Project Build - '61 Willys Jeep

Project Build - '61 Willys Jeep

Take a Jeep Wrangler that's seen 100,000 miles and then take a single tool set. Can you perform service on it using only one set of tools? We try answering that question.

Powerbuilt team member Tanner admits he has a problem with project cars. In a previous story we featured the '55 Chevy he's still working on. Yes, he's still working on that truck, but that didn't stop him from acquiring the latest fixer-upper:  a 1961 Willy's CJ-3B Jeep.

Here's Tanner's explanation (justification?) for this latest project:

I've been wanting to do some off-roading in the local desert areas, and late in 2017 I started looking for a Jeep. Not a fancy Jeep, but a beater I can take out on trails and have fun in without worrying about scratches, dents or damage.

I checked out a few local rust buckets over the course of a couple weeks. Then one Saturday morning I found my Crust bucket: A '61 Willy's Jeep.

The first thing that caught my eye was the ugly camo paint job. It looked so bad  I hoped it kept other buyers at bay, thereby increasing my bargaining power.

Camo everywhere, even on the sticks! 

I did discover some beauty under that beastly skin -  a small block 327 V8 Chevy motor stuffed under the hood! The motor was all stock from exhaust manifolds to 2 barrel carburetor to water pump to valve covers. Everything stock, and, as it would turn out, everything in need of an overhaul.

That's a Chevy Small Block V8 in there!

I cut a deal with the owner and made the brilliant decision to drive it home. The motor cranked, barely. I pulled out onto a very busy California street, sweating bullets the whole way, with endless misfires and stalls at every red light.

Note the speedometer goes to 9, which is about the top speed I reached on my trip home.

I was trying to sneak Willy into the driveway without alerting my Mom. I wanted to break the news of my latest project to her the right way - via phone and from a safe distance away. Hard to do with the backfires and rattles, though.

Once I talked Mom off the ledge, I started inspecting my newest find. My main concern was the motor and tranny. Were they bad and in need of an overhaul? If so, would it be cheaper in the long run to drop in rebuilt units?

My budget beater build was starting to look anything but. I decided to bite the bullet and rebuild everything.

There's a little bit of work to put in here.

Here's the list of parts I've ordered so far:

Water pump, front seal, valve covers and gaskets, thermostat and housing, throttle linkage, spark plugs and wires, distributor, ignition coil, clutch fork, pilot bearing, transmission synchro rebuild kit and fluids for transmission and differentials.

Stay tuned for an update on project Willys.

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