Find and Repair an Original Jeep Body

by John Hubbard

"If finding good tubs were easy, then everyone would have one, and what fun would there be in that?"

Stainless steel bodyThe only repro body I would have is the stainless steel 3B body (with fenders, hood and tailgate) from the Philippines that apparently dried up in the late 70's or early 80's. I have a magazine article (see the photo) on a build-up with that tub that is pretty neat. (See CJ-3B Magazine Articles for the 1968 article, titled "Matinee Idol".)

Anyway it would seem to me that an original CJ-3B tub is still the way to go and so you have to be creative in finding one. You can't just look through a catalog and pick out the parts you want made to OEM specs by US workers using original dies and forms, for a good price, and go pick that up at your local NAPA store next Tuesday. That of course is a perfect scenario that doesn't exist, and if it did I wouldn't be restoring Jeeps.

So you make a committment to obtaining an all-original tub, and then you make all sorts of contacts and put out feelers for what you are looking for. If you find one you may have to make a trip (with a trailer) to get it. Or make some other kinds of inventive arrangements to get the unit to your state.

I wouldn't look for tubs -- I would look for complete Jeeps from rust free states like Arizona and California, and when you re-sell the extra parts (rolling frame, engine, etc.) you can make out pretty well on price. There have got to be hundreds of rust-free examples in those states. Call the Jeep shops in Arizona and ask the clerk to walk over to the classified board and take a look and then call him back a week later and then buy something from him and then overpay him by $2 for your order of lug nuts and....

Be creative, that's the key. The beauty of the real tub scenario is that you have to network (in a real sense) and meet people and interact and social engineer and do all the things you need to do with people and then the thing will eventually happen. Use the internet to get people's contact info and then contact individuals in person (phone), and talk to them about Jeeps -- you'd be amazed at the doors that open up when someone can tell you are truly excited about Jeeps (and about restoring Jeeps).

Body weldingAnyway my second 3B is an original '61 body (see a rear view of the body as found, 40K JPEG) that has been reskinned and refloored and retailgated, and though probably more expensive than the repro, I feel like it is solid and original. (See also an interior view of the spot welds, 40K JPEG.) I plan to Rhino coat (sprayed polyurethane) the underside and the inside of the tub and conventionally paint the outside sheetmetal. I think the Rhino Liner may be required to even out all of the metal additions as well as making it waterproof.

I guess I am just saying that if you want to buy replacement parts out of a magazine then you should look intorestoring a newer model of Jeep and go to it -- quality CJ-3B body parts cannot be purchased out of a supplier's catalog/magazine. If you are buying repro parts and not feeling good about it, then do what makes you feel good -- however long that takes. Maybe it takes 2 years to find a tub....

-- hh


Scott Blystone adds: "Given all the headaches and extra costs associated with making a replacment tub fit, and given that in reality at least 75% of the average 3B is still OK (hood, grill, cowl, misc. chunks of body), I am beginning to think that pulling the tub and having it reworked by a competent shop would be cheaper. Especially if you can do at least the simple stuff yourself like sanding.

"I had planned on getting a new tub, but am definitely thinking twice about it. I would like to hear some costs from anyone who had a body redone. Mostly we are talking some flat steel on the sides, floorboards front and back, wheelwells and some miscellaneous brazing.

"Adding up the cost of these panels from one supplier I come to $713 retail cost. Even the budget tubs are around $1500 now. Let's figure $65/hr for labor. That allows for two full days of labor and you know the body mounts will line back up. Never having done this kind of work I do not know if two days is realistic. I do know with the tub off it certainly represents no challenge for even a moderately good body man. I can imagine a couple hours of cutting, a full day of fitting and a couple more hours of welding and grinding?"

Sheet Metal for Patches

Bart asked on The CJ-3B Bulletin Board what sheet metal should be used on a restoration: "This relates to restoration or replacement of sheet metal. When purchasing material for making replacement panels or patches... what kind of sheet metal should we buy to be as close to the original as possible? 18 gauge is the standard thickness but what are the other specifications? What does one ask for at the sheet metal shop?"

H. Wooldridge responded: "The best choice would be 18 CRS, which is Cold Rolled Steel. It is clean, bright metal and will rust quickly if not protected. If they want more description, then ask for mild steel, which can be A36, 1018 or 1020. This is what most sheet metal fab shops will supply. Galvanized won't weld or paint correctly and HRS (Hot Rolled Steel) is cheaper but is usually pitted from scale so takes more surface prep."

Thanks to Stuart Bourdon & Duane Elliott for the photo from the 1968 magazine article. Thanks also to John and Scott for their encouragement of restoration rather than replacement. Further comments are welcome. -- Derek Redmond

See also Restoring a 1956 Military CJ-3B.

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Last updated 22 August 2007 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond