CJ3A Bodywork

A page featuring the rebuild and refurbishment of the body tub and sheet metal of a 1950 Willys CJ3A "Universal Jeep". Scoll down for latest updates.

Demolition

Spring, 2016

Rusted out CJ3A body tub

I've got a running, driving CJ3A chassis now, but the body tub, while certainly a winner in the "patina" department, has structural problems. A new reproduction tub would take care of business, but I just want to spend my own labor, not big bucks, so I'm going to see what I can do with some sheet metal and time.

Crunched, rusted, repaired, re-rusted tub corner Willys Jeep

The damage is severe enough that I deem it's not practical to patch; it will be easier to cut the entire tub apart and replace floors and sides with new metal. I can handle mostly flat sheet steel with simple bends.

So, armed with drill bits, sawzall blades, electric cut off wheels, and chisels and hammers, I spent a couple hours taking the tub apart. I sanded some panels to find signs of spot welds, then drilled them out:

Drillling spot welds on the tub CJ3A rear tailgate area cut off willys CJ

It didn't take long to blow apart the rear half of the Jeep. The driver side wheel house and tub side weren't held on by much. It was actually "freeing" to take the tub apart and somehow makes the tub repair seem more manageable.

Wheel house removed from tub

Some parts are reusable such as some brackets and braces, and I actually want to keep the wheelhouse tops despite their hammered condition. I intend to beat them back into shape as much as I can, patch them, and weld 'em back in. I think the well used (yet cared for) look will be "cool".

Rear half of Willys Jeep tub taken apart

I purchased two sheets of 4 X 8 18 gauge sheet metal and 24 feet of 1" X 2" rectangular tubing.

New steel to rebuild Jeep Tub

I decided to make all the panels at one time. I made tons of measurements of the original stuff, then made some drawings at 1:12 scale and printed them out so I could lay them out on a 4x8 grid....to most efficiently cut out all the metal I'm going to need.

scale drawings of Jeep tub panels

With the metal on the floor, I drew up all my panels and started cutting all the metal out. I bought a sheet metal shear from harbor freight to handle the many feet of cutting the 18 gauge metal. It was well worth it.

cutting sheet metal for tub rebuild willys jeep

Most of these new panels need to have flanges and lips bent into them. And despite the thick 18 gauge stuff it can be done with wood forms, clamps, snips, and hammers. Soft wood will disintegrate when trying to hammer 18 gauge metal around an edge, but I have some scrap South American ironwood which is super hard, and forming edges works well.

I started with the easy panels such as the rear valence piece. Note how I marked dashes for the 90 degree bends I need to form:

rear valence raw stock Jeep tub

All the bends were made with simple straight boards and clamps except for the center "C" shape. I made wood forms out of southern yellow pine and hammered that flange separately:

Hammering in a compound shape flange

The finished panel:

Finished valence Willys Jeep Tub

The side panels were more challenging. The most tricky part was the radiused surface back corners. I was going to bend them over a handmade form, but then I decided to try a small set of slip rolls I had access to. It was a bit awkward to do myself, but they came out great.

Rolling in rear corner curves on Willys tub side panels

I was very careful to mark the beginning and end of where I wanted the curve to be. You can see the marker lines I made to indicate the start and finish of the curve area. I made a template to get the radius right too.

checking corner radius for CJ3A tub

The bottom flange of the rear curve was made by folding the flange over a hardwood male and female form. I slit the flange-to-be to avoid wrinkles when it gets folded over. The slits close up when hammered over, and wouldn't weld up nice that way. I'll open the slits up with a cutoff wheel which will make for an smooth, clean weld which is easy to grind smooth.

radiused flange for Jeep side panel

For the huge wheel opening, I spliced three pieces of this ironwood together (with a couple softwood pieces to tie them together) and sandwiched it to one piece of plywood cut to the same wheel arch shape. I tapped the metal over the hardwood edge. For the tight radius corners, I again slit the metal to avoid wrinkles. I'll weld up the slits later and grind them smooth.

