1946 Willys CJ-2A: The Jeep that Helped Rebuild America!

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Post war, the Willys CJ-2A was America’s favorite workhorse. But this particular example is easily the most unique one you’ll ever see.

Post-World War II was a transitional time in America, for a number of reasons. With our soldiers returning home and most jobs residing in agriculture, automakers like Willys saw this as a big opportunity.

Willys, in particular, had the advantage of building the very same vehicles our soldiers were already familiar with. Thus, outfitting vehicles like the Willys CJ-2A with various attachments and other options made them just as useful on the farm as they were in combat. But we’ve never seen one as inherently interesting as this 1946 Willys CJ-2A, which resides in Omix-ADA‘s “Jeep Collection.”

We recently chatted with the Jeep Collection’s curator and off-roading expert, Dave Logan, for JK Forum‘s “Behind the Metal,” which shares the fascinating stories behind Omix-ADA’s most impressive builds. From a super-rare 1942 Ford GPA Seep to a totally awesome ’80s-era Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler, “Behind the Metal” reveals what it takes to transform a mere vehicle into an icon.

JK Forum: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of the Willys CJ-2A?

Dave Logan: We were looking for a transitional Jeep, [preferably from] when World War II ended and Willys regrouped and started making vehicles for the civilian market. Keep in mind, at that time, most of our G.I.s or soldiers coming back had been working on farms and ranches. At least a lot of them had. There were no interstates at that time, and cities were relatively small. Willys was marketing these CJ-2As to the agricultural segment of the market.

1946 Willys CJ-2A

How did Willys transform a military vehicle into something for the civilian market?

They took a WWII Jeep and modernized it a little bit and that was good enough. A lot of these soldiers had driven WWII Jeeps during WWII, so they were familiar with them. They felt that it would be an easy transition. The way it worked is, if you were going to use a CJ-2A for agricultural use, you would go down to your local dealership and you’d order one.

It would come in, and then you’d pull out the brochure for the agricultural implements or options and choose what you wanted to install. The dealers would then typically install them for you and roll the cost into the payment.

If you were on a ranch and you needed to put in posts, they’d give you a post-hole digger. If you needed to cut firewood, they’d give you a buzz saw.

This Willys CJ2A looks like it has a number of implements. Was that common?

Typically, buyers had one, maybe two implements. They weren’t trying to be a Swiss army knife, they just simply wanted them to do the task they needed. This Jeep goes way beyond that. It is a rolling display for many of the dealer options. Not all of them, but many. They range from an underhood air compressor to the PTO winch on the front. There’s also a welder, side arm mower, towing boom, and a buzz saw.

Was all of this equipment installed when you found the Willys?

The seller was up in Connecticut. He was into the implements, and he would go out and find them and restore them in his garage. They sat there until he realized he needed to mount them on a Jeep. So, he went out and found an early ’46 Willys CJ-2A.

What else about this particular Willys makes it so special?

One interesting feature is that it’s column shift. Virtually every Jeep before and after was a stick shift on the floor. That alone makes it a little unique, and then you add all these implements and it becomes very special. It also has dual rear tires and dual front tires. The dual rear tires weren’t that common, but I wouldn’t call them rare. They were intended to give it more traction and side-to-side stability.

Dual front tires, on the other hand, are virtually unheard of. It’s hard to use subjective terms like “rare” and “uncommon,” but there’s very few of them that had dual front tires. What that means is that it’s virtually impossible to steer. The inner tires tend to rub on the frame or the sidearms. It’s also manual steering, so you can imagine sitting in there, cranking the steering wheel, trying to turn all four tires. If you’re in soft dirt, going up and down roads, it was probably OK. But moving it in and out of tractor trailers and around trade shows is a royal pain. But it’s a cool vehicle, so you put up with it!

Obviously, the implements aren’t original. How correct is the rest of this Willys CJ2A?

We have all the original parts that were removed for these implements. The tailgate, passenger seat, we have all those things — just in case anybody ever decides in the future to change it back to original.

To see more of Omix-ADA‘s incredible Jeep Collection, head over here!

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Brett Foote has been covering the auto industry for over five years and is a longtime contributor to Internet Brands’ popular Auto Group websites, including Corvette Forum, Rennlist, and Ford Truck Enthusiasts, among others.

Foote has been an automotive enthusiast since the day he came into this world and rode home from the hospital in a first-gen Mustang, and he's been wrenching on them nearly as long.

In addition to his expertise writing about cars, trucks, motorcycles and every other type of automobile, Foote had spent several years running parts for local dealerships.

You can follow along with his builds and various automotive shenanigans on Instagram: @bfoote.

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