Every decade or so..

Somehow summer slipped into fall and suddenly it was Thanksgiving again.  Time to gather firewood.  Ole Yeller has been the tool of choice for gathering and processing firewood.  The farm jeep hauls chainsaws and fuel and tows trailers full of wood to the splitter.  Even though we have farm tractors that can be used, the jeep is the better tool for the job.

Ole Yeller doesn’t get much attention.  It sets in the barn, waiting for the next job.  It has been a constant helper, starting and running without missing a beat.  But late this summer the jeep didn’t want to start.  Once it did start, it ran fine and we continued to just go about business as usual.

When Evan came down for a “jeep day”, Barry thought a quick check of Ole Yeller was in order.  The jeep started perfectly and so it was just assumed Ole Yeller had a case of bad gas.  But a couple of days later, the jeep wouldn’t start at all.

Jeeps, like old cars and tractors are pretty simple machines.  If you have fuel, spark and compression (timing) they will run.  So Barry started to check those things.  First, he pulled a plug wire and used a screwdriver to ground it to the block.  Cranking the engine produced a spark.  It was possible that the spark wasn’t strong enough to jump the plug gap.  Barry pulled the distributor cap and the cap and rotor contacts appeared tarnished.  Not a good sign.  He pulled the plugs, three of which were slightly rusted in place.  Not a good sign.  The plugs were worn with a much larger gap than normal and needed to be replaced.

Maybe it was a time for a tune-up.  Barry couldn’t remember when Ole Yeller had been tuned.  A note to Evan and a check of the Farm Jeep chronicles showed the plugs had been changed in ’03.  Almost a decade!  Definitely time for a tune up.

After a trip to the local NAPA parts store, Barry pulled the wires and reinserted them in the new cap. He also install the new rotor and plugs.  Trying to start produced nothing?  Maybe he replaced the plug wires incorrectly.  A quick check of the manual and Blue showed the plugs were wrong!

With only four wires the switch is pretty easy.  Try again.  Nothing.  OK, time to check the fuel.  It is dark in the barn (even with the lights on) and but it didn’t appear much, if any fuel was getting past the carburetor.  The after-market fuel filter is clear and appeared to have a number of rust particles inside the case.  A quick trip to town produced a replacement filter.

Clearly, fuel flow was an issue.  After the filter change, cranking the engine produced a visible flow of fuel.  But the engine still didn’t start.  OK, time to check the timing.  At least with a quick check and adjustment of the points that seems fine.  But no engine fire.  Time to head to the Internet.

A note posted on the CJ2a forum said to recheck all my work, including making sure the plug wires were correct.  There was also a link to a very good paper on timing the engine and in there was a note on how if the distributor had been changed or the oil pump replaced, it might not have been installed in the original position.  This would not change the way the engine operated but it WOULD change the location of the plug wires on the distributor cap.

It was at this point that Barry remembered an email from Evan early in the process which said “Are you sure you didn’t have the plug wires in the correct order before you fixed them? I seem to remember battling this before (although it could have been on the ’49) and that there was something odd with the firing order.”

Barry moved the wires one position clockwise AND the engine fired immediately!  What a marvelous machine.

NOTE TO THE GRANDKIDS:  When you do a tuneup in 2022/23 be sure to watch for those pesky non-standard plug wires…

The Art of the Farm Jeep

Farm Jeep as art?  We have always considered the iconic Willys jeep a beautiful piece of metal sculpture.  A grill and tailgate are part of our garage art collection.  But early last summer, Richard Saxton from the Colorado based arts group M12 (m12studio.org) contacted us at about a real farm jeep arts project.  M12 was planning an exhibition with the University of Toledo’s Center for the Visual Arts gallery and had been researching jeeps and their agriculture connections.  We were able to provide some names and contact information for some Farm Jeep historians and collectors who contributed materials to the exhibition.  A description of the short-term exhibit is here – UT News

We drove to Toledo to see the exhibit and had an opportunity to meet Ben Pond, the director of the gallery, and to talk to the students involved in the exhibit.  Some great pictures of the exhibit are here – www.facebook.com/CVAGallery . 