Plywood and hardwood froms for wheel radius flange willys tub

I happened to be scrapping a 2000 Dakota with a decent bed floor, so I cut out the complete bed floor, cut out a strip in the middle to get rid of extra length, then welded the two halves together so I could keep the tapered "beads" on the forward and rearward ends of the floor. I also cut down the width and bent in flanges on each side. You can see the splice near the left edge in the picture, and you can also see I had to do small repairs from drilling out spot welds from it's old home on the Dakota. Lots of work, but it's definitely going to be a tough floor when installed.

using Dodge Dakota bed floor for Jeep floor

I got all the panels fabricated in a few weeks.

All the Willys CJ3A panels laid out

I couldn't help but mock up the tub with the parts I made.

Rear panel fit to the wheel house tops Willys Jeep
Tail light panel fit on new Willys Jeep panels

I flipped the front part of the tub upside down in order to measure and fabricate the front floors and "hat channels". The hat channels serve as braces for the floor pans, and the originals were mostly gone. There was just enough left for me to dimension them, and duplicate them with rectangular steel tubing. Here I've overlayed them to test their fit.

Fabricating tubing to replace hat channels Willys Jeep

The tubing was tacked together and then grafted with an original center section piece that is curved for the "hump" of the trans tunnel.

Hat channel sculpture for Willys Jeep

With everything new or otherwise disturbed, I needed to re-establish the position of all these parts to the frame. The front fenders were installed and from those I was able to set the correct fore/aft position of the cowl part of the tub to the frame. The front floor tubing was adjusted, mounting holes were drilled, and the assembly was temporarily bolted down.

setting the cowl position on the Jeep frame

The vertical cowl braces were rusted away, so I made some new sections with some 16 gauge and welded them in. The bottoms are in the same plane as the braces, and the cowl was a little less wobbly!

Cowl brace ends replaced CJ3a tub

I folded the flanges and toe board bends into the front floor pans and started to test fit them to the Jeep.

Front floor pans willys Jeep tub

I could now position the floor riser onto the front floor pans. The forward edge of the riser is 39.75 inches from the back face of the rear crossmember (same plane as the rear of the body tub should be.)

Floor riser placement on front floor pans willys Jeep Tub

I spent time assembling the rear floor parts into one subassembly. I used the same rectangular tubing to make two cross braces for the floor. The centerline of the rear brace is 14.375 inches from the back edge of the rear floor.I primed the parts and plug welded it all together. The braces were simply edge welded.


I welded ends onto the braces to seal them from the weather. I also welded tubes for the body bolt holes to seal in the insides as well as prevent crushing from the bolts.


xxxxxxx


SFS

Links:

Jeep Forward Control "Mighty FC"

Here's a really cool something Jeep engineers and marketing people came up with that they will never build. I'd buy a Jeep pickup if they would just make one. Oh well. Above is a link to an FC concept hype-mobile.

Here's another cool Jeep Pickup concept from about 2012:

1967 GTO Original Owner

These two videos feature an original owner GTO. This car was featured in Hemmings Muscle Cars magazine a couple years ago. Part 2 has inside and outside shots of the owner driving the car. Very nicely done.

Blues Maker

"Mississippi" Fred McDowell. One of the great Bluesman. This is a documentary made in 1969.

Pinstripes

Pinstriping the ol' fashioned way. Pretty nice.

Blues Traveler. Wow.

Blues Traveler plays often on the Dave Letterman show. Here they are playing a toe tapper with Paul Schaffer.

Pepsi Throwback

Pepsi Throwback with Sugar!

Pepsi has put out a "limited edition Throwback" version of Pepsi with REAL sugar, instead of high fructose corn syrup which has been used since the 80's. Holy cow there IS a difference; it's WAY better. Find some quick!

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