1946 Willys CJ-2A

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This 1946 Willys CJ-2A farm Jeep has a front PTO winch and engine driven air compressor. It has a welding unit in the passenger seat area, and a side arm mower bar on the driver’s side. It also has a rear towing boom and a Newgren buzz saw with table. The dual tires front and rear provide stability and traction when in the dirt.


  • 134 cubic inch Go Devil engine
  • 4 Wheel Drive
  • T-90 transmission
  • Dana Spicer 18 transfer case
  • Dana 41 rear axle
  • Dana 25 front axle
  • Dual wheel adapters, front and rear
  • Front Canfield overload helper springs
  • Novi governor to control engine/PTO speed
  • K&K mower bar
  • Westinghouse PT1 air compressor
  • GE Welder
  • Canfield wrecker boom
  • Ramsey PTO winch
  • Newgren buzz saw
Manufacturer Willys
Production 214,760 built
Engine Options 134 cu in. L-head Go Devil engine
Transmission Options T90, 3 speed manual transmission
Transfer Case Dana 18
Rear Axle Dana/Spicer Model 41
Front Axle Dana 25
Wheelbase 80.0 in.
Length 122.75 in.
Width 59.0 in.
Height 69.37 in.
Curb Weight 2,137 lbs.

Closer Look

Go Anywhere, Do Anything

by Jim Allen

The World War II jeep had established a reputation of being able to do just about anything. When it was developed, neither the designers nor the military had a totally clear picture of its place in military doctrine, nor its capabilities. After nearly five years of war, all parties had a much better idea of what the jeep was capable and Willys Overland was going to put them to work in the civilian sector.

Willys-Overland grabbed the lion’s share of the hoopla over the development of the jeep and started fanning those fires early on. Frankly, they needed to. You could easily say that American Bantam had one foot in the grave before their part of the jeep story played out but Willys-Overland entered the 1940s on a big financial downturn and was probably headed down the same road. The wartime jeep turned that around and Willys was determined to capitalize on their feisty little flivver the moment the war ended.

As soon as the feverish tempo of war development and production wound down, Willys took some time to think about how a wartime jeep might be transformed into a civilian product. In many ways, they faced the same lack of a clear direction for the jeep as had military planners in WWII. They really didn’t know the best place for it in a civilian market. At the beginning of the war, the United States was still primarily an agrarian country, with farming and the related industries being one the main occupational pursuits. Of course, WWII would change all that and turn the USA into a manufacturing behemoth, but that wasn’t necessarily clear in the early and mid-1940s. You can only plan for what you know at the time, right, and turning the jeep into a farmer’s best friend was very high on the list of postwar marketing ideas and one Willys pursued with vigor.

To that end, at Willy’s encouragement, the USDA tested a pair of jeeps in 1942 at their tillage lab in Alabama, one Willys MB, one Ford GPW, to see if they could do a passable tractor imitation. The results were encouraging, though the report indicated a need for lower gearing, a stronger clutch and better attachment points.

In 1943, Willys began the process of trademarking “Jeep” for later use. That process would be contested by other parties claiming rights to the name. Willys would not be granted the trademark until 1950, but their bulldog pursuit of the trademark shows their intention for a full court press for a jeep in the postwar market.

In the early part of 1944, Willys would begin the physical development and testing of civilian-pattern Jeeps. The first test units were converted war-production MBs adapted with variety of things such as tailgates and drawbars, as well as the drivetrain modifications deemed necessary. These included 5.38:1 axle gearing (vs 4.88:1 in the MB), 2.43:1 transfer case gearing (vs 1.97:1) and more.

New terminology also was used. Whereas the “MB” code had signified Military model B, the new CJ code signified C for Civilian and J for Jeep. Another term was trademarked in early ’44, “Agrijeep.” This was used on the first converted CJs, which became the CJ-1 by default when the first ground-up prototype began development and was called the CJ-2. The CJ-2s were the first Jeeps designed and built for civilian pursuits from the ground up and also wore Agrijeep tags. That name didn’t make prime time and was replaced by “Universal Jeep,” which better represented Jeep’s go anywhere, do anything capabilities.

Around 40 CJ-2 Jeeps were produced in three generations for tests and they evolved considerably over those generations produced from late 1944 into early 1945. Much of the testing revolved around trying accessories, some of which was adapted from equipment intended for other vehicles, and others developed especially for the Jeep. Less time was spent making the Jeep more civilized but better seats, more weathertight tops and the addition of a bare minimum of creature comforts was also accomplished.

The preliminary design work for the production CJs started in December of 1944, influenced by the ongoing testing and design work on the CJ-2 prototypes. Willys adopted some military-standard nomenclature, no doubt a deliberate act for connecting to the returning GIs, and dubbed the production unit CJ-2A, the “A” denoting a significant first modification to an existing design.

Production of the CJ-2A began in late June 1945. The official public and press introduction took place on July 18, 1945, at CESOR Farms, New Hudson, Michigan. Production continued until September, when a strike at Warner Gear stopped supplies of the new T-90 transmission. When the line ramped back up in late October, it was earmarked to be 1946 model year production. In the end, only 1,824 1945 model year CJ-2A Jeeps were assembled.

The ’46 CJ model year was full of running changes as production details were finalized. An effort was made to use up stocks of applicable MB parts and as that was done, and those parts were replaced with upgrades, the appearance and functionality of the CJ-2A changed. This makes the ’46 CJ one of the most interesting, yet frustrating, early civilian Jeep collectibles. Interesting if you are into tracking all the differences. Frustrating when trying to restore, replace or reproduce the more rare components used on the early rigs.

The more notable ’46 changes included a switch from the full-float MB style Spicer 23-1 rear axle to the semi-float Spicer 41 at serial number 13453. Next up was a change from the military style oval muffler that exited in front of the passenger rear wheel to a rear-exit system with a round muffler at 18638. The military tool indents in the body for the GI shovel and axe, just below the driver’s entry, were gone by 29500. The column shift was replaced by a floor shift at 38221. The headlight trim rings went from body color to chrome at 38687. The engines were upgraded from a timing chain to timing gears starting at 43282. There were many other smaller changes that are known to have driven faithful ’46 CJ-2A restorers to the brink of madness.

A total of 71,554 ’46 CJ-2As were built in ’46, a surprisingly high number considering how many surplus wartime jeeps were on the market at dirt-cheap prices. CJ production stayed high through 1948, when market downturns slowed sales, but also Willys was ramping up sales of other, more people-friendly utility vehicles. After 1948, annual sales of CJs dropped from the 65-74,000 range into the 25-30,000 range.

Now we get to look more closely at the ’46 CJ-2A in the Omix-ADA Jeep Collection. At serial number CJ2A-38214, this Jeep is a near the middle of the 11825-83380 serial number production run for ’46. It’s just seven units below the point where the column shift was replaced by the floor shift. There are no remaining records that list exact production dates for early CJs, but by various indicators, we are pretty sure this Jeep rolled off the line in early June, 1946. When it did, we know the base list price was $1,241 (about $16,012 in 2015 bucks). That did not include much of anything, not even a front passenger seat. That front seat was $11. If you wanted a rear seat, it cost you a whopping $13.50. The full canvas top was an outrageous $82.50 and if you needed a drawbar, it was a touch over $7. Those things got you a basic Jeep you could use every day. This one also originally came with a Harrison heater, but we don’t have a price on it. Indications are this Jeep also was ordered with a Sheneker snow plow, which cost around $215. This plow was available at Willys dealers.

Harvest Tan is it’s original color, along with the pinstriped Sunset Red wheels. The accessories you see in the pictures were added after restoration, except the Hy-Lo-Jeep hydraulic pump. The Hy-Lo-Jeep pump was installed at some time in the distant past, possibly not long after it was sold, and presumably for the snowplow. Little else is known about its early configuration.

Similarly, the early operational history of this Jeep is not known clearly. It was sold in a rural part of Connecticut and very likely was involved in farming. Prior to restoration, its last years were spent as an elderly man’s rural yard and dump run vehicle. It was purchased in 2005 by Ted Jordan and then sold to his close friend Jim Sas who undertook a seven year restoration. As with any Jeep of this era that lived outside, the body was Swiss cheese and required extensive panel replacement. Sas worked hard to retain as much of the original body as possible, since some of it is unique to that ’46 model year. Where steel was replaced, Omix-ADA panels were used. The mechanical parts are all the original pieces, rebuilt as needed and given fresh coats of paint. Unlike many of the surviving column shift Jeeps, it still retained the column shift mechanism. These were cranky from the getgo and got worse as they aged, so many were converted to floor shift. As a result, the column shift parts are near to being Jeep “unobtainium.”

The ’46 CJ-2A was added to the Omix-ADA Jeep Collection in July of 2015 and given the cornerstone position earned by its place in Jeep history.

Accessorizing a Vintage Jeep With Vintage Gear

When the civilian Jeep debuted, a vast array of go-to-work accessories debuted with it and more became available in the following years. In a relatively short period, it was learned Jeeps were not ideally suited to all the tasks for which equipment was available. Gradually, the range of equipment narrowed to what the Jeep could do best but the rise of recreational use of Jeeps and other 4x4s, as well as the growing SUV trend, and a trend towards the use of specialized equipment, finally led to an end of the “Swiss Army Knife” style equipping of Jeeps.

The Omix-ADA ’46 CJ-2A has more than a few of those vintage accessories, many more than the average Jeep owner would have added to one Jeep. Many more than can actually be operated on one Jeep. Most often, an owner would choose the one or two items most needed for a particular job. This CJ-2A has a bunch of very rare vintage accessories and is a rolling testament to the era of the working Jeep. Not all are installed, or fully installed, because they conflict with each other mechanically. Some also require extensive body modifications that Omix-ADA is not willing to undertake on so rare a vehicle.

Novi Governor
A governor was the essential element to any type of PTO operation. It was a device that allowed the operator to set an engine speed and the governor would hold that engine speed regardless of load, increasing or decreasing the throttle opening automatically as needed. There were a number of companies making governor kits for early Jeeps. King-Seeley was one of the first, if not the first, but Novi got on the list first as an “official” Jeep accessory. The Novi governor is not installed into the collection’s Jeep at present, since the T-1 air compressor mounts in the same general area of the engine and uses the same belt sheave.
PTO Drive
The Power Take-Off drive is a device that attaches to the transfer case of the Jeep and supplies engine power mechanically to another device. Generally speaking, you can operate up to three devices off one PTO drive but some things, like front PTO winches or hydraulic pumps, can also be driven off the snout of the engine crankshaft as well. The collection has several PTO drives for this Jeep, a Ramsey DP-1 twin-stick unit being the one currently installed. It supplies power to the front winch as well as the K&K sickle mower and the rear drum PTO.
Ramsey PTO Winch
The Ramsey MX-200R PTO winch comes from a later period than the Jeep but that Ramsey model did have an early CJ-2A application. It’s rated for 8,000 pounds and mounts 150 feet of 3/8-inch wire rope. Speed aind direction are controlled by the transmission. First gear offers the most “pull” and third the fastest line speed. Reverse spools the winch out. The lever on the left declutches the winch and allows free spooling.
Rear PTO
Most rear PTOs came from Willys but were manufactured by several companies over the years. They were powered by the transfer case PTO drive via a driveshaft. They could be used as a standard 10-spline shaft PTO or, with a 90-degree adapter, a drum pulley for belted implements. The collection’s Jeep has a Willys PTO with the steel drum. Early versions had a drum with a wood facing. It’s said the wood drums work better, having better belt traction, but wear out sooner, not to mention deteriorate over time.
Newgren 3-Point Hydraulic Lift
Newgren was a subsidiary of Monroe Auto Equipment Company that made small agricultural implements, including some specifically for Jeeps. Their 3-point lift was one of the better designed units and fit completely under the rear of the Jeep, leaving cargo space intact. It was hydraulically operated and powered by a hydraulic pump driven directly from the snout of the engine crankshaft. The Newgren line had originally been built in Michigan but in 1948, production was moved to Butler, Pennsylvania, and into the old American Bantam plant, where the first jeep prototypes were built. The original style Newgren hydraulic pump is in place on the ’46, but to save wear and tear because it runs all the time, the drive coupler is removed and the lift is being operated from the belt-driven Monarch Hy-Lo-Jeep pump mounted to the engine, which can be turned on or off. The Hy-Lo can make up to 1,500 psi and has a flow rate of 1 gallon per minute. The Hy-Lo pump was commonly used for snow plows on Jeeps, but could power any hydraulic implement within it’s capabilities.
Westinghouse T-1 Underhood Compressor
The Westinghouse T-1 compressor was a legacy product from World War II. They were intended for use on jeeps used by maintenance outfits or in sandy terrain where deflating tires for floatation and then reinflating was necessary. There were great stockpiles left over and they were sold surplus in the years following the war. WABCO (Westinghouse Air Brake Company) reportedly marketed some leftovers for the civilian world as well.
Canfield Wrecker
The Canfield Tow-Bar Company, of Detroit, Michigan, offered a folding wrecker kit for Jeep CJs. It could be folded up to fit inside the cargo area of the Jeep then deployed as needed. They came as a hand-cranked unit as shown, or a powered unit that ran off a PTO. The kit weighed 650 lbs and thus used up most of the Jeep’s carrying capacity, so it a set of permanently installed coil helper springs was recommended. Optional was a boom extension that allowed the user to use the wrecker as an engine or loading hoist. In 1949, this setup cost $325 and the overloads cost $35 for the rear and $30 for the front. The kit is not fully installed in the collection’s Jeep due to the body alterations required.
GE WD3200B Welder
This Farnsworth and Middlekauff welder is designed to be belt driven from a center PTO and replaces the passenger seat. The welder unit came from GE and was ubiquitous and beloved in the era. Farnsworth and Middlekauff bought the units from GE and manufactured the kit for adaptation into the Jeep. This is the 200 amp model with a WD3200B GE unit that cost $624 installed in 1949. The 300 amp kit cost $813. That was big bucks in those days, about half the cost of the Jeep. This welder is not fully installed in the collection’s Jeep. The welder requires the installation of a special transfer case PTO with a four-pulley sheave and significant cutting of the floor panels. It came from a donor Jeep on which it had been installed back in the ‘40s right from the dealer. The unit has been tested and can still strike a mighty arc.
K&K Sickle Mower Bar
Mowing was common duty for early Jeeps, both in agriculture and on golf courses, parks, cemeteries or any large green area. In those venues, Jeeps could be a dual purpose machine, mowing one day and schlepping the next. The K&K units came as both a manually lowered unit ($285) or a hydraulic ($310). This is the manually lowered one. While some of the accessories tended to shorten the life of a Jeep, mowing devices generally didn’t impact them much, so some old Jeeps had long, happy lives as glorified lawn mowers. Mower Jeeps have been found still working after 50 or 60 years of service. This unit can still cut grass.
Newgren Buzz Saw
This Model DLS saw kit from Newgren was an adaptation of a type of kit often used with tractors. It runs off the rear drum PTO. They are designed for cutting logs in the 10-12 inch diameter range and came with 30 or 32 inch blades. They were very handy for firewood cutting. They came in a couple of different configurations, one a stand alone unit and the other a portable that attached to a three-point hitch. This is the latter style and cost $76 in 1949. The unit is operable.
Dual Wheels
Dual wheel kits were used when the installed implements affected stability, traction or flotation, You didn’t often see them on both the front and rear, but occasionally you did and we think duals at both ends make a great visual impact. The kits came from a number of manufacturers and it isn’t clear who made those now on the ’46.

The Toledo equivalent of the Swiss Army Knife. The list of what this Jeep can’t do is shorter than what it can do. The 1946 CJ-2A itself represents the earliest embodiment of ideas Willys-Overland had for the civilian version of the wartime hero. Just as military use would change how the wartime jeep was used, the role of the civilian Jeep would change drastically over time and become less work oriented.

One of the most recognizable features of a very early civilian Jeep are the recessed marker lights. These were adaptations on the wartime MB lights that would finally go away after serial number 97740 early in 1947 production and be replaced by flush mounted lights.

