This is my web log about the rebuilding of my 1962 Willys Jeep Universal. First, the disclaimers. I am not a mechanic, an auto rebuilder, body and fender man, welder, or anything that comes close to being an expert in the area of jeep rebuilding or the sport of four-wheeling. I’m just a regular guy with average mechanical skills and the usual back yard mechanic’s tools. Just like many of you out there, I bought an old jeep with the thought of fixing it up. One thing led to another and that’s where I’m starting this blog. I’m hoping this blog will help me get organized on this project, while sharing the information I learn with the other average guys out there.
I bought what I thought was a 1962 Willys Jeep Universal (let’s call it an early CJ-5). After getting it home and mulling over its condition for a few weeks, I decided to do some research to find out what I really had. The tub is in great shape for an almost 50 year old jeep. There is very little surface rust, a little bondo but no major dents, and it has had a color change at some point from red to green. After researching the VIN plate (can you see the phillips head screws in the VIN plate where there should be rivets?) , I found that it is supposed to be a 1962 Jeep CJ-6. Since the CJ-6 is 20 inches longer than a CJ-5, I knew something was amiss. I looked at the numbers on the frame, and the numbers match the VIN plate. Clearly, this is not a CJ-6 tub and there has been a body/frame swap at some point in time. So, after crawling under the Jeep, I found the tell-tale welding. Yes, 20 inches have been cut out of the frame just before the rear spring mounts, and the frame was welded back together by an amateur welder. Jeep Heresy! No one who appreciates a rare jeep like a 1962 CJ-6 would ever think about doing such a thing, but the numbers don’t lie. It’s clearly an early Jeep Universal (CJ) because there are no side marker lamps on the fenders, it has a Willys tail gate, side mount spare tire and under-the-seat gas tank with the filler on the driver side. Let’s call it a 1962 Willys Jeep Universal (Early CJ-5).
The frame has been butchered to the point that I need to consider replacing it. It has a large heavy “cow catcher” and tow bar welded to the front of the frame and a pretty heavy, thick diamond patterned skid plate welded to the front as well. The firewall has been torched out in an apparent botched attempt to install a V8 engine, or maybe a straight 6 that was too long for the early CJ’s engine bay. The good news it that is still has the original T-90 transmission and the Dana Model 18 Transfer Case intact. No engine, and alas, no Warn overdrive unit.
The reason for buying the jeep in the first place was to have a project that I could work on in my spare time and end up with a cool vehicle to drive around town and maybe to the beach. When I bought it, I didn’t know anything about Jeeps. Since then, I’ve learned a lot (but not nearly enough) simply from researching different related topics on the internet. I’ll give most of the credit for what I’ve learned so far to Novak Jeep Conversions. They have a great knowledgebase that explains everything you need to know to plan a jeep restoration, rebuild, engine swap, transmission swap, or just to research stuff related to Jeeps and Jeep history.
Given the questionable heritage of the tub and frame, an accurate restoration is out of the question. That’s okay because I had more of a “resto-mod” in mind for the Jeep when I bought it. After reading Novak’s information several times, I learned that this old Willys Jeep with its 5:38 to 1 gear ratio was not going to top 45 MPH on the highway, even with the most powerful engine I could find. I decided that I will not be doing any serious rock crawling, but I’d like to safely reach 65 or 70 MPH on the highway at around 2,200 to 2,500 RPM while still maintaining a crawl ratio of 35 to 40. Not extreme, but enough to do some beach running in deep soft sand or maybe some mild trail running. It has to look cool, be reasonably economical and be able to perform at least as well as a stock 1962 Willys Universal when off-road. I’m planning on doing all of the assembly/disassembly myself. I don’t have the tools or the skills to rebuild engines, transmissions or axles so I’ll probably farm that out. The initial plan is for a Chevy small block 90 degree V6, maybe a 3.8L or a 4.3L with a Chevy Turbo 350 tranny. I’ll retain the Dana transfer case and hope I can find a Warn overdrive unit in good rebuildable shape.
That’s the plan. Check back in a few days to see where I go from here.
As I mentioned earlier, the original frame has been trashed by someone cutting 20 inches out of the middle. After looking around, I found a good cherry frame from a ’65 or ’66 CJ-5 on Craig’s List that originally had a Jeep Dauntless 225 V6 installed. Since I plan on installing a V6 or V8 anyway and the frame was in great shape, I bought it. Since it used to have an AMC V6 installed, I thought I might be able to install a Small Block Chevy engine using the same motor mounts already welded to the frame. I’ll have more info on this when we get to “The Engine”.
