Early Hard Top Jeep: 1946 Willys CJ2A

When the World War two version of the Jeep became the CJ-2A immediately after the war ended, folks who knew their capabilities in war put those skills to use in civilian life.  From the farm to the forest and everywhere inbetween, Jeeps were presssed into service and America was never the same.  While the original Jeep has morphed into a whole vehicle division and a lifestyle brand, the simple simplicity of the original is undeniably appealing.  If you are looking for a small four wheel drive collectible, but protection from the elements is important, then take a look at this 1946 Willys CJ-2A for sale on eBay in Fort Collins, Colorado.  Is the current $6,700 bid a testament to this hardtop’s rarity or versatility?

After the war ended, Willys wanted to continue to produce a civilian version of the little four wheel drive vehicle soldiers commonly called the “Jeep.”  The problem was how to market such a niche vehicle in postwar America.  Having a capable vehicle to ride around and shoot at your enemies in was fine in Europe during the war, but the locals tend to frown on that kind of behavior when you come back stateside.  With four wheel drive vehicles being almost unheard of before the war in America, the question was who would buy a civilian Jeep?

The easiest answer would be hunters and people who love the outdoors.  A small, maneuverable offroad vehicle would open up many more opportunities in America’s forests and rural areas, especially after the Civilian Conservation Corps and other government agencies cut thousands of miles of fire road in America’s forests before the war.  A four wheel drive with maybe a winch is a lot easier to explore with than your family’s lumbering DeSoto.

The other answer was farmers.  Most of their work happens off the pavement.  In every type of weather and at any given time, farmers need to tend to their livestock and do what needs to be done around the farm.  Providing additional options such as a power take off would increase the versatility of the vehicle and make leaving the tractor at home a realistic option.

So, with their market identified, Willys began postwar production of the Jeep, with the official name CJ-2A.  War surplus was a double edged sword.  Plenty of wartime Jeeps were offered on the market, and surplus parts were available too.  The good news is that communication wasn’t what it is today, and parts and used vehicles weren’t a mouse click away.  Willys was very successful at getting these vehicles and the necessary parts into the hands of sportsmen, farmers, and those who wanted a Jeep of their own.  Sales of these vehicles kept the company alive, and allowed them to later introduce derivatives such as a station wagon.

Before the station wagon arrived, many customers wanted a hardtop.  While soldiers braved insanely cold weather in cloth topped Jeeps, the civilian market needed rudimentary weather protection and the ability to secure valuables.  Aftermarket hard tops were on the market quickly, and Willys soon offered their own versions in both half cab and full cab versions.

Looking at this CJ-2A being offered for sale on eBay, it is unclear as to whether or not it is a factory offering.  The hardtop on this vehicle has door windows that roll up instead of slide, and the windshield has the hinge on the cowl.  This points to the likely possibility that this particular hardtop is designed to be removeable.  Sadly, it is hard to determine how the roof is removed from looking at the pictures.

Having a roof to offer with a CJ-2A is quite advantageous, especially one that likely could be removed if needed.  Folks in cold climates would surely be happy to have some protection from the elements, and those in warmer climates could remove it when summer rolls around.  Top bows and canvas soft tops are fairly inexpensive and simple to add to an early CJ if you wanted both options.

The seller tells us that this is a running and driving project.  The brake system has been gone through, and the vehicle has a new radiator and a period correct carburetor.  It starts up every time and shifts through the gears with no issues.  The glass is good, the doors open and close freely, and a replacement bumper will be provided for the vehicle.  The only real issue is that the previous owner cut the front seat frames to install the garish Razor seats.  They are more comfortable than the stock ones, but to say they look out of place would be an understatement.

In all, this vehicle has a lot of potential for someone who wants an early CJ with some measure of protection from the elements.  The seller says it best when they suggest that it is a vehicle that can be “used as intended.”  Given what early Jeeps went through and how durable they are, that statement says a lot about this one.

Have any of you ever owned an early Jeep?  What did you use it for?  Please tell us about your experience in the comments.