John Ittel’s beautiful 1954 CJ3B with a Newgren 3-point hitch is a perfect example of a farm jeep. What made a lovely-to-look-at and interesting exhibit even more special was the opportunity for the students (and the public through pictures) to see the farm jeep in action. Through a tree planting exercise, one can see both the connection to agriculture and the “universal” nature of the jeep. 

The pictures (here) show the “universal jeep” as a pickup, hauling the small trees to be planted, a passenger vehicle, hauling students, and as a tractor.  As a tractor it carries the implement (in this case an auger powered by the PTO (power take off)) to the field and engages the implement with the ground to create the holes for planting.

The planting exercise also gave us a chance to discuss some of the reasons why don’t see modern versions of the farm jeep.  Evan is showing why the jeep wasn’t favored by farmers as a tractor.  His location at the back of the jeep approximates where a farmer would be located while driving a conventional tractor, providing easy visual access to the implement.  From the jeep’s driver’s seat, it is much harder to see where the implement is making contact with ground.

We  enjoyed our visit  and discussion with the students and seeing the work of M12 and the CVA Gallery.   It did validate what we have believed all along.  A farm jeep is really a work of art.

Summertime fun – more tractor shows & fun with hydraulics

The first tractor show in May was so much fun, we were determined to attend a couple of more this summer.  It was also a good reason to acquire a jeep hauler (18′ tandem axle car hauler) for those out of town trips. 

At all three shows, we were the only “farm jeep” on display, so got lots of attention and visitors.  Having learned from the first show, we continued to use a combination of ads, signs and our notebook to explain the various bits of “farm jeep” equipment.

More fun with hydraulics

It was clear from reactions at the shows we need to display the jeep with a plow on the back to really give people a clear idea of a jeep as a tractor.  That means we need to get the lift working, again. 

Over the years we have used different pumps to power the lift, but wanted to use an authentic pump and eventually found a Newgren pump and bracket.  The pump was sent to a repair shop for reconditioning and was determined to be “worn out” and not repairable.  This sent us on another search for a replacement pump.

One of the joys of working on old jeeps is that you get to meet interesting and extremely knowledgeable people.  Our friend Lonnie knows his Newgren history and told us that the pump was the same as that used on the International Harvester model “C” tractor.  After some time search for a pump, we found one on e-bay.

The pump has been sitting in a box for a while and we did mount it, but did not connect it to the crankshaft before the first show.  So with no other shows planned, Barry decided to hook the pump up and give it a try.  The pump is connected to the crankshaft by a solid rubber disc, which allows for some movement and alignment.

The first test was a failure.  Barry suspected that the pump might be running backwards (it seemed to be pressurizing the tank).  He reversed the pump manifold, but the ram did not move.  At this point, Barry consulted with his friends over at the Tractor by Net (TBN) hydraulic forum about possible solutions.

At the suggestion of the TBN folks, we disconnected the hoses and placed them in a 5 gallon bucket half full of hydraulic fluid.  The bubbles coming from the pressure side showed that the pump was working (and rotating correctly), but not primed.  By pouring some fluid into the “suction hose” we were able to prime the pump and could see it working!


The Newgren lift hydraulic system is pretty basic.  The pump supplies pressure to a control valve located on the top of the reservoir.  When the control valve is in the “hold” (neutral) position, fluid enters the control valve and “dumps” directly into the reservoir.  When the lever is moved to raise the implement, the pump pressure is directed by the valve to the top of the ram, pushing the ram rod out and raising the implement arms up. When the control valve is in the “lower” position, fluid in the ram is returned to the reservoir and the ram rod is pushed in by the weight of the implement.

Since we know the pump is working, we could reconnect the hoses (pressure side to the control valve and return side to the bottom of the reservoir).  After adding fluid to the reservoir and working the control valve a few times, the arms moved up.  Success!  Sort of.

