A friend of mine knows someone selling a beautiful 1961 Willys Pickup for the paltry sum of $750. Just a few months ago, I would have transferred the money within milliseconds, as at the time, I was in a years-long trance that I liked to refer to as “Buy First, Think Later.” But times have changed. I have a new motto in life (I’m still developing something clever for a philosophy that involves some amount of sensibility and self-restraint). I just declined the Jeep. And I have to tell you, dear readers, because I need this guilt off my chest.
“For sale on a property that is going to auction near my brother - if you ever feel like relapsing into Jeep land let me know,” my friend wrote on a group chat made up of my college car club. He attached these two photos and the one above:
“Damnnnnn!” I yelled aloud at my screen, my eyes extruding from their sockets like in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. “This truck looks incredible!” It’s a Willys pickup, the truck version of the Willys Wagon, and a close relative to the Willys flat-fenders that we know and love.
By “close relative” I mean that it shares quite a few parts. Early Willys pickups had the same Go-Devil flathead engine found in the World War II Jeep and civilian “CJ” Jeeps that succeeded it. In 1950, the Pickup went to the F-head “Hurricane” motor, just like “CJ” did starting with the CJ-3B in 1953. And by the time this particular 1961 came off the Toledo assembly line, there was a flathead inline-six “Super Hurricane” under the hood, still mated to the T-90 three-speed manual transmission that had graced pretty much every civilian Jeep since.
So, it’s got the same transmission and engine as flatfender Jeeps, plus it’s got the same Spicer Model 18 transfer case, and very similar suspension and steering designs. Seriously, the bellcrank-inclusive steering system and Dana 25 front axle were exactly the same; this diagram applies to both the pickup and the CJ-2A flatfender:
Anyway, the point is that this is just a flatfender Jeep with an inline-six and a pickup body; that’s good because I do love the mechanical simplicity of a flatfender. I also love patina, and this pickup that in spades. Plus, there’s not a ton of through-rust, there’s a clean title, and pretty much every part that came on the truck from the factory is present. This machine is complete, and just needs a bit of wrench-massaging to become a truly soulful, roadworthy machine. I really should buy it.
I really, really should.
But I can’t. I’m trying to turn over a new leaf to live a life that isn’t dominated by The Wrench. What that life looks like, I don’t know. It’s a new frontier, but I’m excited to learn about it. So I’ve been slowly whittling down my fleet from its all-time high of 12 vehicles to a goal of five. I’ll have an update on how that fleet reduction is going later this week, but the point is that buying another vehicle is—as they say in the wings of the engineering halls at Chrysler—“directionally incorrect.”
But damn if I’m not tempted. Look at this. The frame looks clean!:
Ah, the beauty of Virginia—lots of cool cars, but not all that much salt, so the oldies stick around instead of rotting to the ground as they do here in Michigan.
This Willys, while obviously afflicted with a little bit of Fe2O3, looks totally workable. In fact, its imperfections make it characterful. The faded orange paint mixed in with surface rust is awesome, so is the ripped bench seat, and so is the white paint just below the chrome trim on the cab.
Am I a fool for turning down this much Jeep-y soul at such a low price? Will I wake up in the middle of the night, grab my phone in a sweat, and dial my friend’s number, pleading with him to just buy the damn Jeep? It’s only $750! What’s the risk?!
Nobody knows. I’m tempted to throw my phone into a lake just to prevent such an incident.
Obviously, I’m writing this all in jest, and I think that’s worth pointing out. Over the years, I’ve been buying up old Jeeps, and writing about how I’m unable to stop myself—it’s all been a bit silly, and while I’ll admit that I’m definitely a sucker for a cheap, soulful Jeep, it’s not like I wasn’t aware of the absurdity of it all.
I mention this only because recently, someone who I’m going to guess is a disgruntled homeowner who really, really doesn’t like messy neighbors, was so upset with my fleet of junky machines outside of my house that he sent this email to Jalopnik editors. It’s a weird one:
I think the email is pretty great in some ways; Someone thinks that I am being controlled by the AMC gods! And that I have AMC/Jeep-related maladaptations! Those are the best kinds of maladaptations, I’m pretty sure.
Anyway, I told my friend that, while this is a smoking-hot deal for a great old truck, I’m going to have to decline. I can’t speak for what I’ll tell him in five minutes, but as of this moment, I’m succeeding at fending off the Jeep gods that have been controlling my every move for the past five years.
Wish me luck as I try to stay strong.