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1. What should people look out for when purchasing a military Jeep?

The primary consideration should be do they want to restore and be as
accurate as possible, do parades and show it for fun, or do they want a
hunting jeep or for some other purpose such as mudding or rock climbing.  I
will take the approach of the historical military vehicle collector with the

The type of vehicle is a major consideration for the purchaser, ie: 1/4 ton
"jeeps", 3/4 ton trucks, armor etc.  The time period is also a significant
factor.  Some hobbyists really enjoy the flat-fender look and history that
goes along with WWII vehicles.  They are big, no frills get the job done
equipment.  Others, including myself, like the more modern upgrades of the
Korean war vehicles.  The WWII and Korean war 1/4 vehicles are basically the
same as far as transfer case, transmission and axles.  The rest is cosmetics
and upgraded engine components/electricals.  The Vietnam vehicles really
changed in appearance and feature/functionality but still remain a 1/4 ton
transport vehicle so they are fair game for the purchaser.

To assist people with determining what vehicle is appropriate, I suggest
they purchase a copy of Standard Catalog Of Military Vehicles by Thomas
Bernnt (Krause Publications).  There, they can review basically every type
of military made from the early '40's to mid '60's.  The book gives
production figures, good descriptions and an approximate pricing value

Assuming the buyer has determined what vehicle they want, the search would
then begin.  Again, I highly recommend they join the Military Vehicle
Preservation Association (http://www.mvpa.org).  This is an International
club dedicated to the history and preservation of historic military
transportation.  This includes bicycles through tanks.  From there, I
recommend they locate a Local Chapter (such as our Lone Star group) in their
area and begin attending meetings and events.  No vehicle is necessary to do
so and the prospective mil-veh purchases can draw on the collective
experience of the local affiliate.  As a member of MVPA, they receive two
publications.  Supply Line is a bi-monthly publication listing vehicles for
sale, parts suppliers and informational resources.  The other magazine is
Army Motors which focuses on the restoration aspects of vehicles.  A
"how-to" of sorts and usually showcases a vehicle or two.

Another source for vehicles is the magazine Military Vehicles.  Much like
supply line, it lists a significant number of military vehicles for sale as
well as parts and supplies to support the hobby.
http://www.militaryvehiclesmagazine.com.  Subscriptions are inexpensive
compared to the information and value received.

Now that they have found that 'perfect vehicle', the questions start.
Again, depending on the depth of involvement they want to undertake (full
frame-off restoration, 100% correct to a good running vehicle that passes
the 20' test, they should ask:

Does it run?
Does it stop?
IS IT TITLED???  Very Important.
Does it have the original data plates?  (indicates serial number/date of
Is the body original?
Is their body rot or rust anywhere?
Has there been any additional welding or cutting to the body anywhere
(including the dash for speakers)
Is the engine original?
If not, what has been modified?  (this takes some knowledge of what SHOULD
be correct)
Is the entire electrical system correct for the period, ie:6v, 12v, 24v?
(distributor, voltage regulator, generator, harness)
Are the springs original?
Do you have the original/stock rims?  Tires?
Is the canvas present?
Is the front bumper original?  Any welding or replacement?
Has a non-stock trailer hitch been welded to the rear cross member?

And then all the little parts that will 20 dollar (and more) you to death...

Are the seat frames correct?
Does it have the back seat?
Does it have the top bows?
Does it have the spare tire mount?
Does it have the Jerry can mount?
Does it have the Jerry can?  Is it correct?
Does it have the correct pintle hook?
Does it have the correct rear stop/tail lights?
Does it have the correct front cat-eye lights in the grill?
Does it have the correct blackout light on the left fender?
Does it have the correct gauges? (fuel, oil press, water temp, ammeter,
Do all the lights, running lights work?
Does it have the original gas tank?
Does it have the lifting rings and brackets on the front/rear bumperettes?
Does it have the rear bumperettes?

2. What parts are particularly hard to find for WWII-era and Korean War-era Jeeps?

There is an entire industry that supports the restoration and preservation
of historic military vehicles.  Very few parts are hard to find as original
and if you can't find a NOS (new old stock) part, take-offs are plentiful
and the reproduction market is really starting to pick up speed.  I for
example have not been able to find an original rubber boot that covers the
clutch cable into the transmission.  I was however able to find one very
close and nobody would know the difference unless I told them or it was
judged at a National Convention (which is held every year.  Next one Ft. Lee
VA. in July I think...)