Any pressure on the arms would stop the upward movement.  No way this is going to lift a 200 pound plow.  We may still have a problem if the pump isn’t providing high enough pressure.  Or the control valve, although we have taken it apart and cleaned it, may not be working correctly.  And we have leaks in the system.  Unfortunately, those leaks appear to be coming from the top of the reservoir, which means lowering (un-installing) the entire lift.

We have had the lift in and out of two jeeps on several occasions.  While not a terribly difficult task, it is a hard balancing act, not unlike removing a transmission.  So before we attack the leak, we are going to try and build something along the lines of a transmission jack to help us get the job done.

Stay tuned.

Farm Jeep Goes To An Antique Machinery Show

There is Blue, in the middle of a row of fine antique tractors!  After years of saying we were going to take the jeep to a tractor show, we finally did it.

Following up on our last post, Thursday was final preparation day.  The hydraulic pump was bolted on the mount in front of the crankshaft pulley, but not connected and the 265 lb front bumper weight installed (with the help of the engine hoist).  Finally, we gave Blue a quick bath to get the dust off.

One goal of Farm Jeep has been to collect and share information and stories about jeeps being used on the farm.  At most shows, tractors are lined up and each exhibitor determines what, if any, information to provide.  Most provide signs with the owner’s information and the date the tractor was built but very few provide additional details.  Believing few people would have seen a farm jeep, Barry resorted to pre-retirement skills and created a short paper-based PowerPoint presentation to accompany Blue.

It had been the plan to drive Blue to the Brown County show, since we can get there on back roads, with only a short stretch of busy highway.  But between the valve and clutch noises, we felt it best to give Blue a ride on a trailer.  So early Friday Barry picked up the rental trailer and loaded up Blue for the 30 minute trip.  It was an easy drive and Barry was soon standing in front of the registration desk asking where he could park Blue.  He explained it was equipped as a tractor and didn’t want to exhibit it in the old trucks and cars section.  After a couple of phone calls, he was told to park at the end of a line of John Deere tractors.

Along with the PowerPoint slides, Barry had 3 old ads mounted in picture frames to help tell the story.  After watching people’s interest, he determined that a better plan was a loose-leaf notebook with copies of ads from the Web site would be a better idea.  The combination worked very well for the second and third days.  We were the best documented tractor and it was really appreciated by the many visitors stopping by.

People seeing the jeep fell into 3 main groups; those who had never heard of a jeep “tractor”, those who had heard, but never seen and then a very few who had used a jeep on the farm or had neighbors or friends who had farm jeeps.  This latter group provide to be the most fun, and it was clear Blue brought back some great memories.

There was a large group of “I’m sorry I sold my jeep and I sure wish I still had it” visitors who also told stories.  There were several vets who wanted to talk about their military jeep adventures and a WWII vet recalling his days in the muddy fields of Europe.  It is  unfortunate that we didn’t have a way to record some of the stories.

Friday and Saturday were extremely busy, but by Sunday noon, most of the tractors had been loaded up for home.  We stayed until after lunch, then loaded up for a quick trip home.  It was great fun and we anticipate doing more shows in the area.  Next year will will drive Blue to this one.

All Dressed Up and Someplace To Go!

The Brown County Antique Machinery show is held the first weekend in May each year.  We have been trying to make that show for the past several years, but have never been quite prepared.  We aren’t finished, but we are going to take Blue on a road trip “as is”. 

Blue is running and even though we are planning to change the motor, it is road worthy.  It lacks a working hydraulic pump and the cable to control the governor.  At least people can see a real Farm Jeep.

The first task was to install the PTO shaft.  This is normally a very simple job, involving installing and bolting the rear shaft flange on the gear box and bolting the shaft in place.  A some point, the splined shaft on the rear of the gear box had been damaged.  The gear box had to be removed and the bolt hole had to be re-tapped.  So the normal 30 minute job turned into a 3 hour task.

The gearbox turned easily, so we filled it with gear oil and started the jeep.  The PTO worked perfectly.  Except for a small leak on the back of the box.  We will need to remove the box and see if it is a quick fix or a tear down.

