A man named Bob is arriving at my house on Saturday to buy my 1948 Willys CJ-2A. He plans to take it on an epic road trip that weekend, which is great, except there’s a bit of a problem: The Willys’ engine is in 1,000 pieces. Oh boy.
A few months ago, Bob, a pilot, flew his own airplane into the small Troy, Michigan airport solely to test drive my junky $500 Postal Jeep. I’m fairly certain the fuel he expended to get to Michigan from Chicago vastly surpassed the value of the white-and-brown vehicular cube, but I’ve got $2,000 in my pocket, and he’s thrilled to have the keys to an incredibly reliable and soulful machine.
He’d original contacted me to purchase my 1948 Willys, dubbed Project Slow Devil. But then, possibly as a subconscious effort to prevent having to part ways with my beloved flatfender, I drowned the Jeep in a deep mud hole. Since then, my sinusoidal thought curve has crossed the horizontal axis and now remains firmly in the “sell more cars” quadrant. And while I know I will soon plummet back down below the axis into a rabid car-hoarding trance, right now, it’s time to move some iron. The Willys, as a vehicle that I can really only pilot on warm, dry days, should be the first to go.
Luckily, Bob remains interested in purchasing it despite its aquatic “episode.” He and some friends are embarking on an annual road trip in old clunkers, and while they’ve already got an old Beetle and the Postal Jeep lined up to be their (t)rusty steeds, a flatfender in the mix is too tempting for Bob to resist. The only issue is that he may have no choice, because the Jeep is in shambles.
After drowning that Jeep in the mud puddle and subsequently allowing the gallon of water in the crankcase to freeze into an enormous ice block, I thawed the motor, replenished the oil, and discovered a nasty engine knock:
I then spent an afternoon removing the engine, and another afternoon tearing the thing down. I noticed no major issues. None of the connecting rods appeared bent, the pistons looked fine, the cylinder walls looked lovely, the rod bearings seemed okay—I really don’t understand why this engine was knocking.
The only remotely concerning thing I noticed was that the rear main bearing had some scuffing on it, but all other main bearings were fine.
You’ll notice how the other bearings are gray, but the rear main bearing is a shiny silver.
Confused, and with few other options, I sent the crankshaft to a machine shop to have the technicians grind it down. The shop said it noticed taper on all of the journals, though they didn’t think it was such a huge deal. I told them to just clean the crank up—an expensive job at over $300 with new bearings, but there was no way I was slapping the Go-Devil motor back together with the old crank after hearing that knock, especially considering that the crankshaft had a number of ridges on the journals even after I polished them a few years ago.
The fresh crankshaft will be ready for pickup on Wednesday. I’ll have three days to put the engine back together, install it into the Jeep, and get the vehicle running and driving before Bob shows up on Saturday.
The chances of this Willys being ready for a road trip by then are extremely slim, but I’m going for it. Hopefully I don’t have too many bolts left over when I’m done repairing this engine. If I do, I’ll hand them to Bob, give him a strong pat on the back, look him directly in the eyes, and say: “Godspeed.”
Bob sent me the photo above with the caption “And, the bug is marking it’s territory...one of the pushrod tube seals died...” It seems he’s ready for his Detroit-to-Chicago trip to be riddled with misfortune, making him the optimal owner for my Willys.