My 1948 Jeep Off-Road Project Will Actually Move Under Its Own Power This Weekend

I never thought I’d say this, but my dilapidated 1948 Willys CJ-2A is going to actually propel itself down a road.

Will it have any power? Will the rear differential blow up? Will it overheat? How bad will it leak? Will it shift into gear? Will my oversized tires rub over every bump? There are so many questions that will be answered this weekend!


It may not be a great idea, but I’m going to Facebook live this first trip on Jalopnik’s Facebook page. That way, if I forgot to tighten a crucial bolt, and the thing crumbles into a pile of dust on the back roads as I’m chugging along at 25 mph, the entire world can watch and laugh.

Seriously, though, I’m a bit worried about my rear diff. Five of the ring gear bolts were broken or missing. I’ve since replaced them with new ones, but there’s still a problem: as the original ring gear bolts loosened themselves, they eventually ran into the bearing cap, which then pried the carrier flange up, and now there’s a gap between the carrier and ring gear on one side. About 30 or 40 degrees of the 360 degree circle is “raised,” as you can see at the bottom of this picture:

I suspect the ring gear was running crooked for some time, as indicated by the chewed up differential cover:


Even after torquing the new bolts, there’s still a gap. I’ll break out the dial indicator and paint to see if this thing is really crooked, or if it’s fine now that I tightened it. But with that gap there, I’m going to guess it’s not.

Still, that won’t stop me from driving it this weekend, as I only have one week until the basically-impossible 2,000 mile trip that I definitely shouldn’t be doing, and I need to work out any bugs that might spring up.


I’ll keep an eye out for a spare axle, and maybe a spare cylinder head (since mine leaks coolant), as I’ve got quite a few folks betting that I won’t make it out of Michigan, and I’d hate for them to be right.

Follow along on Twitter or Instagram as my friends and I button this thing up from its current state (shown in the top picture) to something that could potentially drive more than just 5 mph in my backyard.

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About the author

David Tracy

Writer, Jalopnik. 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle, 1985 Jeep J10, 1948 Willys CJ-2A, 1995 Jeep Cherokee, 1992 Jeep Cherokee auto, 1991 Jeep Cherokee 5spd, 1976 Jeep DJ-5D, totaled 2003 Kia Rio