one, and was expecting her to be pleased. Dream on. She did not see the humor in this non-running grey wreck. We were at her mom's in Minnesota, 2000 miles from home, with her van whose transmission was poor at best, so towing the Jeep home sounded exciting to say the least. Then there was the minor issue of all the men retiring to the garage for most of the vacation to work on the Jeep. But we managed to get it roadworthy, and I drove it home.

Door interiorThe 1953 Jeep had a Koenig hard top. It had spent most of its life in Arizona. After it moved to Minnesota, a building had fallen on it during a snowstorm. When I found it in the woods, it had not been started in several years and had been for sale for a year. I have to admit it did look pretty rough, as the top was bent up and the hood was collapsed in. It appeared very stock with the exception of a Ford 302 engine. The speedometer showed 61,000 miles. It had no rust to speak of, having lived in Arizona most of its life. With 30 minutes work I had it started and test driven. I decided I couldn't pass it up no matter what the wife said. At that time I didn't know what model it was.

The box We took it to my father-in-law's, and after listening to the women's opinions we checked the brakes and changed all the fluids. We had a difficult time figuring out the 4 shifters -- it has a Warn overdrive. After getting it ready for the trip back to Washington I went back to visit the guy I bought it from, and noticed what looked like a short pickup box painted the same battleship gray as the Jeep, lying in the woods. He said it went with the Jeep and attached to the back to extend the bed 24 inches. It had 2 gas can holders bolted to it. So I installed the box extender on the Jeep and headed out for Washington.

Well, I drove it home with very little difficulty other than a very uncomfortable ride because of poor seats, springs, and a very poorly placed gas pedal. We had to stop about every hour to walk because of my legs cramping up. We averaged 21 mpg at 60 mph.

As soon as we got home, I got onto the Internet and typed CJ3. One of the first sites I visited was CJ3B.info. What a find for someone who knew nothing about Jeeps. Since then, I've visited Derek's site every couple of days.

Once we were back in Washington, my wife was more excited about the Jeep, and conceded maybe it was not a bad buy. As is normal, life got busy and it got parked till the following spring, when my wife started nagging about going camping and getting the Jeep ready. Wanting to be cooperative, I told her I was going to the garage to redo the brakes and give it a good looking over.

Well, as luck would have it, two of our young friends showed up and we got to talking, and the next thing you know we had taken the top and box extender off. Then, as long as I had help, we took the whole body off the frame so I could check that for problems. About that time the wife showed up and got a little excited, and asked some hard questions about how long it would be apart. I mumbled something about a week or two probably, which did not make her a happy camper. And they say men are impatient!

Here's the disassembled mess. -- Dean Thiem

Ford engine


Continue to Chapter Two of the "Story of a Long-Box Willys."

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Last updated 1 October 2000 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
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