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Thread: Jeepster Vin Question

  1. #1
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    Jeepster Vin Question

    Guys: I have a Jeepster with a 1950 New York State title with a vin number of VJ-3 13020. It has the 48/49 body style (flat fenders, shallow V grill, and the machine finished rectangular dash instrument cluster, but no side steps). That title number matches the vin plate found under the dash on the passenger side (VJ-3 xxxxx). My understanding is the 1948's and early 1949's carried vin numbers consistent with the wagons, namely 4-63 and at some point during 1949 the vin numbers changed to 463-VJ3 for the fours and 663-VJ3 for the newly added sixes. These numbers are sometimes stated as VJ3-4 and VJ3-6? Also, the records I have found state that the last 463-VJ3 or VJ3-4 (48/49 body style Jeepster with the L head 4) was number 12698. If my vin number is original, which it appears to be, than some, at least 322 463-VJ3's or VJ3-4's were made in early 1950 before the body style changed in March or April. Any help on this point is greatly appreciated. Also, why is my vin VJ-3 xxxxx, and not 463-VJ3 xxxxx or VJ3-4 xxxxx? Thanks.

  2. #2
    Super Moderator LarrBeard's Avatar
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    Welcome to the wild and wonderful world of Jeeps!

    Willys-Overland was, to say the least, not the best organized company when it came to keeping configuration records - or even being consistent day-to-day. This was even more true at model year changeover times. If it fit - put it on.

    I don't want to sound like a "smart-axe" in giving you an answer about why a particular VIN plate said just what, but the best answer is "Because that's what they had in the box that day".

    I had a similar issue with my '48 truck. The VIN said it was a '49, but it has all of the characteristic features of a '48. My explanation has been that one day in July of 1948, Fred hollered at Charlie "I need some serial plates on station 32". Charlie went down to the stock room and grabbed a handful of plates and threw them in the box at station 32. The next day Lew in the stockroom asked Charlie; "Where are those '49 nameplates I had sitting out yesterday?" The answer was "We've been using them". Stock issue was "first in-last out".

    It was also not uncommon for dealers to send paperwork back to Willys-Overland and have them change the model year on vehicles at model year changeovers, especially if there was very little difference. Yeah, people go to jail for that now, but 1950 was different.

    The First Rule of Jeep: What you see is what you have. Trust nothing anyone writes or tells you until you verify it yourself.

    The Second Rule of Jeep: Never say "Willys would never have ___________ . (Just fill in the blank - if it was possible, they probably did).

    Post us some pictures; the VJ's are rare and interesting beasts.

  3. #3
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    Thanks, I'm not really new to Willys, I have had them all my adult life, going on 70 now, but I have never had one that was outside the stated records researched by all the experts. I know 1950 was a split year, but I always thought the numbers were included in the 1949 year totals or the 1950 totals but not just dropped out all together. If Willys made at least 322 48/49 body style Jeepsters in early 1950, and the records do not show any were made, and they did not include those in the 1949 records does that mean the total count is off? I would like to know if anyone else has a Jeepster with a VJ-3, VJ3-4, or a 463 VJ3 with a vin number after 12698.
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    Senior Member 5JeepsAz's Avatar
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    That's a beauty!

  5. #5
    Super Moderator bmorgil's Avatar
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    Sharp looking! That baby looks clean.

    In the years nearing and during the ending of the Korean war, Willys was in a bit of disarray. The orders for war Jeeps were obviously declining. Willys was desperately trying to get into the civilian market. Money was tight, real tight. There are many stories the "old timers" tell about "Inventory Control" and the usage of parts that will fit. Many vehicles sat unsold from prior years. There was a surplus of parts. The Jeepsters were something new and meant to compete in the civilian market. They were expensive for what you got, and did not sell well. Consequently as LarrBeard alluded to, some creative model year and serial numbering occurred between dealerships and the factory. Unfortunately you have to take a good look and try to figure out what may have happened in the Jeepsters life. My CJ3A is a 1950. I am the second owner and its history is known. It was purchased in early 1950, one of the first several hundred built. Trucks were also not selling very well in 1949. It has a truck motor and a Dana 41 rear axle, not the 44 common in the CJ3A. A few other things on mine used 1940's inventory. However we know these components were never changed. There are posts on forums where persons will swear that Willys keep records and that everything was perfect. Not a chance. Record keeping as told by those who worked there, was sporadic and not usually done consistently. There was no government control of VIN numbers until 1969. It is quite possible yours was built in 49' and sold as a 50'. And recorded as either year or both.

