Looking for your next wrenching project?

Checking out online classifieds for cool old Willys Jeeps

By Aaron Storms

It’s not like I need yet another automotive project with the current ‘60 Willys pickup and Ford F250 merger project, but is always fun to look and see what’s out there – the quest is half the fun! You never know, something that you didn’t know you needed yet might just be a phone call or email away, launching another road trip to pick up another treasure in the rough. Most ads tend to say, “Running when parked” or “Just needs a little paint” and some sad story that may tug at your heart strings. I mean really, how can you drive down the road and see an abandoned Jeep or project that needs a new home and pass it up when you know all the love and care you can give it? That sad puppy-dog look from the headlights is just begging you to adopt him and he’ll follow you home via a tow-bar or a trailer.

Starting my search online with a “Willys” query to find old Willys pickups, wagons, or flat-fender Jeeps is always a good way to start, and pulls up a few candidates on the local Craigslist site. A few years back people would almost pay you to drag away the rusting carcass from their yard or give them to you so they could reclaim the space, but it’s getting harder to find those deals these days. Anyone who sees the perfect and polished examples selling for a premium at the TV auctions like Mecum Auctions or Barrett-Jackson Auction suddenly think that their yard art vehicle should be worth about the same, not taking into consideration all the work and time and money that it takes to get them to that show worthy status. From what I have seen, most owners who pay shops to restore their vehicles to their personal ideal typically spend far more than what the car will ever be worth. So that is a good thing to know up front. What is a pristine example of the vehicle you’re looking for selling for online? Unless you have a family or sentimental reason for spending more than it could ever sell for, that might be a good thing to consider up front and help you budget accordingly.

Today, the Willys search under the Cars & Trucks heading turns up a few candidates here in the greater Denver area, ranging anywhere from $2,000 for the rough projects to $29,900 for the restored versions. The lot included three wagons, a few ‘60s CJs, a couple older flat-fenders, and even a “newer” Jeep pickup. The ’71 Jeep pickup for $2,000 looks promising and the price is better, but needs a lot of work and a new motor, the floorboards are rusted out, and needs a lot to get it running. The other extreme is the completely restored ’56 Willys Jeep that had a frame-off restoration, and only has 14,000 miles. Owner says it’s highly collectible and has been professionally restored to Barrett-Jackson quality standards. That might be true, but it still seems to be at the top of the sales spectrum, and would be doubtful if the owner gets a full-price offer. By comparison, the 1947 Willys Jeep CJ-2A flat-fender with a partial restoration, solid body, very complete and original, engine needs to be rebuilt, many spare parts seems to be a better deal, but is still an expensive project.

Thinking that there might be more projects out there, I also checked out the Auto Parts heading and found a few more jewels in the rough. One was a ‘62 Willys project that the owner lost interest in and is willing to trade for a truck. Another is a rusty but all parts intact ’46 Willy flattie listed as a restoration project and asking price of $3,000 or best offer. Doesn’t run, and transmission and transfer case need replaced. A better deal it would seem, was this other ad – 1948 or 49 CJ2a jeep, axles, body fenders. No title. Perfect flat-rod start or original project $700. If I didn’t already have one of these waiting for me to start on, it might be worth pursuing for someone if they could negotiate the price down enough to make it worthwhile putting that body onto a donor drivetrain – yet another hunting opportunity! There was also another ad for a ’65 CJ5 rolling chassis with motor and complete drivetrain, but owner has never had the engine running, so for $3,250 that seems like an expensive drivetrain for the $700 Willys tub from the other ad. Might be better to find a complete vehicle to start with, or a cheap running drivetrain donor to graft the body to.

Heading on over to the Denver Marketplace on Facebook and doing another Willys query, there were even more results, and from a wider variety of Jeeps and similar 4WD vehicles, from a Jeep forward cab, to a ’53 Kaiser Jeep ambulance, to a Jeepster Commando, a rock-crawler Jeep, and a ’52 Dodge Power Wagon. There were even military Kaiser Jeeps, full-size Grand Cherokees from rough to finished, and a ’69 Toyota Landcruiser, to a ’39 Chevy pickup and a ’61 Ford and a ’61 International truck and many more.

If that’s not enough fun for you, and you don’t mind including the entire country in your search, you can wander on over to eBay and kill a few hours looking at the automotive eye candy, and then to other collector car sites where you should be able to find something worthwhile. So many prospects and so little time and funds…

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