For the WWII vehicles, there are reproduction body tubs, fenders, windshield
frames, hoods and grills.  Canvas is all new manufacturer from several
suppliers.  Look to:  http://www.m38a1.com/parts_suppliers.htm for a
listing.  Tires are being remanufactured and are fresh.  Repro rims
(standard or split/combat are also available)  Reproduction wire harnesses
are available too.  The Korean war parts supplies are a bit better.  It's
interesting to note that there was a lot of overlap in production parts.  I
believe the same front axles, transmission and transfer case was used in the
MB/GPW, M38 and M38A1.  I know the same wheel brake cylinders were on the
M38, M38A1 and possibly the M151 series.  If it isn't take-off or
reproduction, the majority of NOS Korean parts are still in dated boxes from
1952-1955 or wrapped in the alum foil/cloth baggie for rubber parts that are
as fresh as the day they were manufactured.  Some parts for WWII and Korea
are still in cosmoline...(yuck)

In summary for parts, you can rebuild a jeep to damn near original with the
parts availability in NOS, reproduction or take-off.

3. Is there any particular early military model that is more difficult to restore than others? Any that are easier?

Similar to the responses above, the earlier the model year, the more
difficult to find parts.  But you have to understand this is for the
anomalies and not the norm.  For example, you'll never find a Bantam part,
BRC, Quad, or Pygmy part.  They just don't exist.  Early 41-42 slat grill
Willys are hard but not impossible to find but expensive.  Script GPW's
41-42 are moving higher in price every year.

I think the M38 and M38A1 has tremendous parts availability and would
recommend these models to anyone who wants this era vehicle.

4. Do military Jeep have any off-roading advantages over comparable civilian Jeeps that most people wouldn't know about?

The original version of the CJ2A, CJ3A and CJ5 were counterparts to the
military vehicles.  My understanding is they were the same except for the
electricals and a few mil-specific items such as lift hooks/pintle etc.  I
would suggest looking at the following site for more information on the
early CJ's  http://www.film.queensu.ca/cj3b/

As for off-roading, they are the real McCoy but I don't know many that do
hard-core activities.  I've taken mine out in 4wd low and 'played' with it
and it does crawl up anything.  A friend has a 45MB and has done the same as
has another member with his 70 M151A2.  Other members with larger vehicles
(half-tracks, 2 1/2 tons etc do it as well)

You kind of grow attached to the jeep and don't want to hurt/damage it doing
something stupid.  I have no doubt I can catch air, climb up and down 40
degree slopes and slop through mud.  It's just not my idea of fun with a
piece of history I spent so much time and effort on.

The military jeeps do however have some advantages.  The axles are 5:18
(5:38?) gears that will allow it to creep anywhere.  The Korean models have
sealed underwater electrical connections that will allow a fording depth of
37.5" without any modifications.  With the snorkel attachment, your limited
by the length of the snorkel and this is NOT to be done for extended periods
of time.  Besides, do you really know how deep it is if you can't see the

They get great mileage (I suppose), turn a lot of heads and are just a
pleasure to drive.  In fact, in Texas, you can register them as Former
Military Vehicles where you don't need a license plate, inspection sticker
or registration sticker.  The last 6 digits of the hood number are the

There are some drawbacks...  With only 68-70 HP and 5:18 gears, top speed is
50mph and they really like 40-45.  There are no seat belts which adds to the
puzzle and combined with a bumpy 80" wheel base on LOTS of springs, it's
interesting at times at highway speed.  Most of us trailer or take back
roads to get places.

5. Some things you forgot.....

What is the budget?  It takes skill and determination to stick to one.  You
can easily spend $10-15K doing a frame-off WWI or Korean war 1/4 ton vehicle.
I suggest prior to purchase, they make a list of everything that was missing
or they wanted to replace, price it and build a spreadsheet to track the

Where do I work on it?
Space is a consideration.  Most mil-veh owners keep their vehicles (whatever
the condition) inside.  It's pretty easy for 1/4 tons but a bit more
difficult for larger vehicles.  I did ALL the work in a two car garage on
the single side except about 10 days when it was in parts, sandblasted and
primed.  I had the luxury of a 10x12 storage shed in the backyard to keep
the parts in while not needed.  My web site has a fantastic section on
restoring or cleaning up at home.  It's at:

How willing is the wife or significant other able to put up with this
BIG consideration.  It can be messy, greasy, dirty, smelly and everything in
between. After fresh canvas is installed, the garage will smell like it for
2 (TWO) years plus.  (I rather enjoy it...)

6. What are some of the model year differences?

Generally, early production US units started in 1952 and there were no changes until about Oct/Nov 1953.  In the time period 1952 to Oct/Nov 1953, the following items have been noted in production runs:

  • Battery Box was 8 thumb screws
  • Front Grill was hinged
  • No Radiator Support rods were present
  • Front fenders were seamed differently.

