If the Ford Model T put America on wheels, it was the indomitable Jeep CJ that took America’s new wheels off-road—and off to war. The Willys-Overland’s MB and Ford’s GPW proto-Jeeps mobilized World War II’s Allied troops in an unprecedented manner; government production contracts awarded to Willys-Overland and Ford resulted in just over 643,000 service Jeeps built before the close of 1945.
Meanwhile, as the MB/GPW fought abroad, Willys-Overland saw opportunity the home front. If the Willys MB flourished in the treacherous, ad-hoc wartime environment, it was more than capable of handling standard work on home soil. Plans for the “Civilian Jeep”—or CJ—were born sometime in 1944, with production of the finalized CJ-2A beginning in earnest in 1945.
Returning soldiers and farmers immediately cemented the new CJ as an American icon, buying just over half a million flat-fender CJs by the end of the CJ-3B’s production in 1968. Essentially unchanged from the mil-spec MBs aside from a tailgate, optional canvas top, and side-mounted spare tire, the CJ-2 pushed Americans to wild regions of their country physically off-limits to the workaday family wagon. In the heartland, the CJ’s power take-off option was an agricultural godsend, providing a much-needed upgrade to many a tired farm tractor that often was on its last legs due to wartime deferred maintenance.
1953 saw the merger between the eponymous Kaiser-Willys corporations, a mash-up that brought two of the strongest independent American automakers under one roof. Predictably, Willys’ Jeep marque was the strongest asset under the new umbrella, and management quickly set about broadening the portfolio with the (modestly) updated CJ-5 for the 1955 model year.
Jeep’s fourth open-topped civilian model still pulled its bones from a pre-existing military model; in this case, the government-issue source material was the new-for-1952 Willys M38A1 that served extensively during both the Korean War and Vietnam War. Both the CJ-5 and its enlisted sibling were the first Jeeps to carry Willys’ new 75-hp Hurricane engine, a 2.2-liter (134 ci) four-cylinder that would remain in production though 1971.
This new “F-Head”-style cylinder head was markedly taller than the outgoing “Go-Devil” four-banger, necessitating a taller grille and new, rounded hood and fenders when compared to the prior “flat-fender” Jeeps. These so-called curved “funny fenders” would go on to define the CJ for the next few decades, and remain the most significant aesthetic departure from those Jeeps designed during wartime.
And just like the farmland CJs in the immediate post-war period, the new CJ-5 was used for hard labor just as much as it was for recreation. With a thick catalog of accessories and attachments, ditches were dug, fenceposts were staked, and in the case of this charming 1962 Jeep CJ-5, snow was plowed. Purchased new by Rhode Island-based Scarpetti Oldsmobile for exclusive use as a snowplow, a letter from dealership owner Edward Scarpetti indicates that the odometer’s current claim of around 1,500 miles since new is to be absolutely believed.
A lifetime of storage inside a heated garage—except during snowfall—is evident in the exceptional original condition of the well-preserved paint and overall patination. Both the dealership’s hand-lettering and white-wall off-road tires are believed to be original as well, alongside the rarely preserved metal hardtop from Koenig Iron Works of Houston, Texas. The white model 520 “Jiffy Full Cab” top features removable doors and a built-in, high-powered backup light for plow duty, and presents a delightful contrast to the Jeep’s bright President Red paint.
Other than the removable hardtop and a period-correct, dash-mounted Oldsmobile badge from the late 1950s, this CJ -5 is unmodified and features its original 2.2-liter (134 ci) powertrain. CJs were roundly the most capable factory off-roaders of the 20th century, and this CJ-5 is no different with its two-speed 4x4 transfer case and locking front hubs, all backed by the original three-speed manual transmission—more than enough hardware to tackle any early CJ rally or enter sympathetic service as a ranch shuttle.
These early Jeeps were not known for their driver amenities, but that was never the point to begin with. The sparse but tidy cabin is just as much a time capsule as the exterior, with minor patina in the footwells from winter use. All instrumentation is original, as are the shift knobs, controls, windscreen hardware, and instructional diagrams on the dash.
Owing to its incongruously low-mileage, the engine runs strong and stout with factory hardware that includes correct oil-filter canister, hoses, and fittings. If you want to put this CJ back into plow duty, the rear bumper wears attachment points for accessories, but just be careful not to scratch those optional chrome wheel covers.
This characterful Jeep is a perfect entry point into the vast and vibrant vintage Jeep scene, and is a shoo-in for the many marque shows that prioritize originality and presentation. And for the days between shows, this is a distinctive and eye-catching runabout for local summer cruise-ins.
Offers welcome and trades considered
Stock number 7548
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