As I mentioned previously, as a kid, I worked in a paint shop where we painted small aircraft and the occasional helicopter. Fast forward a few decades, and I have a few cousins who are deep into the Military Vehicle Historical Society. So I do a few paint and body jobs for family. Always liked the old flat fender Willys, especially being a patriotic combet vet myself.
Fastforward a few military jeep projects and I asked one of my cousins to “keep an eye out” for a flat fender jeep. He asked me if I preferred military or civilian, I told him I have no preference so long as its clean.
Few months later he hit me up and said he found a cililian Willys, but it appears to have a military motor. I like qwarky stuff so I said I’m game.
Ended up with an $1,800 project jeep, that sat for almost 30 years in a barn. It was for the most part unmolested, but the rats had there way with this thing so the wiring was almost 100% gone. It was a west coast jeep, so the rust was minimal and bubba never got ahold of it so it was completely stock.
A deeper dive into this project turned out to be one in million. So in the WW2 Willys Jeep community, everyone knows both Willys and Ford were drafted into the war effort. With over a million Jeeps produced, it was about a 60/40 split. Willys made 60% whereas Ford made about 40% of all the jeeps produced during WW2. The Ford’s offer a slight “premium” because there were less produced. To the naked eye they look identical (Willys vs. Ford) although there are slight differences. All I knew was the serial numbers.
Willys built serial number began with MB- 123
Ford built serial numbers began with GPW-123
So the engine in my civilian jeep (CJ2A) was a military motor, but I had no idea what type of military motor it was. Was is Willys or Ford? Only a closer inspection of the serial number stamped on the block would tell me what it was.
It was a Ford motor (thats cool) but it turned out to be far more rare. Serial number started with GPA-123.
Durring WW2 there were about a million Jeeps made between Willys and Ford. But my engine was stamped GPA . . . WTF is that.
During WW2 Ford produced about 12,000 Amphibious Jeeps. They weren’t very “sea worthy” so most of them sank. Those that didn’t made there way into private collectors or museums.
So my little budget civilian jeep somehow ended up getting an Amphibious motor swapped into it at some point in time. Motor alone is valued at $30,000 plus, maybe more if the numbers matching Amphibious Jeep is still around somewhere.
Meet my 1949 Willys CJ2A I nick named “Motorboat.”
Built as a U.S. Forest Service Tribute Jeep.