Several years ago, we find a Willys belt pulley assembly on e-Bay.  It was mis-identified as being for a tractor, but we had done enough research to know a Jeep pulley when we saw one.  It was a paper pulley, instead of the more common steel type, and it had to be rebuilt.  There is still a company – www.paperpulleys.com – that rebuilds paper pulley drums and we had them build a pulley using our frame.  The drum has been sitting on a shelf for a few years.

The pulley gear box had been on the shelf too and we decided to just clean it off and install it as a show item.  The assembly was a simple bolt-on process and the drum turns freely.  We need to paint the gearbox, but that can wait.

In the picture above, you can see the lift arm to the right of the drum being held in place by an original adjustable link.  The second link is rusted solid and will need some work.  For this show, we have used the reproduction links we had on hand.  This should at least give folks a idea of how the lift operates.

Other than a quick bath, we are ready to go.  We will report on our first outing

Farm Jeep Spring

Farm Jeep is coming out of its winter hibernation.  With the garage doors opened we changed the coil on the stand engine, to prepare it for the 12 volt 3a.  After a test start, we removed the engine from the stand and will prepare it for the exchange.  That means removing the face plate, which is a 2a style, and replacing it with 3a face plate.

Too much of a bling thing..

Getting the 3a to be street legal was a year-long struggle.  Among the requirements was working wipers.  The easiest fix was to install two “universal”12 volt wiper motors.  This project was chronicled in an earlier post.  Somehow, those chromed motors stuck out like a sore thumb on the windshield.  There had to be something better.

Original windshield equipment included a vacuum wiper motor on the driver’s side and a manual “hand” wiper on the passenger side.  Using a vacuum motor would mean changing the fuel pump (to power the motor) and might be a future change.  For now, we are going to use a painted motor with a built-in switch.

An original hand wiper appeared on e-bay and we purchased it with the idea of restoring it.  However, it was too far gone and a reproduction was our only option.  The reproduction is for the 2a, with the shorter, split windshield.  It is 2″ too short to work on the 3a.  A 2″ section of rod was welded in the middle to make it the proper length.  We need to find a grommet to finish mounting the wiper.

Ahead is an engine exchange and maybe a wiring re-route to accommodate the governor cable.

Still a mystery…

The new engines have settled in to their new home.  Barry had started the “stand” engine, just to hear it run again.  Evan and Barry discussed what they would like to do if they make the engine swap.  The first issue is to find another 3a faceplate or face (no pun intended) taking the fronts off of both engines.  So another shopping opportunity.

Removing the engine means taking things apart again.  While a necessary evil, it will be an opportunity to correct/change a couple of the things we did the first time around.  A good example is the location of the wiring harness through the firewall.  Where installed, it blocks what should be the exit point of the governor control cable.  There will also be the opportunity to examine the clutch installation.  There is a noise when the clutch pedal is pressed that neither Barry or Evan have heard from another jeep.  It may be a throwout bearing issue.

It has been years since the first motor was installed and that was without the body in place.  So there will be new tricks to discover and the need for lots of documentation to make sure it all gets back together.  Stay tuned for the adventure.

Meanwhile back in the garage, Barry has been researching the origins of both motors.  With the help of the great folks on the CJ2a page forum (especially Sean), the stand motor has been identified as an MB (military) engine built in mid-April, 1945.  Where it had been (and what vehicle it might have install in) remains unanswered.

But if the “stand” engine has secrets, the “box” engine is a true mystery.  It started out as, most likely, as an MB engine with a chain timing system.  Casting numbers and the assembled date of 6-21-45 mean it would not have had timing gears.  Unless it was an experimental engine.  A modification was made to the block and a section of cast iron was sewn into the section above the cam shaft.