  1. Howard A ( since 2014) Member

    Got a Jeep thing a goin’,,now this is a bit different than the other one. While I prattled on about the military version, these were a different story. I didn’t think Jeep offered a hardtop then, as most were aftermarket. Sears sold a lot of Jeep tops. While it’s going to be a cold ride, I don’t see a heater, it keeps the draft out. While it’s basically ready to go, I still see a very limited use for this. It’s only purpose would be for mending fences in the lower 40, a modern ATV offers more, but what’s the fun in that? In case you don’t believe me, Colorado and Jeeps just go together, and yep, I wave at almost every one. THAT’S a Jeep thing. Another great find and I’m so stoked, I think I’ll take the Jeep back in the hills today,,

    Like 6
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    Hearing what you say Howard. Had a ball driving and plowing snow with our ’42 Jeep. Cabinet maker made a fiberglass over 1/2″ plywood replica of the original metal version. Beautiful job and real handy when no heater existed. As you say, just sitting inside looking at the dashboard and looking out through the flat windshield did remind me that before my time was all history in the making.

    Like 8
    • Howard A ( since 2014) Member

      Hi Bob, a neighbor in N.Wis. had/has a Jeep just like your picture with a home made cab. The plow,,,get this, was raised with a hydraulic jack, with the pump handle in the cab! To turn the plow, you had to get out and turn it. Years ago, a snowplow wasn’t such a hallowed thing like today. Due to global warming( cough) it doesn’t snow like it did. These were merely for personal, or neighbors driveways, due to the amount of snow, you couldn’t go anywhere anyway, for days sometimes.

      Like 5
      • bobhess bobhess Member

        We had our jeep in Empire, Michigan while stationed there with the USAF. Found the hydraulics off an old missile site, pump handle inside with lines going to a hydraulic cylinder out front. 55 gal drum split in half with a skid on the bottom and two arms to the bumper. No option to change the position. Good for driveways. Just push the snow out into the street and let the county worry about it.

        Like 4
  3. angliagt angliagt

    Until the county plows it back into your driveway.

    Like 2
    • bobhess bobhess Member

      Then “plow it again Sam”.

      Like 5
    • Howard A ( since 2014) Member

      Ha! I lived in a rural area, and we knew the snowplow operator so he was respectful. As a kid in the city,( early 60s) I remember the local gas station had a Jeep plow, and made the rounds. Probably not more than $5 bucks a drive,( almost $50 bucks today) but after we grew up some, the old man figured we could shovel it for a lot less, like for free. He did get us a snowblower,,,eventually. City parks had these with brooms for cleaning ice skating rinks and paths.

      Like 2
  4. Yblocker

    It’s about 50 miles from my house.

    Like 0
  5. Mr Palmer

    I had a jeep and drove it around San Francisco where I lived.

    Like 0
  6. Todd Zuercher

    Looks like a neat rig but those seats would be the first to go once I got it. And I’d put a front bumper back on it too as that helps with the frame stiffness.

    Like 2
  7. JCH841

    BobHess – My grandfather had one that looked like yours, but I think it was a 50 or 51. My grandmother called it the Green Hornet. His had a heater and a hydraulic lift; he’d take the belt off the pump when he took the plow off. Still had to get out and pull a pin to angle the plow. Used to ride with him and work the plow (probably didn’t slow him down too much) in Watertown NY to plow out a church parking lot on Sunday. Little flathead could move some snow!

    Like 2
  8. Mike Member

    Remember the lug nuts on the left side turned clockwise to tighten but the right side wheel lugs turned anti clockwise.
    The theory was the lugs on either side tightened against tire rotation for safety.
    Chrysler finally did away with this in 1955 or so. To many broken studs by unknowing mechanics.

    Like 0
  9. bobH Member

    One of my rides… Artic top

    Like 4
  10. V

    we had 4 cj2a’s all at the same time. 8 kids in the household. we would 4 wheel through the under brush and even see what size trees we could knock down .we would go into over grown fields and go over anything at a sane or insane speed. if we could not go over it with the front of the jeep we would back over instead. needless to say we were not tree huggers that came later. wish i had those jeeps today . they were indestructable . try and do that with an ATV…

    Like 0
  11. V

    just cant put down a flat fender…

    Like 1
  12. Mike S. Member

    Jeepies, Remember that the wheel lug nuts turn anticlockwise to tighten on the right-side wheels and clockwise to tighten on the left side wheels, It wasn’ t till about 1955 or so that Chrysler did away with that, even though having the lugs tighten against the rotation had some validity to keep the nuts from loosening. Im sri I sold my ’46 CJ2A 10, years ago. I even painted the wheels yellow like DEER tractors.
    New Jersey

    Like 0

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