This past weekend, my friend and I drove 4.5 hours (one way) to attend the Willys Jeep Rally in Ohio. There, we saw vintage Jeeps operating all sorts of farm equipment, and we even got to operate a backhoe on a Jeep CJ-5. It’s the only such event in the world as far as I know, and it was incredible.
Nowadays, Jeeps are all“mall crawlers”—grocery-getting suburban assault vehicles that will never see a day of hard work in their lives. But Jeeps didn’t start out as yuppiemobiles, they began as military vehicles. And after World War II, they got even tougher. Called Civilian Jeeps—CJs—these farm Jeeps were even beefier than their military predecessors, with lower gearing in the axles, timing gears instead of chains, and stronger transmissions.
As I’ve proven with my off-road project, these civilian Jeeps are unstoppable when the road runs ends. But even more impressive than their off-road skills are their Power Takeoffs.
A Power Takeoff, or PTO, is a way to use engine power to drive something other than simply the wheels of a vehicle (usually farm or construction equipment). On early Willys Jeeps from the late ’40s to the ’60s, these PTO-driven accessories included plows, welders, pumps, saws, hydraulic chainsaws, hydraulic lifts, post-hole augers, trench diggers, and a metric shit-ton of other cool attachments.
The body-less Jeep in the clip above is tag-teaming with a Willys CJ-2A to shell some corn and send it up a conveyer belt into a container trailer.
Once the corn has made it up the belt and into the trailer, the corn feed gets sent into a mixer (which is, in this case, driven by a CJ-2A’s PTO), where other ingredients can be blended in:
But that corn shelling, transporting and mixing operation was only a small part of the Willys goodness at the ninth annual Willys Jeep Rally. One of the coolest Jeeps was a 1947-ish CJ-2A with a PTO-driven welder on the back (you can see the PTO pulley—which drives the welder—right behind the rear bumper):
There were also a couple of Willys Jeeps set up to cut wood. This one had a crankshaft-driven winch in the front and a PTO-driven circular saw out back:
Here’s an early ’50s CJ-3A with a similar pulley and belt setup:
Perhaps my favorite farm implement was the trench digger. Just watch this little Willys CJ-5 bounce up and down as it carves a three-foot gash into the terra firma:
Speaking of tearing up dirt, this CJ-3B uses its PTO-driven post hole auger to dig into the ground like a corkscrew into a wine bottle:
Tearing up the dirt is what these torquey little Willys Jeeps were best at. Here’s a look at a CJ-5 pulling a single-bottom plow:
And here’s a look at the greatest backhoe I’ve ever seen. It’s powered by a PTO-driven hydraulic pump—a pump that also deploys stabilizing legs and a front plow:
I even got a chance to operate the backhoe; it was without a doubt the single greatest moment in my life. It’s an experience I’ve been dreaming for since I was but a wee toddler. Life only goes downhill from here.
That CJ-5 is such a brilliant, multifaceted vehicle. I mean, just look at the beast shove all that dirt with its hydraulic front plow:
Speaking of hydraulic power, have a gander at this marvelous hydraulic PTO-driven chainsaw cut through those logs like a skinny World War II-era NDT tire cuts through mud:
Just when you think you’ve seen enough brilliant Willys aftermarket engineering, you come across a CJ-6 with an air pump in the back. And by “air pump,” I really mean an L-head inline-four engine that fires only the first and fourth cylinders to move the center two pistons up and down to compress air:
And because most of you are undoubtedly wondering: “How can I come up with an excuse to buy a PTO-equipped Jeep?” here’s a CJ-3B with a mower attachment, which you could totally use for your backyard. Your neighbors wouldn’t look at you strangely, I promise. It wouldn’t be weird at all. (Bonus: there’s also a CJ-5 with hay rake in this clip. You’re welcome):
The Willys Rally just kept getting better and better, too. Not only did I get to see and operate farm attachments, but I even bought some parts from the swap meet.
Some more photos from the greatest car show I’ve ever attended