After several exchanges of notes and pictures, Sean posted the following note –

“With those pics, I am now convinced you have a real “buy-back” block: was originally an MB engine, bought back as surplus by Willys after the war, whereupon they ground off the MB number & restamped the water pump boss with a current civilian production number.
But, I don’t think you’ll ever be able to recover either original number.  They did too thorough a job of eradicating them, too bad.
Questions/mysteries remain though.
Who did the conversion & when?  What do the other number stamps on the side of the block mean?  What was the “restamp” number?  We may never know.
The sole remaining letter on the water pump boss might be either a “J” or a “T”.  “T” was used on pickup trucks, which weren’t made until 1947.  Early engines were stamped either “2T” or “4T” (2wd/4wd)
But, stampings were done by hand, and often poorly/unevenly.  If/when a block got milled, some letters/numbers were only partially wiped out (easy to see in my number above).  Almost looks to me like yours might be a “J” with the lower curl wiped out (can almost detect a curl in both photos).
Now IF this engine had been bought-back after Willys changed to gear drive, the serial prefix at that time was a simple “J”, not the full “CJ-2A”.  And then it would have fit on 1-line, not the 2-lines needed for the full prefix.  So that’s a possibility.
I doubt the “T” for a couple of reasons:
  • Trucks weren’t made ’til ’47, much beyond the known, documented buy-back time period (though it is still possible)
  • The top “bar” isn’t wide enough for a “T”, but is for a “J”, such as on this buy-back

(You can read the complete article at http://www.thecj2apage.com/forums/2-motors-to-id_topic21610.html )

So for now the origins of the engine will remain a mystery.  Most fitting, since it will most likely end up in Ole Blue, who has identify issues of its own.

Jeep parts retrieval trip (JPRT)

Ole Blue’s motor just doesn’t sound right.  We have valve noise, white smoke, and low compression in the #4 cylinder.  Before we do much highway driving we need to do some major motor work.  While we would have the winter to do the engine work, Barry decided it might be worthwhile to find a newer engine.  So he began to search e-Bay and Craig’s List and also called some jeep parts suppliers looking for an engine.

An ad appeared on Craig’s List for a engine from a 46 CJ2a.  It was mounted on a custom built engine stand so that the motor could be started and run.  It had been completely rebuilt and sounded like a good replacement (even if temporary) motor.  To make it more interesting, the seller also listed a second disassembled engine too. 

Readers might remember that we did a JRT (jeep retrieval trip) for both jeeps.  The motors were located about two and a half hours from home, so this called for a JPRT (jeep parts retrieval trip).  Unfortunately, Evan couldn’t make the trip, so Barry started out early on the adventure.  JRTs and JPRTs are adventures and it is always fun to meet the people and to learn the stories and histories associated with whatever we are trying to buy.

The trip to north central Indiana was uneventful and the GPS took Barry right to Randy’s (the seller’s) house.  Randy started the engine and the deal was made right then.  It was the sweetest sounding little L-134 Barry had ever heard.  As Randy said, it is highly unusual to be able to hear a motor that is out of the vehicle before you buy it. 

While Barry hadn’t really intended to buy yet a third engine, he couldn’t resist what he saw stored in a large metal box.  There were lots of parts, many new and the engine appeared to be complete except for the connecting rods.

Randy had purchased and rebuilt the one motor for use in a custom garden tractor.  The project was never completed, but he had taken the motor to some antique tractor shows.  He loved to just hear the motor run and is looking forward to seeing it returned to a jeep.

Randy had a tractor with a loader that made it easy to place the motor and stand in the truck bed.  After an hour of talking and loading, Barry headed south.  The return trip was also uneventful, except for some totally unexpected rain showers north of Indianapolis.

Two and a half hours later the motors were home.  With some help from Paula, Barry used his loader forks to get the motors in the garage.

The next step is to do some identification of what motors we now have.  External signs indicate that the engine on the stand might have a chain for timing (thus an early engine) while the “parts” engine has gears on the crank and cam.  But a very successful JPRT!

Ole Yeller gets a brake

The 47 CJ2a we call Ole Yeller was and still is our working farm jeep. It lives in the barn and gets little attention. It always starts and runs well. It does smoke a little and the body is still in terrible shape. The major tasks this time of year for Ole Yeller involve hauling chainsaws and equipment into the woods and pulling a trailer full of firewood up steep trails. Last week, Barry climbed into Ole Yeller for another round of wood cutting. It cranked, but wouldn’t fire.

