View Full Version : Restoring Ham's 48 (or 49?) Willys: Trivia

08-09-2015, 05:12 PM
Sometimes a simple truck restoration project starts a lot of other projects that you didn’t count on when you started. If you’ve followed my story of this truck restoration, you’ve seen a lot of side trips on the way .

One of the side trips was the search for the vehicle title. Yesterday I found it, but along with the title was the original Indiana Application for Title. On that application there is a struck over Manufacturer’s Identification Number for the truck - certainly the number from the original Tennessee title that for some reason long forgotten to me was rejected and replaced with an Indiana assigned VIN.

How does this end up being interesting? Well, many of the things we assume to be facts about things built in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s turn out to be wrong once we start looking at what inspection of evidence reveals . I am a member of the Garand Collector’s Society – yes the M1 Garand. In 1985 or so, everything was known about the Garand’s history. Manufacturer A always used barrels from vendor X, Manufacturer Y never used parts from outside vendors – etc. Any rifle with parts that didn’t match the facts were, obviously, rebuilds or rifles that had parts swapped.

But, as people started to look closely at rifles that hadn’t been rebuilt or had parts swapped, it turns out that Manufacturer A used barrels from vendor J, K and at times borrowed barrels from Manufacturer Y. In the days before rigid computer data based configuration control systems, things happened that were recorded by typewritten memos and piled in crumbling file boxes.

What I ended up discovering was one of those “everyone knows” facts about old Jeep trucks may not be exactly as we believe it to be. If we look in the various serial number data bases available on line, the general consensus is that in 1948 the two-wheel drive truck serial numbers started with 2T12643 and ended with 2T21859. Model year 1949 trucks started with 2T21860. If we look at KWAS’s model and serial number reference, it agrees with this sequence. KWAS also notes in the “Model Year Differences” that in 1949 trucks had a full bench seat and a cardboard headliner. Now, where am I going with this story?

When I look at the VIN number on the application for title, the title is for a 1948 Willys truck, VIN 2T2192X (the X is my secret). By serial number, this truck was among the first 60 or 70 trucks built in 1949. I don’t know the line rate on the 2T line, but 60 or 70 trucks would probably be the first week’s production. The interesting thing here is that my truck is by all appearances a 1948 truck. It has a split seat (about a 70/30 split for driver and passengers) and the headliner has always been a woven “grass mat” headliner. This conflicts with the characteristic of a 1949 truck.

What happened? One guess is, that on a given morning in the late summer of 1948, a new set of serial number plates was delivered to the production material control area. When the material handler saw the nameplates, he/she took them to the assembler and put them in the parts bin. If the bin was empty, every truck built that day got the “new 1949” nameplate. Any “old” 1948 nameplates were at the bottom of the box (first in/last out manufacturing). Or – since there were probably a number of units in flow at the model year end day – every truck from that day on got the 1949 nameplate – even if it was a 1948 model.

Keep in mind that in 1949 people just wanted a vehicle. It wasn’t like today when you get sued over Chevy parts in a Buick. It had been a long Depression, the war was over and people wanted stuff – who cared about a couple of numbers on a plate? Does it matter? Nope. It was built in 1948. It was titled as a 1948. I’ve always called it a ’48. It’s still gonna’ be a ’48. Or maybe a ‘48 ½.