After stripping the old frame of all parts such as axles, steering, transmission, transfer case, axles, etc., I donated it to a buddy for another jeep project. The new frame was already stripped of parts so I decided to strip it of all paint and grime and to make sure it didn’t have any hidden rust. There are several different ways to accomplish this including hand scraping and sanding, chemical treatments, using a grinding wheel, etc. So, after reading about the many different ways to strip your frame down to bare metal on forums like www.earlycj5.net and other places, I decided to take it to Alamo City Soda Blasting www.acsb-tx.com/ in San Antonio to have it sand blasted. They recommended blasting it with zinc oxide which is more abrasive than baking soda, but not as abrasive as sand. Here’s what it looks like stripped down to nothing but primer.
The frame is solid with no rust. The entire blasting and priming process took one day. I dropped it off in the morning and picked it up that afternoon. The cost was $150 which in my opinion was quite a bargain considering that it would have taken me countless hours to strip and sand the frame by hand or with chemicals, not to mending cleaning up the mess that would have resulted in my garage. Now I’m ready to start mocking up the engine placement and making sure I have any welding that needs to be done to the frame finished before painting the frame a glossy black. More on that later. For now, I think I’m ready to start rebuilding individual components like differentials, engine, transmission and transfer case. I’ll start with the differentials.
I’ve spent a lot of time researching the upgrade of the brakes on my Dana 25 front axle to a disc brake setup. It turns out that there is a ton of information available on the web to accomplish this. You can spend a lot of money on a kit with all of the parts supplied, or you can buy the parts individually, as I did, and save a little money. You can find the parts list on the web in several places. Here are the parts I used to convert my Dana 25.
With a little time and a lot of patience, this is not a difficult conversion. Here’s a picture of my rebuilt Dana 25 with the disc brake conversion and lockout hubs in place.
The front axle has been completely rebuilt with all new bearings, cones, etc. The only thing original that remains is the ring and pinion with a 5.38:1 gear ratio. All parts for the rebuild were obtained at http://www.kaiserwillys.com.
I found a great article on Novak Jeep Conversions that gives you lots of good information about engine swaps into these early Jeeps. What I found out is that I can use almost any Chevy 90 Degree V6 or small block V8 in this Jeep. The article also stresses that your choice of a transmission for an engine/transmission conversion into a short wheelbase Jeep is almost as critical, if not more critical than your choice of engines. Novak sells adapters that will mate different engines to different transmissions and transfer cases, among other products. They specialize in engine conversions (swaps) for Jeeps, both old and new. If you are planning to do a conversion like this, and you are a newbie like I am, you owe it to yourself to read everything you can on this web site as well as any other information you can find. After reading this information along with information from many other sites, I decided (for now) that I will use a Chevy 90 degree V6 or V8 (Small Block Chevy) engine with the original 3-speed T90 transmission and Dana Spicer Model 18 Transfer Case. Why Chevy? Because all Chevy 90 degree small block engines have the same bell housing/transmission bolt pattern going all the way back to around 1955. Why this is significant is beyond the scope of this blog. Let’s just say that you can save yourself a lot of time, money and mistakes by doing your research before you start buying parts for your Jeep engine conversion or Jeep restoration.
When rebuilding the rear diff, I decided that it would be cool to convert to full floating axles rather than keep the two piece tapered axles. The stronger full floating axles are the main benefit. Also, since this jeep is not going to break any speed records with the 5.38:1 gear ratio and no overdrive, I thought it might be cool to be able to flat tow the jeep wherever I want without worrying about breaking something in the drive line. So I decided to install manual lockout hubs on the rear so I can free-wheel both the front and back wheels when flat towing.
After more internet research, I found that Herm makes a cool full floater kit that comes with axles that fit my 19 spline carrier without any other mods. http://hermtheoverdriveguy.com/. So, after having the diff rebuilt with new cups, bearings, seals, yoke, etc. I ordered Herm’s axle kit#3 which comes with everything you need to do the conversion like hubs, spindles, etc. When I got the parts I realized they are identical to the front end hubs and spindles except for a little machining on the backs of the spindles to allow them to fit the rear axle flanges. Since I have already converted the front to disc and know how to do that, I decided to duplicate the process on the rear. I now have disc brakes on all four wheels. The process to convert the back was the same as the front with one exception. The inner bearing cups need to be Timken LM501310 cups. They are 1/8” thicker than the stock cups. If you don’t use these, you will not have enough clearance between your rotors and caliper brackets to install your inner brake pads. Believe me, the extra 1/8” means the difference between a good fit and a lot of frustration. Here is the rear axle mounted on the frame.