    One trip to the Toledo Jeep Fest and a little conversation with an old timer Willys worker, if you can still find one, will set you straight to say the least! I love the Jeep Fest for this reason especially. There are still a few OG Willys workers around. If you try you can find them at the fest. Great tales of what went on at Willys in the late 40's 50's and beyond.

    Prior to 1954 the VIN meant something only to the plant that stamped it in there, on that day. In 1954 USA manufacturers started using a more standardized VIN to describe and identify each of the motor vehicles they manufacture. The early VINs still had configurations depending on the individual manufacturer. A move to create a more government controlled VIN scheme was made in 1968, with the enactment of Federal motor vehicle safety standard in 1969. VIN numbers prior to 1954 are not controlled.
    Last edited by bmorgil; 02-20-2021 at 07:02 AM.

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    Thanks for the information, I guess I will never know and maybe it doesn't really matter. Based on my research and the information gained here, I am going to assume I have a Jeepster built in early 1950 from 48/49 body style parts before the body style parts were available and the VIN system was used from that era.Attachment 7625
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  7. #7
    Super Moderator LarrBeard's Avatar
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    That is probably as close as you are going to get for an answer and it makes sense given what was going on with the company at the time.

    It is a very nice example. Enjoy it - flaunt it and wave back at everyone who honks at you!

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    Moving on. I also have an early 1949 Jeepster VJ-2 with the 4-63 vin plate and title that is all original, even the original seats and floor mats (however very worn) with 60,000 miles and a working heater and complete radio (needs restoration). I found it in a shop where it spent the last 40 years. The owner died and I purchased it from his widow and daughter. The engine would turn over but it had no spark or compression. After working on it for a few days, I got spark and good compression in all four cylinders. Now I'm working on the fuel system. The tank is shot and I'm sure the carburetor needs to be rebuilt, but I found a rebuild kit on e-bay and a good used tank in Florida, I'm in south central Missouri, that I hope to get next week, if the weather holds. Please see the attached photos. Thanks for all your help.
    Attachment 7637
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    Last edited by dgoodenow; 02-20-2021 at 04:52 PM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member 5JeepsAz's Avatar
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    Did you have the chance to buy up all the books and records from that shop? Impressive the way you keep track of your vehicles... What're your experiences with the jeepster crowd? Are their plenty historians or are you it? I'm also curious know those jeepsters drive. Are they smooth riding?

  10. #10
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    Sir: The story is the owner of this Jeepster was asked by a friend if the friend could store the Jeepster in his shop, he had no place to protect it but did not was to sell. After many years the owner said the friend either had to start paying for storage or give him the title. The friend gave him the title, but the owner never did anything with the Jeepster, just let it sit for a total of 40 years. Then he died. When I found it it was the dirtiest car I have ever seen. It had al least 6 inches of every kind on animal poop you can imagine covering the entire car. It took me several days of cleaning and three waterless washes just to get down to the paint. There were no book or records for this one, but I have had Willys all my adult life, now going on 70. Most of the vehicles I have had have been trucks and wagons, but this is my third Jeepster. Yes, there are several knowledgeable guys out there with good information about the Jeepster, sorry to say some have gone around the bend and others are getting quite old. I would not call myself an expert, but I do my research and try to uncover the facts. The Jeepsters drive like an old car, the sixes are much better than the fours, but the single transverse single leaf spring front suspension does give a nice ride. Thanks for your reply.
    Last edited by dgoodenow; 02-21-2021 at 07:39 AM.

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