There is some debate at this time regarding VERY early M38A1's using the M38 front bumper which was approximately 10" shorter and included a hole in the center for a crank lever to connect to the crank on the engine.  This remains under investigation and confirmation.

Generally speaking from Oct/Nov 1953 thru the production run, several changes occurred.  They include:

  • Battery Box was now a strap/cam lever assembly
  • Front grill was no longer hinged but had a large bolt at the bottom center
  • Radiator support rods extending from the firewall to the radiator shroud were present
  • Front fenders were changed from the previous model.

Requiring further investigation as time permits:

  • Cdn Units
  • Nekaf Units
  • Greek Units
  • Argentina Units
  • Deciphering Serial Numbers
  • Two types of radiator caps were used.  They were NOT painted red from the factory.


7. Some interesting things learned at the 2002 National MVPA Convention

  • There was NO rubber cover over the starter pedal on the M38A1 units.  Rumor has it there was.  The ORD-9 makes NO reference to this part.  It was however used on the larger Dodge trucks and adapted, but not issued to the M38A1.
  • The correct axe is a 4 1/2 pound "Raft Axe" with a short, straight handle.
  • The correct lug nut size is 3/4" OD.
  • The correct jack was a bottle type jack with a folding hand crank including a clip for when folded in half.

8. How do I find out the history of my M38A1?

There really are no web sites or detailed records providing the history for the vehicles that I'm aware of.  Therefore, you have to do a bit of research on your own to find out the vehicles service, locations, groups etc.  

You can do this by lightly sanding down the front bumpers with VERY FINE sandpaper until you can read the unit markings. It's a long shot but many people have identified where their vehicle came from by this method. From there, you do an ordinary internet search on the unit etc. You can also try the same process on each of the rear bumperettes.  The hood can be done in the same manner to find the major branch (ie: US ARMY , NAVY, USMC etc) and the number identified with that vehicle. However - there are no records relating hood numbers to vehicle numbers and service locations or dates that I've located.

Also, look inside the engine bay area and search for little 1" triangle aluminum tags.  These were 'rebuild' tags placed on items such as the carb, dist, volt reg, genset etc when maintenance was performed. They are stamped with a date and location where the work was performed. There may also be some other stenciling inside the hood as well to give some clues.  

Red paint 99% of the time indicates the vehicle was in a fire service of some type.  White vehicles have been used in the US Forestry Service after release from the government.

9. Trailer or Tow?

From "Mario" on how to get his new 'baby' home 150 miles away...

PERSONALLY would borrow a pick-up truck and borrow someone's 16' utility trailer, strap the jeep down and trailer it home. 150 miles on an excellent M38A1 is an unnecessary on both the vehicle and you. They trailer very well.

My second option would be to borrow and pick-up truck and trailer and again, trailer it home. In other words, I wouldn't attempt to drive it home for several reasons.

First, you really don't know the condition of the vehicle for such a long haul. Things like fluid leaks, battery charging, cooling/radiator etc could crop up and make it a very long drive home. Simply not worth the risk. Get to know your vehicle on YOUR terms and in YOUR local area and THEN take it for a long trip.

Second, these vehicles really like 35-40MPH. They are capable of 50+MPH but they 'scream' with 5:88 gearing and they are not easy to drive at that speed. With that in mind, your looking at about 5 hours for the trip home assuming nothing breaks, leaks etc.

I'm not a fan of towing vehicles with tow-bars simply because in my opinion critical parts do not get the proper lubrication. Even if you disengage the front end, the differential still spins and the driveshaft will turn some thus moving the transfer case to some extent. From the back end, the axles will in turn drive the rear drive shaft which will in turn move the transmission but I don't believe enough to push lubrication throughout the top end of the trans/xfer case. As for towing at speeds of "70MPH" I think that would be crazy for such a beautiful vehicle IF and only IF something were to happen. As stated above, these things really like 35MPH driven or towed. Just my opinion and I may be way off base.


10. Parking Brake Rattle?

To Whom It May Concern,
I stay in South Africa, Cape Town and recently received my restored willy's jeep back after 8 months.  
I noticed that the handbrake mechanism makes a really loud rattling noise that for the life of me, I cant seem to pick the problem up. I was wondering if this is normal ? And if not, if you can assist with information about how to sort the problem out.  It would be greatly appreciated if you could help with any information.

Thanking You, PJ. Volkwyn

Yes, they all rattle. The noise is due to the design where a brake shoe is on the exterior of a brake drum. When you pull up on the lever, the shoe comes in contact with the drum causing friction, thus slowing or stopping any movement. However, when moving, the shoe has considerable movement that frequently causes it to come in contact with the brake drum causing the noise. Try pulling the brake lever one or two 'clicks' and see if that helps. It shouldn't activate the brake but seems to reduce the noise.


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