As stated, this is a reliable starter. Something seemed to be wrong with the fuel. Barry pulled the glass bowl on the fuel pump and saw lots of brown particles on the screen. He cleaned it as best he could and reinstalled the bowl. He cranked the engine again and it still didn’t fire. Time for the time-honored, but dangerous, technique of pour a little gas down the carburetor to see if fires. It works and Ole Yeller seems to be running fine. But maybe it is time for a real fuel filter.

There is no evidence of a filter ever being installed and it seems to be a cheap investment. The auto parts store wanted to do a vehicle look-up to get a part number. After suggesting that the jeep didn’t have a filter they finally came up with a “generic” model. That should work. It didn’t. The short section of rubber hose was too small to accept the filter. But Barry did discover that the inlet line to the pump was loose. When he removed the rubber line, the steel inlet line swung free! That would explain the fuel problem, but the filter still seemed like a good idea. Back to the parts store for a different filter. The parts guy paraded six different filters out, all with fittings too large to fit the line. Finally settled on a packaged model with multiple fittings.

Evan was scheduled for a “jeep day” and, while Ole Yeller was parked in the garage, it seemed like a good time to get another project done. On the parts shelf was a brand new e-brake cable. None of the farm jeeps Barry had driven had a working e-brake. But the working e-brake on Ole Blue was great, especially on the hills of Lawson Hill Farm.

e-brake screen door spring

While Evan installed the new fuel filter, Barry started disconnecting the e-brake cable. One of the many joys of owning an old jeep is discovering what changes the PO (previous owner) has made. In this case, we have the multi-part (tab with hole for wire attached to a spring) brake lever return mechanism replaced with an old fashion screen door spring and a couple of bolts. Perfectly simple and perfectly functional!

Getting the cable disconnected was much more challenging. By all appearance, it was the original cable installed at the factory. The cable cover (metal) was attached with clips at two points on the engine/transfer case and to the firewall. The cable was attached to the brake lever and to the “cane” handle under the dash. The adjustment clevis had been coated with leaking fluid over the years, so the nuts turned easily, but required some time since there was limited space for turning a wrench and ratchet.

Separating the cable from the handle took a hammer and chisel. Evan managed to get the clip off the firewall and Barry was able to get the clip out of the engine block. The last clip was on the transfer case and covered by the transmission/transfer case skid plate. As we took a look at removing it, it was clear that the PO had bend it on rocks or stumps or something. The easiest way to reach the clip was to drop the skid plate. However, there appears to be a rivet in one corner and 3 bolts in the other 3 holes. Our second option is to drop the cross member, but that would be a major undertaking.

The big wrench extension

 The only other option was to reach in on top of the skid plate with a long wrench and use a socket through a hole in the skid plate. Luckily, Evan has long arms and by stretching could reach the top nut. Even luckier was the bolt breaking after a couple of turns.

At some point during this process, Evan asked if we should check and see if the e-brake was still operational. Barry had assumed that the frozen cable was the issue, but had no idea if the e-brake itself would still function. So Barry crawled under the jeep and activated the brake lever while Evan rocked the jeep. With both relief and surprise, the brake stopped the drive shaft from moving! If we could get the new cable installed, we could have a working e-brake.

The reinstall was much less dramatic. Evan noted that the install of the cable to the handle in the dashboard was much simpler that on the 3a. That was due to the hole in the dash were the PO had installed a radio. He could see what he was doing, With the handle reattached and the clips bolted back in place, Barry reattached the cable to the brake lever and hooked up the screen door spring. Evan pulled on the handle and we had a working e-brake! 

Access hole to right of the e-brake handle

 A test drive proved that we did have a working e-brake. It did require a hard pull on the handle on the steepest part of the jeep trail in the woods, but it did hold. We may do an adjustment, but for now we will enjoy our new safety feature.