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View Full Version : Restoring Ham's '48 Willys 2WD Truck



LarrBeard
12-08-2014, 06:17 PM
I've started on one of those projects that really don't make good sense. Why? - well, as I told the guy who is doing the real work - for the same reason that a dog does disgusting things in the middle of the street. I can - and it feels good. A 1948 Willys 2WD truck isn't what most people think of as a prime restoration project. Maybe a big-block Chevy; or a '66 Dodge Hemi - but why a '48 pickup?.

Well, the project started about 1954 when I was 9 years old. My Dad (Hamilton - aka "Ham") traded the old red truck - probably a pre-war truck - for a new Jeep pickup. I grew up with that truck. It took my brother and I to the Tennessee river fishing. We got sunburned riding in the back of it on an old seat from a Chevy (back then you could ride in the back of a pickup - people figured you had enough sense not to fall out...). We slept in the back of it on Cub Scout camping trips. Mrs. Coatney bounced the front bumper off a pine tree when Dad sent her to get get more catfish for the cookout (it's still bent and it won't get straightened in the restoration).

It was Dad's work truck - a bit dirty, slow, rattled a lot. Dad hauled the football gear to a lot of high school football games in that truck. I never figured how he got there ahead of the team bus as slow as it was. He got one speeding ticket in it, coming down hill. The cop said he was doing 60 in a 45 MPH zone. Dad said the only way it would go 60 was if he drove the d@#n thing off the side of the overpass. he paid the ticket.

When Dad died in 1964, it became my truck to drive to college. It was very basic transportation. In '64 the cool guys had new Mustangs or Impalas. A '48 Willys was very basic transport, but it did have it's features. It wasn't uncommon to find that the fraternity pledges had pushed it off somewhere, usually downhill. It was a lot of fun to push it back - uphill this time. There was the one time we filled the bed with beer, then had it bunker iced at the local truck stop. That was enough beer for a long weekend party.... . But, that truck did a lot of work too.

Times were difficult, and I found that if you loaded it carefully you could get about 1200 pounds of scrap in the back. It rode really nice with that much weight on. And, if you got out of the truck to get the weight ticket from the scale house, you could sell yourself as another 160 pounds of scrap at weigh out. I worked for the Department of Agriculture "measuring cotton". That old truck went through some nasty places with some really odd people as passengers (there was 'ol Pegleg Collins... but that's another story).

About 1966, I had a couple of hundred dollars to spare, so I had it painted and some basic body work done - but my wife-to-be still wasn't all that happy to ride in it. Even in West Tennessee, the little heater didn't do all that much in the winter. By then the engine was gone, so I installed a rebuilt engine. That one didn't work - no oil pressure, so the original get rebuilt and put back in. I graduated, spent two years in the Navy and the poor old thing sat outside at Red Boone's house for that time.

After the Navy in late '68, I found useful work in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In December '68 I drove it from Jackson, TN to Ft. Wayne - a cold 2-day trip. For the next 8 years it was my drive to work truck as well as the utility hauler for a lot of folks. I had to have some reinforcements made to the frame where things had rotted out - those repairs will stay as-is because some friends who aren't with us any longer did them in the barn one cold February morning.

The rear end died in '74, I replaced it with a junk-yard rear end. By 1975 the engine was junk again, so I found a replacement; an F-head, not the original L-head. In '76 I took a job in another town nearby, but too far to drive the Jeep, so it sat. It got a garage engine overhaul in '77, but it still sat. By '78 it went to a friend's barn, and there it sat until August of this year. Either you haul it off for junk, or get it fixed.

It's been in process for four months now. Lots of new metal where the salt mice ate little holes. The real mice moved in too - have you ever seen a bell housing full of mouse nests? The engine is in the machine shop - no real issues there, just send money. There are frame issues, steering and shifting issues, some springs are shot - I wonder why? I'm hoping the transmission is OK, rear end is fairly new - just 38 years since the last overhaul! When this restoration is done, the truck will be 68-years old. In reality, there isn't much, short of a collision, that will keep it from making 100.

Lots of history, lots of memories. I just hope the kids want it enough to fight over it.

I'll post some pictures - I'm still figuring out the web stuff for this site. I've added a picture of the truck from its Glory Days, probably January or February of 1967. As usual, I was parked in the wrong place by the campus administration building. But - it just fit the short little truck!