About Ike

Meet Ike.

Ike is a 1950 Willys-Overland CJ-3A ‘Universal Jeep.’

Like all CJ-3A Jeeps, Ike was built in the Willys-Overland plant in Toledo, Ohio. It’s serial number is CJ-3A 54360. The serial number puts Ike’s birthday in August of 1950. Prior to 1951, the CJ-3A used a very simple serial number scheme. The first 1949 CJ-3A was serial number CJ-3A 10000, with the numbers incrementing from there until the last CJ-3A in 1950. Post 1950, the serial numbers changed, with each year starting over at 10000 with a 2 part prefix indicating model and year of manufacture. For example, 451-GB1 13783 would have been built in 1951, was a model standard civilian CJ-3A and was the 3783rd one built that year.

Ike also has engine serial number 3J52440. You might notice that the vehicle number is much higher than the engine number. How did that happen? Well, according to the Dating a CJ-3A information page:

Existing original CJ-3A engine serial numbers initially increase as expected, but then in 1950 and 1951 the skew becomes negative by approximately 2000.

It would appear that Ike was part of the engines closing in on that 2000 skew mark. As Willys-Overland made modifications to the war-time “Go-Devil” engine design, it would appear that the additional engines built for replacements were used as stock in the production line causing the skew, or at least that’s my theory.

So how do I know what month Ike was built? Along with the VIN and engine serial number, the radiator tank also indicates that it was built in July. With those 3 pieces of information, I feel pretty confident that Ike was completed in Ohio in August of 1950.

Ike’s Engine

Sharing much of the same components of it’s WWII ancestor, the CJ-3A uses the venerable Willys “Go Devil” 4 cylinder engine. While 60 horsepower from 134 cubic inches (2.2 Liters) may not seem like much, at the time, it was somewhat of an anomaly for its ability to produce both high horsepower and torque from such a small footprint. The original 1/4 ton 4×4 specification requested an engine that could do 40 horsepower. Here are some of it’s specifications (from CJ-3A.com):

L-Head 134 4 Cylinder
Bore x Stroke 3.125″ x 4.375″
Displacement 134.2 ci(2.2L)
Compression Ratio 6.48:1
Horsepower (gross) 60@4000rpm
Torque (gross) 105@2000
Main Bearings 3
Valve Configuration L-head


All that horsepower and torque is sent to the transfer case via a T-90 three speed manual transmission. This transmission is very similar to the T-84 used on the Willys MB/Ford GPW during WWII, but is stronger.

1st 2nd 3rd
T-90 Gears 2.98 1.66 1.00

Being a 4 wheel drive vehicle, attaching the drive shaft directly to the back of a transmission isn’t possible. In comes the Spicer/DANA 18 transfer case. The model 18 transfer case, nearly the same as that used on the MB/GPW and CJ-2A, is a twin-stick transfer case. One stick engages and disengages the front drive shaft for 4 wheel drive, and the other puts the transfer case in high or low gear range. The 18 is offset to the passenger side, which is also why the DANA 25 and DANA 41-2 axels have the differential offset to that side.

Ike’s Past

I am at the very least the 3rd owner of Ike. The previous owner to me purchased an avocado farm around 2000. This avocado farm was sold to Donn and his family with 2 work vehicles on the property: a 1950 Willys CJ-3A named Eisenhower, and a Toyota named Yamamoto. Donn told me that the Jeep named Eisenhower was what sealed the deal for him purchasing the farm.

Fast forward a few years and the farm is completely┬ádevastated┬áby a brush fire that runs through the area. While there was nothing left of the farm, Eisenhower luckily wasn’t there, but instead safe and sound elsewhere. Fast forward a little more, and Eisenhower is renamed Ike and has come home to what should hopefully be his final owner until it is passed down many years in the future.

What’s next?

Well, Ike will be seeing a total frame-off restoration and rebuild. This means that every piece of sheet metal, gear, bolt, and nut will be taken off, cleaned, and then either repaired, rebuilt, or replaced. Based on the condition of some of the parts that I have, I may be looking for a donor vehicle for some of the parts, most importantly the body, though I may go with the Repli-Tub if I can’t find a good donor. But that is somewhere down the road.

At this point, I am trying to do a little work here and there to try and keep everything running nicely until March of 2011. At that point, the registration will expire, Ike will be put on non-op status, and the tear down will begin. I don’t quite know what I will find as Ike begins to come apart, but I’m sure he has many surprises and stories that will never be told. At the end of this rebuild, though, I’m hoping to have a Jeep that is fairly close to new, or at least as new as a 60 year old Jeep can be.

Some Pictures!