Project: Tetanus Shot - 1948 Willys


Well-Known Member
Jul 19, 2005
Well, its that time finally. I have been without a Jeep since 2007 and since work/school/new home has finally gotten in order, I figured what a better way to throw some chaos in there.

So this followed me home this past weekend. A 1951 Willys Jeep.

I picked this up from @OnlyOneDR in Raleigh and towed it back home to Charlotte. He bought it from a gentleman up in PA and pulled the motor out of it for his Willys. @OnlyOneDR was kind enough to cut the rest of the rotting body/hard top off, which greatly helped towing/teardown process.

Once I got it home, I had to figure a way to fit my Tundra, wife's Grand Cherokee, and the Willys into the garage.

So, heres the build plan:

Motor - 4.3L Chevy(unless ya'll talk me into a 5.3l)
Trans- Stock T90 Transmission(shifts through all 3 gears and reverse right now.
Xfer - Stock D18(I pulled the rear PTO cover and the gears look very clean)
Rear Axle - Stock D44, will be regeared and locked, still researching products(suggestions welcome)
Front Axle- Stock D25, will be replaced with a D44 when I can find one(suggestions welcome)
Leaf Springs- will need new leaf springs as the originals are pretty bad(again, suggestions)
Tires - I am thinking 33" - 35" tires for this. The WB/overall size of this thing is small

The goal for this jeep will be to make it reliable/safe so that the wife and I can throw some camping gear in the back, take a day trip to Uwharrie etc.
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So, I began the teardown on the 51'.

I wanted to strip everything down to the frame, sandblast, inspect frame, paint etc. So I got to work removing the rest of the rotten body. Overall, the hood is in decent shape and the grill has some spots but I think it can still be used. I will need new fenders, body etc. I am supposed to be picking up a 47 body from a guy in TN so that is covered.

On to the teardown: Angle grinder and a cutoff wheel were heavily used...

Apparently this jeep had been parked for 30 years underneath an oak tree. Acorns and rot everywhere. Got the hood/grill removed. Dash is still in decent shape so I will try and salvage it. Original gas tank is trash, so I am thinking a fuel cell relocated somewhere.

I wheeled it outside and pressure washed 60yrs of dirt and grime off it.

After pressure washing it, the frame appears to be in good shape, I found no stress fractures, rot or anything else that would signal weakness. I do plan on boxing in certain portions of the frame.

This is currently as it sits. I am working on removing the D18 from the T90 so I can soak them in a bath to get most of the residue and grease off of them. If anyone has any tips for separating the cases, I am all ears. I can tear apart a NP231 with my eyes closed, but this one is a different beast.
Excellent. Will be watching this one.
Holy Crap you work fast!!!! Good luck with it. It will be neat to see this re-born considering the really sad state that I found it in. I have to make room to get started on mine.

When you go to pull the Spicer 18 off of that T-90 you have to pull the rear cover at the end, remove the cotter pin and nut and try to pull the main gear in the t-case out of the back. Otherwise when you go to pull the t-case off the main shaft in the transmission will come out and make re-assembly "fun". Look this up online.
Well had a busy weekend and nothing got done on the Willys, so I figured it was time to work on it a little more. Plan for tonight was to pull the T90/D18 as a unit without separating the cases. We drained both cases and I was surprised to see that the oil was nice and clean, no metal slivers or chunks in it. At this point, I am not planning on pulling the cases apart, they will just get degreased/cleaned/painted. Everything on them is in good working order so it shouldn't be an issue.

The wife decided she wanted to help get the trans/xfer case out so I put her to work unbolting it.

This is where it sits now.

Over the weekend, my BIL gave me a brand new sand blaster that he had laying around his shop and I also bought a Hobart 187 Welder from @rockcity. I haven't welded in a long time and will definitely be burning some plate long before I weld anything on the Willys. I built a cart for it(still need to get casters and some misc. hardware)

The next step will be to remove both front and rear axles, leaf springs, shocks, and grind off leaf spring mounts/various bits of the old body. Hopefully in a week or so, it will be sandblasted and primed.
Well got off early today because of the weather so I got to do some more work.

I pulled the front and rear axles out of the jeep. Wasn't too bad, most of the bolts were fairly easy to get off although the cutoff wheel/grinder came in handy.

I am planning on keeping the rear D44 if possible. It doesn't look to bad.

Gear oil was nice, no shavings at all. 65yr old gear oil still smells like regular gear oil...

Also got the D25 out...anybody need one? :)

After looking at the frame more, it appears somebody tried to repair the front crossmember with spit and boogers...

Its not that big of a deal as the crossmember will most likely be removed to make room for the 4.3l.

