Endearing Qualities of the CJ-3B:
High Hood as Art


The following is from a couple of discussions among some of the regulars on the CJ-3B Bulletin Board, regarding what gives the CJ-3B Universal Jeep its appeal. Comments range from practicalities to aesthetics, and even venture into the realm of the Jeep as Art. So I thought this would also be an appropriate place to include a gallery of some CJ-3B art I've been collecting. Credits for the illustrations are at the bottom of the page. -- Derek Redmond

Duke Edwards Mike: What would you say are the endearing qualities of the 3B compared to other Jeeps -- e.g. uniqueness, rarity, so ugly it's cool (no offense intended), stronger engine than the earlier flatties, etc....

I've got a 3A and am keeping my eye out for a 3B as my next project. Just curious what the guys who are really into them like about them. Personally, I like the unique look of the high hood, and the stronger engine is an appeal as well. I prefer 2A, 3A, and 3B over the rounded look of the CJ-5.

Hollis: I have always liked the flatfender look, but preferred the F-head over the L-head. A fresh F-head is really a good engine for these vehicles -- people sometimes judge them harshly and want a V8 or six but there is a lot of pep in a sound engine that's not worn out. I have restored several Willys/Kaiser Jeeps but they were all CJ-5s or M38A1s, except for one CJ-6. I finally found a CJ-3B with good sheetmetal a couple of years ago and jumped on it. I rebuilt the engine, did some other cosmetic work and am quite satisfied with the results. The only criticism I have for the flatfenders is the weak hood design -- the CJ-5 and its variants are not so prone to damage.

Bob: I've always liked it because of the more aggressive look over the 2A and 3A. I also like how my knees are actually lower than the dash when I'm driving. If you look at the 2A and 3A, your knees are higher than the dash.

Casey HargisErnie: The 3B has a unique brawny look that stands out from the rest of the pack. I own FC's too. I wanted the 3B look so much that I put a tall hood body on my 3A and a F134 when I rebuilt it, and as luck would have it I found/bought a real nice original '54 3B halfway through the project.

Nick: Regardless of the condition, it commands instant respect from everyone.

Keith: I always wanted a flatfender. They are distinctive head turners. Few people know what it is beyond a "Jeep", but everybody smiles when they see it.

My first Jeep was a CJ-7 because I couldn't find a flatfender. To be honest, I really wanted an "A" type, but now that I have my '53, and am learning what the real difference is, I feel that I have the better type. Primarily due to the few extra ponies that the F-head engine produces.

The only thing that I would consider as the down side has to do with my 3B, specifically. But if it was everything that I wanted I'd have no reason to tinker with it and I'd be willing to bet that tinkering is one of the primary reasons that we all have these things!

Glenn: I've always been a CJ-5 guy, but also wanted a flatfender. Around central Florida 3B's aren't common at all, but I ran across one a couple of years ago so finally bought one. The high hood look has to kind of grow on you, but now I love it. The other day I got a thumbs up from a guy in a YJ, so that was a good feeling.

Kim: For me it was the perfect vehicle. I live on an island that has a lot of dirt roads (mud this time of year), some neat off-roading to be done, a speed limit of 35 (if you are brave) and only one other Jeep (a 73 CJ-5). Plus it is the ultimate in basics as far as transportation -- no computers, fuel injection or ABS to go bad. The bad points.... still trying to find them. Maybe keeping my lady friend from driving it all the time!

Hubert CossardOakes: My first and only 3B has a flashing red light and siren. It's a CJ3B fire Jeep. It's the ultimate in immaturity -- a firetruck that you can drive in the mud.

Jorge: Gotta love that comment! Hell, Bill, we're all immature. Spending money on an old vehicle with no doors, no power steering, no A/C, no radio... instead of home improvements!

Steve: I bought my first and only 1954 3B back in 1976, paid $1,000 for fun and recreation (I got tired of using my '67 VW bug for 4-wheeling), put a plow on it and in one winter it paid for itself. In the 28 years that I've owned it I replaced the timing gears, shocks, brakes, wheel bearings, and put in numerous exhaust systems. Other than that, this Jeep owes me NOTHING. Back in the late 70's/early 80's my friend had a Ford F-250. The thing always got hung up on mounds or stuck in mud, and my old Willys always managed to pull it out! It's just the best vehicle I ever had and still have, and I plan on restoring it this summer!

Roberto FloresRich: Well, my love of the high hood over the other flatfenders was more by chance than anything else. I had been driving a CJ-7 for some years and one day passed a 3B on the side of the road for sale. I had never really paid much attention to the older flatfenders so did not really know the difference between them. Long story short, I bought the 3B for $1200, got a ration of sh#% from the wife, and only then realized that my Jeep was "different" than others. But since I fell in love with the 3B first, I don't really like the low hoods now. Kind of like your first love (human one that is) sometimes dictates your taste in partners for the rest of your life. Okay, this is getting kind of weird and personal.

Bart: In high school I fell in love with a beautiful peroxided blond girl with an unspellable last name. I never got up enough nerve to ask her for a date, but I remember looking into her beautiful blue eyes while talking to her, and watching her right eye turn slowly toward her nose and stay there, while the other eye looked straight at me. This strange exotic quality made her even more mysterious, frightening, and therefore more attractive to me.

I feel similarly about my CJ-3B. I have my CJ-3A and CJ-3B parked next to one another. My 3A, though in terrible condition, is comforting in that it smoothly follows the logical pattern from military jeep to civilian Jeep. My CJ-3B on the other hand is Jeepdom's equivalent of my cross-eyed true love, a little unusual and mysterious and therefore a little more interesting and attractive.

