Thunderbolt Productions

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This page is dedicated to the history, information and current news on my 1944 Willys Jeep.

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Dateline: Washington state, 28 August, 2019:

The show season came and went fast! Before long, it'll be fall and then winter!

 Older shots and such:

A while back, my Dad sent me these amazing photos of his 1942 Ford GPW from the 1950s:

That's his Jeep, the only two known photos of it in existence. Grandpa sold it when Dad went into the Air Force soon after this photo was taken (Dad is to the right in the one photo). Someone in either Tennessee or North Carolina bought it. I'd give almost anything to know if it was still on the road today but the serial number is long forgotten...

 

Come look me up. 366014 can be seen at these upcoming events in 2020:

Father's Day weekend- Olympic Airshow, Olympia, WA

July 4- Display/parade, Centralia, WA

August- Car show, Lucky eagle Casino, Rochester, WA

August- Car show, downtown Centralia, WA

The history of 1944 Willys MB # 366014

 STATS:

Willys 1944 MB 'Jeep'

Data Plate serial #: 366014

Frame Plate serial #: 366014

Engine block serial #: MB-464435

Body serial #: Has yet to be established (appears to be missing or never stamped, but needs to have some paint stripped to confirm this)

Built by Willys-Overland, Toledo, Ohio

Delivered to the Army on 28 August, 1944

Turned over to USN control, probably through the Mt Rainier Ordnance Depot. Used by the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, WA during the war (has been incorrectly ID'd in some publications as a MZ-series communications Jeep out of Fallon NAS, but I have since confirmed it was never a MZ commo Jeep). Sold off as surplus in 1947 or 48. Per Vern Christopher (the 2nd civilian owner), it had yellow "USN" marking and some numbers on the side of the body when the paint was stripped off. He said he wrote them down and then lost the paper.

Originally purchased after the war by an unknown man who used it as a hunting vehicle, fitted with locking hubs and towed to hunting sites. At some point, his kids ran into a tree and destroyed the bumper. Currently, the front frame rails still show the damage from that impact.

Bought from the first civilan owner by Vern Christopher, painted and used in parades. I bought it in September of 1999 and drove it home two weeks later.

I've repainted the hood and re-marked it up, along with the usual services. Among the few of the other minor parts I've added or changed that I can recall offhand: All the canvas; oil pump float and pivot; fuel tank; mirror; two tires; one rim, water can (1944 dated); tow bows; glove box lid button and hardware; fuel pump, rebuilt the generator; entire exhaust system past the manifold; hub splines and end caps on front axle; rebuilt the carb (as a precaution); first aid kit and bracket; spare tire support bracket (to a earlier three-bolt unit)

She could really use a complete restoration, but at this time I have neither the time, money nor the experience to even attempt this. The most pressing issues I should get to is the troubleshooting of my electrical system (it doesn't charge the battery at all) and eventualy re-sealing the tranmission and transfer case gaps. But for now, she'll do just fine!

My MB is in the front of this convoy, coming back from the Forest Festival Parade in Shelton, WA.

Engine serial # on the block, original engine to the Jeep as it's in the same serial # range of known blocks from the summer of 1944. It's hard to read in this photo (which I had to combine from several shots at very close rang from under the oil filter housing) but the complete # is: MB-464435

So, where did you get it?

"Be careful what you wish for; You just might get it."
-Unknown

This is what she looked like the first time I ever saw her! I took this photo as part of a roll of film to show my folks what I was going to embark on. Note at this time, she's missing the hood bows, there were locking hubs on the front axle and the seats had original WW2 cushions! The bumper markings were for the ficticious "Crosby Guard," making a reference to a local parade this Jeep was used in by the previous owner.

I was at the August, 1999 Bremerton, WA fly-in with my living history group. Someone from the CAF had a Jeep driving by, and I made a comment to one of the other guys, "Man, I'd give anything to have one of those." He responded by saying, "Really? There's a guy down there who has one in about that kind of shape" (refering to the one that'd just driven past).
I went over to the vehicle pointed out to me, which was a nice GPW. Yep, he had another WW2 Jeep for sale, all right. It was a 1944 Willys MB he was looking to sell. He rebuilt Jeeps and the wife wouldn't let him bring in some "restoration candidates" he was eyeing until he sold one of his many running Jeeps. He told me how much (it was a really good price, even then) and that it ran. I thought it'd be a bucket of rust and missing parts, but I said I'd be by to see it. A week or two later, I half-heartedly went out there (it was a LONG haul for me) and really had no intention of buying it. I'm still not sure why I didn't make up an excuse not to go. Anyway, the photo above is what I saw. My jaw dropped. All five combat rims, paint about 15-20 years old, but painted at that time with original WW2 paint. It needed a new top, bows, and probably new seat cushions, but it ran. It's service history was even known, from the shipyard at Bremerton. Even though it was a... ick... Navy Jeep, I was sure I'd be able to make good use of it. I had a handshake deal with the guy, said I'd be back as soon as I could to pay him off.
I had no idea how to pay for it. I was a newly-minted Army 2LT with not a lot of money. I swallowed my pride and called my parents. Dad's first "car" was a 1942 GPW and spoke fondly of it all my life. I told him what I needed and he agreed right away to loan me the money.
Meanwhile, a doctor with a lot more money than I had found out about the Jeep, and offered the guy a grand more than I was going to pay. He was declined as "a deal is a deal." This was no BS, as I met that Doctor months later and he had told me the story, not the seller. I returned, paid with a personal check (I'd offered him a MO, but he said it wasn't needed), and drove the thing the 100 miles to my place. Looking back on it, I was a fool to drive an untested MV that far with no plan on what to do if it broke down. My girlfriend at the time (now my long-suffering wife) drove me up to get it and then followed me all the way home. Soon, I was driving it onto post at Fort Lewis. Folks there didn't know what to make of it and I was known as "that Jeep LT" for a while. It sure turned heads when I got stuck in the middle of a convoy, I can assure you of that!

