How to Identify Early Models of Willys Jeeps

by GailD
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Michal Rybski/iStock/Getty Images

Identifying early Willys Jeeps is often a challenge because they did not have Vehicle Identification Numbers. VINs first began to appear on vehicles produced by U. S. manufacturers in 1954, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Willys-Overland sold Jeep to the Kaiser Corporation in 1953, just before the VIN system was put into use. Willys Jeeps have serial numbers rather than VINs.

Serial Numbers and Other Clues

Step 1

Look on the glove compartment door or the dashboard in front of the passenger seat for three metal plates. The center plate should have the serial number, the name Willys, the model and date of delivery on it. If the Jeep is a model MB or GPW, it is a military Jeep. If it is a model CJ, it is a civilian Jeep.

Step 2

Look for your Jeep's serial number on the water pump at the front of the engine, or on the left front chassis.

Step 3

Examine the engine. Look for a serial number stamped into a rounded area on the passenger side of the engine block just below the cylinder head and behind the oil filter canister. If necessary, wipe the engine block off. The serial number can be covered with grease or dirt. On World War II military Jeeps, the flat spot where the serial number appears is about half an inch to two inches across. On a civilian Jeep, it is about half an inch to four inches across.

Step 4

Examine the windshield frame to see if it has "Jeep" stamped on it. If it does, your Jeep is probably a 1946-1949 CJ-2A. If it does not, your Jeep is most likely a 1941-1945 MB or GPW.

Step 5

Look at the way your Jeep's spark plugs are mounted. If they are on the top of the head, take a look at the windshield. If it is a single-piece windshield, check to see where the spare tire is mounted. If the spare is on the rear passenger side quarter panel, your Jeep is probably a 1949-1953 CJ-3A. If it is on the back tailgate panel, your Jeep is most likely a 1950-1952 M38. If your Jeep's spark plugs are mounted on the block at a 45-degree angle, it was made between 1953 and 1971.

Look for a Willys Jeep model that is like yours in reference books or on Jeep websites.

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