View Full Version : Question on CJ-3B is it a 1954 or a 1957?

08-11-2015, 09:15 PM
We recently purchased a 1954 Willys CJ-3B as a retirement project. The data plate has the number of 454-GB2- 18035 which indicates it is a 1954 CJ-3B. We ordered the Parts Manual, the Service Manual, and the Owners Manual.

From the information in the Kaiser Willys Auto Supply Catalog it shows the 1954 CJ-3B should be a 6 Volt system, however this Willys has 12 Volt lights. According to the Kaiser Willys catalog the major change to the CJ-3B happened in 1957 when they switched over to a 12 Volt system.

The Owners Manual indicates the wheels and tires should be 16 inch, but there are 15 inch tires mounted.

The bezel and lenses for the front turn signals match what is called for on the Willys Wagon.

The Willys is currently painted a light blue that does not match the color chart for 1954. We found an area that shows a shade of reddish orange that matches the Aztec Orange that was available in 1957.

Is there a simple way to tell if the electrical system has been converted?

Since the data plate are simply screwed on I would think they could be swapped around. Is there any other method to determine the year of manufacture?

08-13-2015, 07:26 AM
You asked:

"Since the data plate are simply screwed on I would think they could be swapped around. Is there any other method to determine the year of manufacture?"

Check my story about finding out what year my truck was built:


Number one rule about old Jeeps; "Trust Nothing". What you see is what you have.

Strange things show up on old Jeeps - check out the brake booster post. Modifications get started and only get half-way done, leaving very wierd configurations.

08-13-2015, 10:59 AM
Thanks for the information. I'm familiar with the manufacturing process our industry used during the war effort supporting WWII. I am a collector of the M1 Carbines and understand there is never a 100% pure carbine. I am looking for information on how to verify what the data plate reads matches up to other markers on the Willys. In reading your referenced post I can understand the scenario of the dataplates getting switched between model years during assembly. But I don't think there would be a 1954 data plate around during the 1957 production run. I am pretty sure stranger things have happened though.

08-13-2015, 05:44 PM
[QUOTEBut I don't think there would be a 1954 data plate around during the 1957 production run. I am pretty sure stranger things have happened though.[/QUOTE]

In the after 1950's auto manufacturers changed vehicle style every model year to keep in front of the competition, except Willys, Kaiser et. al. A Jeep looked like a Jeep year after year. All CJ-3's look a lot alike and even a CJ-5 looks like a CJ-3 to the uninitiated.

Willys and Kaiser and American Motors swapped a lot of parts around, and so did those of us who owned the vehicles. Nameplates are like brands in the Old West, I don't think it was all that unusual to swap a nameplate between Jeeps (kind of like running a brand) for any number of reasons.

One of the beautiful things about restoring a Jeep is that it is hard for anyone to pin down exactly what configuration a vehicle left the factory in. (But I'd bet my '48 - '48 1/2 or '49 really didn't have an F-head engine...)

Just enjoy it and it's your story, tell it your way!

08-13-2015, 07:07 PM
Thanks for the words of encouragement. Being the "same" from model year to model year is one of the facets of a Jeep that appeals to me. My main goal in determining the year is to try and ensure I'm buying the correct parts for the model year. The folks that sold us the Jeep originally owned two. One was used by the family kids to drive to school (this is the one we purchased). The second Jeep burned up in a fire in the middle of a rice field (they were rice farmers). I am not able to gather any information on the burned Jeep. The previous owner is in her mid 80s and is not to clear on details of things from the mid 1970s. Hopefully I can track down photos from 1954 and 1957 that show some of the distinctions between those model year Willys.

08-21-2015, 09:48 AM
I would lean more toward the 1954. From your pics it looks like it has the 5 separate gauges. In early 57 they changed to the large speedometer with the integral fuel and temp gauge like on the CJ-5. Like Larr said, you can't trust what is on em. You see numerous 2As and 3As converted to 12 volt and other parts swapped out. Regardless, it looks like your jeep is in good shape which makes for an easier restore. Enjoy working on it. By the way, I'm about an hour west of you. I have a 51 CJ-3A, a 53 CJ-3A, Two 42 GPWs, a 41 CCKW, and a 43 CCKW. Be careful, they can be addicting.

08-23-2015, 09:08 AM
Thanks for the information. I did not know of the change to the large speedometer with the integrated gauges. We were able to get a photo of the Willys from the late 60s. At that time the previous owners used it as a tag along vehicle towed behind their motorhome. In the photo it looks to be painted a light grey with the wheel wells painted a tan color. Looks like there won't be a way to get it back to the original factory color since I don't know how to establish what that color was. That is ok, we will paint it one of the correct colors for the production year.

Having been converted to 12 Volts will make things easier. Still don't know why or how this Willys has 15 inch wheels. That is ok also since I have a fairly good set of tires that came off my 2003 Jeep Wrangler.

Thanks again for the information.