I’m not going to discuss the Ross steering system found in these old jeeps. There are lots of forums on the internet where you can find out about the disadvantages of Ross steering and why everyone replaces it. I chose to convert to power steering rather than manual. This means I have to mount a power steering box on the jeep frame where there was not one before. The most popular method of converting to power steering is the Saginaw conversion. This mounts a power steering box to the front frame rail just behind the bumper. Later model Jeeps had Saginaw steering from the factory and this conversion is well documented all over the internet.
While doing the research on my full float conversions I learned of an alternate method on Herm’s web site http://www.hermtheoverdriveguy.com. Herm’s method uses a Ford reverse rotation steering box mounted behind the front cross member in the engine bay. This seems to me like a stronger place to mount a steering box. And since I’m into doing things a little differently anyway, I decided to order Herm’s mounting bracket, pitman arm and heavy duty tie rods with tie rod ends, etc. This was an easy install. Simply follow the instructions, drill a hole in the frame and bolt everything in place. Way easier than a Saginaw conversion.
When I was doing the research on how to convert my Dana 25 to disc brakes, there were parts lists and how-to posts all over the internet. Since then, they have either gotten old, been removed or whatever. So, FYI, here is the list of parts I used to convert my front Dana 25 and rear Dana 44 to disc brakes:
Front Dana 25
- Calipers from a ’71-’78 Chevy ½ ton or light-duty 3/4-ton 4×4 with a Dana 44. I used NAPA part number SE4596 (right) and SE 4597 (left) remanufactured calipers. There were $35.83 each plus a core charge of $22.50 each.
- Caliper mounting brackets from the same Chevy truck mentioned above. You can get them from the junk yard or save yourself some trouble and get them from the aftermarket. I used aftermarket brackets from Parts Mike part number CB7191K GM Universal Caliper Mounting brackets. I’m told they fit Dana 25, Dana 30 and Dana 44 front knuckles. $145 per pair shipped.
- Rotors from a 1976-78 CJ 1 1/8” thick. Four Wheel Parts P/N 16702.1 $149.99 for the pair.
- Front brake pads NAPA part number TS-728AM, $38.10 for the set.
- Banjo Bolts NAPA part number 828702, $3.49 each.
- Brakes hoses, NAPA part number 36761, $19.99 each.
- 10 Longer wheel stud Dorman P/N 610106 (NAPA P/N 641-1144) $2.29 each.
Remove all of the brake hardware, including backing plates down to the spindles. You will need to pound the studs out of your existing hubs with a hammer or press them out with a press. Be careful or you will easily ruin the hubs if you miss the studs and hit the face of the hub instead. You can get new hubs at Four Wheel Parts if you ruin yours like I did. They are about $147 for the pair. It’s an expensive mistake so be careful.
You will need to press the longer Dorman studs through back of the rotors, into the hubs. The hubs will be on the front of the rotor. Make sure the hubs are properly seated and that the hub/rotor assembly is true. Depending on the hubs, you might need to machine the back of the Hubs slightly so they can seat properly on the rotor.
Bolt the mounting brackets directly to the knuckle behind the spindles and mount the rotor/hub assembly to the spindle, just as you would normally mount the hubs. Use the stock seals, bearings, washers, etc. Here are some pictures of the process.
Note that you may need to grind the grind the caliper a little to make sure that there will be no contact between it and the knuckle as the pads wear out, but be careful not to grind through the casting.
Rear Dana 44.
Note: this conversion works using the same parts I used on the front because I converted my rear Dana 44 to a full floating rear axle allowing the use of front end parts such as spindles and hubs and therefore the same rotors, calipers, brackets, etc. The spindles need to be machined to mount properly to the rear axle, but once that is done, all of the parts and procedures are the same as above except for one change. You must use Timken LM501310 inner bearing cups rather than the stock ones. If you don’t, you not have enough clearance for your inside brake pads. I got the machined spindles and a new set of bearings, seals, hubs, nuts, etc. (as well as the parts for the rear full float conversion) from Herm.