Also, I need opinions on the T90 transmission. Read some articles that it will hold up to V6 and mild V8 power however, the guys on Pirate suggest replacing it with a T18, SM465/420. Also, the rear D44 measures 50.5" wheel to wheel. My plan was to use a D44 front out of a wagoneer(narrowtrac) which measures 60". Will the difference be that bad? Or should I swap in a standard D44 into the rear and junk the original? But the issue then would be, would the rear driveshaft be happy running offset on a center pumpkin?

I still have plenty of time to decide on my build. I have a rough idea on what I want but trying to piece together a Jeep from 10 different vehicles will be fun...

I am completely open to any and all suggestions.


I would use the matching set of wagoner axles. Parts are cheaper and much easier to find and you get rid of the weak 2 piece rear axle.
Had a busy weekend. Took the axles to the URE Jamboree and met up with @BigJUGGY and his brother. Great to meet you guys and thanks again for letting me ride shotgun in the CJ. Picked up a '91 4.3L out of a S10 along with a bed full of parts for it. Nobody had any interest in the T90/D18 combo but maybe it will sell in a bit.

Final Drivetrain combo will be 4.3l/SM465/D300 with waggy D44s. I will most likely get the axles in the next few weeks and work on turning it into a roller. Then my plan will be to get the 47 body and mount it. After the body is mocked up, I can position the drive train and see where I need to place everything.

Here is the motor.

It looks fairly clean and turns over well by hand. My plan is to get it cleaned up, remove the heads and see what the pistons look like. Hopefully it will be pretty clean on the inside and won't need much other than gaskets etc.

Going to be a slow process but should be worth it in the long run.
Here's a shot of it before I pulled it from it's resting place of 30+ years up in the mountains of PA:

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Well got some more work done today. My neighbor let me borrow his engine hoist/stand so I got to work. Motor came apart extremely well except for the upper water inlet on the manifold..bolts broke so I get the pleasure of drilling them out. Found a tag on the motor that states it was a GM remanufactured motor with a date of 1999. It lists the piston size and maximum bore size if i want to go bigger.

I pulled intake manifold, both heads, and the oil pan. Cylinder 2 had a decent amount of oil sitting on top of the piston. Is this a good indication of bad rings? Or is it just because it has sat for a long time? No antifreeze in the oil either. I plan on getting the heads magnafluxed with new valves installed. Would it be worth it to go ahead and replace timing chain now? I have not pulled the cover to check.

2nd Pic. Right Cylinder had oil sitting on top of the rings or normal for a motor sitting for a long time?

Crankshaft looks clean and everything turns over smoothly by hand. I do need to source a shorter oil pickup as I want to use the short oil pan for clearance.

I have weddings to go to for the next few weekends so work on this will be slow. But I plan to get the motor cleaned/painted and put up until I can set it in the Jeep.

@OnlyOneDR that is an awesome picture. Thanks for adding it to this thread. It will be cool to see how it changes as the build progresses.
@OnlyOneDR that is an awesome picture. Thanks for adding it to this thread. It will be cool to see how it changes as the build progresses.

Yeah I thought that would be fun. There are other pictures here:

As for the oil on top of that piston; a valve stem seal could be bad and the oil came down from the top. Was that cylinder's spark plug oil fouled?
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Alright, been awhile but between work/school and back and forth to Raleigh every weekend, I didnt have too much time to work on it. But I did get some progress. I got the motor back together(mostly) and got the block painted. I still need to pull the oil pickup and replace with the shorter one. Still need to get the intake cleaned up/painted, valve covers painted and general parts for the motor.

Got a surprise visit at work today. One of my coworkers drove his 1949 Willys to work. I forgot how small these jeeps are. Its all original and is in very good shape for its age. I spent a good amount of time over/under it in the parking lot.

I still need to source the SM465/D300 and some wagoneer axles(ones I found fell through). Plan for the weekend is to get most of the motor put back together.
Got a lot accomplished over the past few weeks.

Motor is all buttoned up and ready to go. I replaced the original oil pan with a 2wd pan(better clearance). The "new" pan wouldn't clear the oil pickup, so I had to remove the existing oil pump and put in a 2wd version. I still need to source an injector for the TBI(missing one). And I need to install all of accessories etc.

Big news.....Thanks to @strange1, I now have a complete drivetrain. I picked up his SM420/D300 to go behind the 4.3L. Should be a stout drivetrain when its all mounted.

I began working on the frame itself. I cut off a lot of misc brackets and rotten body and was able to flap wheel the outsides of the frame rails. Painted with primer to protect against rust. I still need to flap wheel the insides of the frame rails and get them ready to be boxed. I will be removing the bumpers and building my own.