In the 18th century the "beauty mark" became popular among aristocratic women. It was in fact an artificial mole, a defect intentionally applied to make the woman more mysterious, exotic and therefore beautiful. The function of Art is not necessarily to calm the disturbed. Sometimes it is to disturb the calm and in that sense the CJ-3B is a true work of art. Different, but nevertheless effective.

IndiaDerek: Excellent, Bart -- thanks for perhaps the most poetic posting we've had on the CJ-3B Bulletin Board. "The CJ-3B is a true work of art"? I'm not sure I would have gone that far. Good for you. But the Willys designers who had to give up their beautifully crafted CJ-4 prototypes, and live with the modified 3A, are probably turning over in their graves. (Elsewhere on CJ3B.info, see what the Museum of Modern Art in New York had to say about Jeep design.)

Bart: In fact I think one of the most interesting and accurate comments on the looks of the CJ-3B comes from our old friend Tom McCahill in his 1954 review of the CJ-3B in Popular Mechanics magazine: "In the looks department the new Jeep, as ugly as purple teeth on Park Avenue, looks like the finest work of art in the woods or atop a mountain -- where its functional design is a thing of pure beauty." McCahill reminds us that context is everything. (If anyone hasn't yet read McCahill's review of the CJ-3B, it is really worth reading his entire 1954 article on "the new Jeep". As funny as it is he has some real insights.)

Glenn Houston: Well you would need to be in love with a 3B to spend the 5 to 10,000 dollars it takes to fix one up. But like any old car there is a lot of good and bad in all of them. It is a lot easier to rewire one and work under the dash them the 2A or 3A. The bigger motor helps, and with overdrive is better yet. They were never built for the speed limit on todays freeways, but some people do. On an icy road they will turn on a dime and can end up upside down. I'm just glad that not everyone wants one, or they would soon be priced out of reason.

Unknown artistMike: My '59 CJ3B is the first Jeep I have ever owned. It is also the first vehicle restoration I have ever done. I couldn't have picked a better one to start with. From an historical standpoint -- it's a classic, a piece of automotive history, one that constantly reminds me of some of the old Jeep toys I had as a kid. From a restoration standpoint -- it is simple and solid, perfect for a first timer like me. (Imagine making your own wiring harness on a vehicle a year or two old.) As for engineering and driveability - it ain't gonna win any races but it will go thru two feet of mud and water and in bull low it will pull a stump out of the ground. As for aesthetics -- open body, one gauge on the dash, snow tires and flat fenders. Doesn't get any better. Best of all, my wife says we should get another one. I love 'em both.

Chuck: I just LOVE the look on people's faces when I crawl up a donkey trail in the 3B while the Humvee sits stewing in its own juices. When we lived in WV on the mountain, I would pull out nearly every Wrangler (except my wife's) when we had deep snow. But to be fair, a lot has to do with the driver. Some of these guys get a rock-crawler and feel absolutely invincible until they get stuck, winch and all in some mud hole. The concept of skinny tires, little engines and tall gearing just does not compute. As the saying goes, "It's a Jeep thing, you wouldn't understand." It should more appropriately be said, "It's A Willys thing, you can't comprehend!"

Roberto FloresBruce: Even as a kid I always wanted NOT what everybody else had or wanted. I always thought Jeeps were cool, and when I saw my first 3B I knew I had to have one. Only took 40 years to get it, but no regrets. I also now have two 2A's and a CJ-5/M38A1 hybrid, but the 3B is still my favorite.

Chuck: When we first moved here, I had taken to parking the older Jeeps down the hill next to our creek and out of sight. Recently though, I had to park the 3BOB up closer to the road. This particular road goes back into and through the national forest and on into WV and thus gets a fair amount of 4-wheelers. Now, I hear vehicles stopping out front or cruising by very slowly to check out ol' 3BOB no matter whether Jeepers or other vehicles. Seems everyone is always interested in these vehicles even if it is just because of their unique character or rarity. Come the time when 3BOB goes up for sale, I'm sure there will be plenty of interest just by popping a sign on the windshield!

Peirce: Nothing like the 3B for uniqueness. I've got a '58 with an overdrive. I purchased it in Florida for $195 in 1970 from a boat yard. I've carted it around the country and recently finished a complete makeover. The high hood looks aggressive compared to the earlier Jeeps. I get more thumbs up in the old Jeep -- it's better to drive something old and nice rather then something new and common.

The drawing of Brian Leetch's custom 1953 CJ-3B at the top of the page is by Duke Edwards in Oregon.

Thanks to Casey Hargis for the illustration featuring his orange 3B. He says, "My baby is a '54 high hood with a Corvette 327 installed. I'm currently into a full tear down and modernization of the vehicle as it is too far gone to restore. But I did do a few sketches of what it looked like when acquired, including the color. I've been into Jeeps my whole life and have owned a few. I'm not a purist but a person who likes the concept of go anywhere, and have fun doing it. My Jeep is a former San Diego border patrol vehicle, hence the funky color."

Thanks to Hubert Cossard for the front view of the red Jeep (to which I added the siren). See some of his other work elsewhere on CJ3B.info, especially his Kaiser-Willys Jeep Family Tree.

Thanks to Roberto Flores who contributed a couple more of his CJ-3B sketches. Roberto has lots of other drawings on the website, including some toy Jeeps cartoons.

I don't know the name of the artist who did the 3B in stained glass, or the woodcut of the mechanic's shed in India. If anyone recognizes them, please let me know.

And thanks to all the contributors on the CJ-3B Bulletin Board. -- Derek Redmond

See also 1963 Mitsubishi J3R Jeep Art, and a collection of Original Factory Artwork from the Owner's Manual, Service Manual and Parts List.

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Last updated 4 November 2015 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond