Tomís First Run with His Project 48 Willys CJ2A

Story by Mike

The Willys was suppose to have made its maiden voyage to the great Arizona back country on 18 Aug 2001, but due to technical difficulties the trip was delayed one day. Here is what happened.

We started out bright and early and headed to Redington Pass (trail to Chiva falls). The trip vehicles were comprised of the Willys, driven by Tom, and the green station wagon (XJ), driven by me, Mike. While on the road to the trail Tom noticed the Willys sputtering pretty bad and I noticed black smoke coming from the tailpipe. He pulled over, opened the hood, and noticed the fuel filter was clogged by what looked like cork particles. Not good. We turned around and limped home.

After picking up a new fuel filter we got to work on this 2-minute project. While replacing the fuel filter Tom noticed it wasnít cork in the old filter, but sand. Definitely not good. We figure the sand came from the fuel line since Tom only blew out the original line and put it back on. You have to remember this is a budget build up and anything that was reusable was reused. Hindsight is 20/20, but he realizes now he should have replaced the fuel lines since the Willys was sitting out in the middle of nowhere for who knows how long with a seized engine before he bought it. Anyway, he replaced the fuel filter and took apart the carb to get all the grit out of it. That is what the first two pictures are about.

After making sure the lines were clear, cleaning the carb, and getting it all back together, the thing still sputtered and smoked. We decided to try to adjust the timing and see if that would help. He loosened the distributor hold down bolt, adjusted the distributor, and behold the sputtering cleared up and the smoking stopped. Yes, weíre geniuses! Tom tightened the bolt using his super-human strength and proceeded to break the head off. Ok, maybe genius is to strong a word. After muttering a few profanities, drinking a beer, and shaking our heads, we decided to drill a hole in what remained of the bolt and try to get a screwdriver on it to back it out. (The proper way would be to drill a hole and use a reverse tap or screw, but we had none of that fancy sh*t). So, Tom is drilling away and what do you think happened? Thatís right, the bolt twisted down to the bottom of the hole. Sorry Tom, I couldnít help but laugh. After more cussing (and a few more swigs of beer) Tom reversed the drill and tried to get the bolt to spin back out. Much to our relief it came back to the starting position. Careful tapping with a small screwdriver and the troublesome bolt came out the rest of the way.

So what. We had the bolt out, but no way to hold down the distributor. Tom proceeded to rummage through his excess parts bin. I thought to myself ďwhat a dreamer, if itís anything like my parts bin heíll be searching for days and still not find anything." Imagine my surprise when less than a minute later he comes back with a match, and not just any match, but a grade 5 match. I immediately got down on my knees and bowed to his superior parts bin while he replaced the bolt.

After readjusting the timing and gingerly tightening the bolt with normal-human strength, the Willys was ready to go. Too bad it was dark by the time we finished.

The next day (19 Aug 2001) we were on the road again, and this time we made it to the trail. The pictures that follow are the Willys playing on the rocks for the first time since the rebuild. (Oh, and some of the big green station wagon just so it doesnít get jealous.)

Tom taking apart carb

Engine compartment minus carb

The Willys and station wagon starting out on Redington Pass

The very first obstacle on the trail. (I would have had some of the Willys doing this part but I f*cked up using the camera)

The very first obstacle on the trail.

The very first obstacle on the trail.

The very first obstacle on the trail.

Willys taking the lead

Second obstacle (plastic surgery couldnít have removed Tomís smile)

Paying attention to the trail now

Down and clear

Putting along

Checking rocker clearance (plenty of room)

Crossing it up

This is the same spot pictured under ďFriends RigsĒ where Tomís XJ is coming down. That one gives a better idea how steep the hill really is. (Itís been a little worn through the years, too.)

Checking the limits

Checking to see if 33í will fit

Not without some lift they wonít

Mike crossing up the station wagon (bit of a size difference isnít there)

The station wagon dropping off a ledge

Mike had to try the chute one more time

It gave the olí station wagon a hard time this time. Had to back up quite a few times before Mike got the right line and walked on up.

A beautiful ending to the Willys first day of wheeling

Note: We know the Willys didnít have roll cage. (Thatís why we took it easy.)