I think the next step will be to acquire the body. Once the body is "mounted" to the frame, I will be able to install the drivetrain/weld motor mounts/figure out belly pan. I really don't want to install the drivetrain without the body as there is not a lot of room to begin with.

Lastly, the plan is to use narrowtrack D44s out of a Wagoneer. The plan will be to regear(if needed) with lockers(F/R). One of the goals for this Jeep is to be stupid reliable both on road and offroad. I figure if I over-build it, the risk of breaking something is smaller....:rolleyes:

So I need opinions on lockers. I was thinking of a detroit for the rear(stupid, bombproof, etc) but would really like a selectable for the front. I know Zip/ARB are air-actuated but that would involve a Viar or similar compressor. Ox locker is another option, just have never used a cable operated locker. Any suggestions/opinions or other options are greatly appreciated.


Been a while since I updated the build. Between work, finals, and the holidays, there wasn't enough time to work on the Willys. However, I have done some work to it. A guy was interested in the original trans/transfer case combo and he stopped by the house. Surprisingly, he lives about 5 mins from me and has a GPW and parts Willys that he is working on. He mentioned that he had a "new" frame that was in much better shape than mine. So we traded and I brought home a mint frame that was already sanded and primed.

Had a buddy and his girlfriend over for New Yearsp and we finished some small miscellaneous work on the frame. We cut off/ground down the original steering arm mount, clutch bushing, and the battery box.

Stay tuned..there will be a lot of work going on in the next couple weeks.

Well its been an expensive couple days. I picked up the SM420/D300 from @strange1 on Friday. Its complete, the only thing I need to do is swap the input bearing retainer out for the 4.3 model. It will get cleaned up/painted and that should be it for it.

I also got a package in from Summit. Ordered some miscellaneous bolts, an injector, and headers.

These still need to be painted with hi-temp paint but it will have to wait until the weather warms up a bit. I also stopped by Advance and picked up a starter, water pump, oil filter and other misc engine parts.

On Saturday, after playing in the snow with the wife/dogs I decided to continue stripping the old mounts off the frame. I cut off all 4 shock mounts and all 8 leaf spring mounts. I have outboarded spring hangers in the mail from @Barnes 4wd. I went through just about every single cutoff wheel I had on the grinder:rolleyes:

Lastly, the wife and I took a trip down to Sumter, SC to pick up a set of axles out of a 78 Grand Wagoneer. :bounce::bounce2:

These are the narrowtrack versions of the D44 and should work perfectly under the Willys. Axle plan is to strip, clean, and paint and then take it down the road to Mars Fab for the gear/locker install. But first, I have to get them out of the back of the truck...
I didn't want to hijack your clutch thread...but do you know what your hydro bellhousing came out of? I just pulled the SM420 out of my 62 C20 to swap to a T5 but my bellhousing is for a 235 and won't fit the sbc pattern.

I like your plans for the Willys :cool:
Pm sent. But it's from an 80's truck with a factory sm465.
Wiring harness/ECU got shipped out to Jim's Performance today. He said it should be about 5 days once he receives it to turn it around. Got packages coming in from @Barnes 4wd today and will be ordering the clutch/flywheel sometime in a bit. I have a feeling that the "little" things are gonna take the longest/most time consuming part of this build.
Well, the axles are out of the truck...that was fun doing it by myself, in the snow/freezing cold. Luckily, I have an oak tree with a nice big branch next to the driveway so I hooked the comealong to it and hoisted the axles out of the bed. Removed the wheels and lowered the axles onto dollies to drag into the garage. I cut off the U-bolts and got rid of the leaf springs.

When I bought the axles, the guy included the wagoneer power steering pump as well. I know a lot of people swap in Astro van steering boxes but was wondering if I could give this a shot? My only drawback is overall length of the steering box as it is pretty long. The plan for the axles will be to strip, prime, paint and get them over to @MarsFab for gear/locker installs. I am planning on removing the rear drums and swapping to discs. I believe I have found the correct parts to do it, but more research is needed.

Also had my first package from @Barnes 4wd show up today. Fast shipping and these outboard leaf spring mounts are pure BEEF:huggy:

I should have a couple more packages coming in from Barnes in the next day or so. I am also researching clutch kits as I will need one. I have a flywheel but it looks pretty trashed. I will need everything except a clutch fork but I should be able to piece together a hydro kit.

I also picked up some 4"x2"x3/16" square tubing today to begin the start on front/rear bumpers.

In other news, sadly I lost a beloved friend today :(. My Harbor Freight grinder that I've had since 2003 finally died. The bolts holding the motor to the body finally stripped out and it gave up the ghost. A quick trip to Lowes and I had a nice Dewalt grinder ready to go.

If all goes according to plan this weekend, there might be an actual Willys in the garage instead of parts....