Have mower. Will Travel! The K&K sickle bar mower could be used for grass, straw or hay. It was the same type of equipment used with tractors and self propelled combines in agriculture. It was raised and lowered mechanically as was cutting height. Power came from the Jeep’s center PTO at the rear of the transfer case.

Cutting height is controlled by the driver with this lever, which made ingress and egress “interesting.” When the bar was folded up and secured upright, it was even more interesting.

The cutter uses serrated knives that are riveted to a bar that moves side to side inside the cast iron guards. A reciprocating crankshaft converts rotational torque from the PTO into the side to side cutting motion.

One of the signature elements to the early Jeeps was the column shift. Somebody at Willys thought this was the cat’s meow. They had tried to foist off the column shift on the Army in the pre-standardized MA of 1941 but the military didn’t buy it. The column shift cabal at Willys must have been in their glory when civilian Jeep development started and they could foist again but in the field, the apparatus tended to get bound up when the chassis flexed on rough ground and down the line, it wore out quickly and was soon dropped from the Jeep. This Jeep is among the last column shifts built, just seven numbers below the point when the floor shift was reintroduced.

In welding circles, this GE electric arc welder is as venerated as the Jeep. The GE welder came in many configurations, including a kit that powered it from the center PTO of a Jeep. Farnsworth and Middlekauff made the kit to adapt it to the Jeep. It wasn’t cheap! The whole kit cost half as much as the Jeep, but if you were a commercial concern that needed to bring a capable welder to a remote location, the Jeep mounted welder soon paid you back.

The folding version of the Canfield wrecker is an incredibly rare Jeep accessory. This one was found literally by chance… pretty much the old, “knowledgeable-Jeep-guy-trips-over-it-in-the-weeds” story. The unit folds up to lie flat in the bed of the Jeep allowing for a certain amount of cargo to still be carried. The winch could be operated by a drive from the PTO or via a hand crank

Ready to make sawdust! The Newgren DLS buzz saw deployed and ready for use. Because it mounted to the Newgren hydraulic lift (or any other brand), this setup was very portable. To move, you simply folded the table forward, lifted the unit with the hydraulic lift control, schlepped to the new location, redeployed and made more sawdust. It was driven from a drum PTO at the rear of the Jeep via a typical 8-inch agricultural belt.

Ready to make sawdust! The Newgren DLS buzz saw deployed and ready for use. Because it mounted to the Newgren hydraulic lift (or any other brand), this setup was very portable. To move, you simply folded the table forward, lifted the unit with the hydraulic lift control, schlepped to the new location, redeployed and made more sawdust. It was driven from a drum PTO at the rear of the Jeep via a typical 8-inch agricultural belt.

Dual rear wheels was relatively common for working Jeeps back in the day. They added stability, floatation and traction when heavy implements were carried. It was a bit hard on the axle, mostly because operators tended to think of them as a license to overload the Jeep. Front duals were much less common but sometimes also used for floatation.

The array of agricultural attachments available for Jeep in the ‘40s was staggering and this represents only a few. These are the products authorized by Willys-Overland but there were many more besides.

The rear PTO could be operated with the 90 degree adapter and drum or without and using the 10 spline shaft.

The heart of the early Jeeps, and literally the engine the made the Jeep, was the Go Devil flathead four. It was the “just right” choice for the wartime jeep and for many years was just enough for the civvy version. Shown is the gross power and torque graph for the engine. The origins for this engine go back to 1926, when it debuted in the Willys-Overland Whippet. It evolved through the ‘30s but by the latter part of the decade, the original iteration was anemic and weak. Newly hired Chief engineer Barney Roos redesigned it in 1938 and transformed it from a weak 48 hp engine that could only last 22 hours at full power on a dynamometer to a burly engine that could

Jeep at work! A late ‘40s CJ mounting a Newgren two-bottom plow. Interestingly, it’s being used on a Monroe hydraulic lift, which mounted in the bed of the Jeep, rather than a Newgren lift that mounted under the body. There were three common brands of three-point hydraulic lifts for early Jeeps, Newgren, Monroe and Stratton. Hard plowing was tough work for Jeeps, especially the drivetrain, so they didn’t last long if used often like this.
  • Client: 1946 Willys CJ-2A
  • Filed under: Classic