This was taken for a newspaper article, taken about a week after the one below.

This must be the first photo I ever got of me with my Jeep, October, 1999. It's also the only photo I ever got of me in my "real" Army uniform and the Jeep, taken behind my Battalion HQ at Ft Lewis. It caused quite a stir at the ending formation that day. I commanded an independent group of about 150 soldiers at the time.

Transporting the Jeep and displaying

Here is the Jeep as it gets moved to a show.

When I take my MB to shows, it usually is trailered unless the show is very close by. There two reasons for this. First, I don't want to put excess miles on her and add to her wear. This Jeep has never been restored, just well cared for with preventative maintenance. Second, where I live, there are sometime no alternate routes from my home to a display site and going on the highways is the only option (unless you like really long "shortcuts") and if you've ever driven one of these, you know that it'll do at best around 40 without damage. Folks here do drive really slow on the highways, but not that slow! I always take the top off and fold the windshield down (and cover it up) to protect it from anything that might be kicked up from the road.

366014 at the Olympia Airshow, an event I have done ever since I got it in 1999. It's been to all of them except for the first one, and I didn't own the Jeep yet at that time.

Once I get to a show, she's usually displayed with my WW2 weapons and gear relevant to what display I have in mind. In some venues, we're not allowed to bring weapons. In those cases (such as most car shows), she gets filled with WW2 ammo crates and other sundry items. The most popular items I have noticed are a 1930s pack of "Lucky Stike" smokes as well as a typed "letter to home" from a fictional soldier on 'captured' German stationery.

The Lucky Eagle casino car show, August, 2009. I usually do this event each year, driving it to the show directly. Before anyone asks, NO, I didn't coordinate ahead of time with the M-37 owner. Neither of us knew the other would be and had never met before the show.

 

Car shows can be an odd experience for people who own military vehicles. At every car show I've gone to, I initially always get some sneers, as in, "What the heck is doing here with that dirty old thing? It doesn't sparkle like my hot rod!" I even make a point of hitting mud puddles along the way to a car show if I can find them. To me, the dirtier the better. Usually the sneers go away and lots of folks come up talking Jeeps. I hear a lot of the infamous "$50 Jeep in a crate" stories (which never happened in real life, by the way) as well as many folks incorrectly thinking this is the type of Jeep they drove in the 70s or 80s. Still, reaction is almost 100% favorable. Those who don't like it usually just don't come up, I guess!

Favorite Links

NOTE: these are links that have personal attachment to me and my work. I will not turn this into yet another links page. There's enough of them out there already. In other words, if you don't see me or have contact with me personally on a routine basis, don't ask for a link here, sorry!

My Jeep, # 366014:

Willys MB # 366014 this is the stats on my original WW2 Jeep from the G503 site

http://www.g503.com/serial-numbers/view.php?record_id=265

 

Willys MB #366014 on flickr's website These are shots of my Jeep on other people's galeries

http://www.flickr.com/photos/53587910@N05/galleries/72157624763317001/

 

General WW2 Jeep and other info:

THE WW2 Jeep page : http://www.g503.com

 

WarCos photo page Nothing but original WW2 War Correspondent photos and insignia/uniforms and some vehicle photos, too! 

http://photobucket.com/albums/y205/WarCo/

 

French WW2 Jeep page GREAT graphics, if you can read French, it's worth your while even if you can't!

http://www.souchman-home.com/marquages/les_marquages_americains/stencils.html

 

WW2 Re-enactor groups:

Friends of Willie and Joe GREAT living history WW2 group in the Pacific Northwest  

http://www.friendsofwillieandjoe.org/

Vendors:

The Signal Depot Small but very well-connected vendor of excellent reproduction WW2 ration cans and crates. He's also the co-creator of the now sadly cancelled show, "Mail Call" on the History Channel. He's also a darned nice guy!

http://www.thesignaldepot.com/

 

Rick Larsen Stencils The best guy out there for stencils for your restored military vehicle!

http://www.militarystencils.com/

Random Jeep stuff

Heard the "$50 in a Jeep crate" story yet?  

If you have a WW2 Jeep and have displayed it anywhere but haven't heard it yet, wait, you will soon. The basic idea is that some folks took out ads in magazines in the 50s and 60s, which were just to get listing for surplus from the government. Still, enough people read those ads and eventually the stories got passed down until there now a generation of people who swear that their Uncle's Neighbor's College Roomate bought one new in the crate after the war. You'll never, EVER meet the person who actually bought one. It's always several people removed from the person telling you this, he'll never know where the Jeep is today or how to reach anyone who might have photos. It's an utter urban legend. Folks who own WW2 Jeeps hear this all the time. Granted, there are a few people who did buy crated Jeeps after the war, but none of them got them for a steal. Think of it; Willys started making CJ-2 Jeep immediately after the war and got premium prices for them. Would they have been able to do that if there were a bunch of crated WW2 Jeeps lying around for bargain prices? Of course not. Here are two good links on the subject: http://members.aol.com/brimiljeep/WebPages/JeepInaCratePage.html  http://www.olive-drab.com/od_mvg_jeeps_50dollars.php3

I'll be soon posting some links and other neat things here as time permits...

Go Ordnance, HOOAH!