No The Lunar Rover Is Not Built On An Old Willys Jeep Platform But I Wish It Were

Photo: Lift The Veil/YouTube (screengrab)
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Over 100,000 YouTubers have clicked on “Lift the Veil’s” video about how the Moon Lunar Rover is actually just a Willys CJ-3B in disguise. I just want you all to know that, while it would be really awesome to see an old Willys off-roading on the moon, this video is a steaming pile of horse manure.

We’re in the six-digits right now of people who have wasted their time watching this video, and I want to make sure that not a single one of them is somehow convinced that this dude’s for real:

Considering the source, I’d guess most people realize the guy is full of it, but let’s look at it for a second, because I’ll take any excuse to talk about Jeeps.


The gist of the guy’s argument is that, because the moon rover has a small wheelbase (90 inches), and the Willys CJ-3B does too, the rover must have been built on the Willys platform—at least, that’s what I got out of that clip. It’s definitely a weak claim, but let’s just look at what would need to be done to a CJ-3B to turn it into the Lunar Rover.

Turning A Willys CJ-3B Into A Lunar Rover

Photo via Favcars

Our build starts with a descendent of the World War II military Jeep, the MB, but with the most obvious difference being the tall, awkward hood (which I rather dig). That hood is there to accommodate the taller F-Head Hurricane inline-four with its “state of the art” overhead intake valves.

To get this wonderful little Willys into that moon-destroying off-roader, you’d have quite a bit of work ahead of you. For one, you’d have to remove the entire body until you had just the frame left. Then, you’d weld in a bit of sheetmetal to create a skateboard-like platform, not unlike the early Willys M-274A4 mules.


Once you’d done that, you’d have to take out that tall F-head 134 cubic-inch inline-four from the front, and also the T90 three-speed transmission and Dana Spicer Model 18 transfer case. Oh, and also the axles, because the Lunar Rover has fully independent suspension (a “double horizontal wishbone with upper and lower torsion bars” according to NASA). And the cooling system. And also the exhaust. And the fuel tank and lines.

Photo: Wikipedia/Public Domain

From there, you’d trim the overhangs a bit, shorten the wheelbase ten inches, and change the frame from steel to 2219 aluminum tubing, which, according to NASA, is hinged in the middle to allow it to be folded into the Lunar Module quad one bay.

What that Totally Easy Should Be No Problem steel-to-aluminum conversion done, you’d swap out the recirculating ball steering box for a four-wheel electric steering system controlled by a T-handle, switch the brakes to a mechanical cable-style design, swap the wheels and tires, and chuck some 0.25 horsepower electric motors in the wheel hubs along with an 80:1 gear reduction (actually a Strain Wave Gear).


So, as you can tell, it wouldn’t take much to turn a CJ-3B into the Moon Buggy—just the removal of the body and powertrain, a new chassis, a new steering system, a new suspension, a new braking system, a new powertrain and some fancy computers and cameras and sensors here and there. No big deal, right?

Depending on your view of Theseus’ Paradox, the thing could totally still be called a Willys CJ-3B at the end of the build. So maybe this guy is totally right! (He is not).


But seriously, driving an old Willys on the moon would be awesome. Since that will never happen, I hope to do the second best thing, and drive on the moon-like surfaces of Moab, Utah.

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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