Is This 38 Special? 1952 Willys M38A1

An old soldier not quite yet ready to retire is this ex-military 1952 Willys M38A1 or Willys MD that is on auction here on eBay in Terre Haute, Indiana at a current bid of $610.00 with five days to go and an unmet reserve.

In 1952 Jeep wasn’t the fashion accessory that it is today, with most models built with a mission to get the military where they needed to go. In civilian service, Jeeps were perfect for large landowners who may have been more accustomed to riding horses to get around their property.  It was about the only choice for serious off-roading that didn’t require aftermarket modifications to prepare it for tough duty.

This ’52 model is one of the first round fender models produced and still, retains all of the brass military plaques describing its correct operation, official nomenclature and other details demanded by a government contract.  It wears evidence of several paint jobs with traces of white and yellow over its original olive drab color.  There are multiple patches on the floors and sides of the old Jeep, some of them look like they are pop riveted aluminum.  Of course, the ad says it has “cool patina,” but others might see a tetanus farm.

The seller says that it “runs and lot drives,” and that the “motor seems to run good,” which means it may not be safe to drive on the highways in its current condition. A vintage Michigan license plate is just visible under the ad obscuring it, but the ad states in bold that there is NO TITLE.  That may or may not be a problem depending on your state’s title laws. It is being offered by a used car dealer, so he should be able to answer questions related to these legalities – hopefully.

The engine should be the Willys 134 cubic inch Hurricane F-head four-cylinder sending power to all four wheels through a three-speed manual transmission.  There has been an alternator installed in place of the expected generator and there seems to be some random wiring hanging around, too. I’m not an expert in anything snow-related since I live on the Gulf Coast, but the hydraulic ram on the front may be a setup for a snowplow.  You in-the-know snow people feel free to chime in.

Seating surfaces are covered in school bus-like vinyl upholstery, so it should be good well into the next century. The gauges look like they are all there, but whether they work or not is an open question. The windshield is missing so bring some goggles if you intend to get it out on the road.  Old Jeeps have never been as popular as they are now and this one might be a hoot to own.

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  1. half cab

    Needs to go to ole soldier’s home. He looks very tired! 😫 ha

  2. Howard A Member

    Right out of MASH. Probably one of the few that didn’t see duty in Korea, as most of those were blown to bits, or dumped at sea.( returning from war overseas, all machinery and trucks left over, were dumped in the ocean on the way home) It’s a electric /hydraulic ram actuated by that lever left of the steering wheel, and just a snowplow really, driving these on roads is not much fun. Back woods, cant be beat, although, a modern ATV probably does everything better. That hole in the hood was for the “snorkel tube” for crossing rivers. Couldn’t imagine a war without one.

  3. Bob

    It’s up to $1,525.00 now with 12 bids. Will be curious to see how high it goes. I have a ’78 CJ5 with a 232 6. Essentially the same bodystyle. Fun knockaround vehicle. I mostly use it as a grocery getter, and to move my boat around with a front-mounted hitch.

  4. Guggie 13

    I was stationed on Govern s Island 1969 while waiting for my discharge from the US Coast Guard , I got stationed in the motor pool, we had a jeep just like this and some one had carved in the horn button Korea 1955 , I had no reason to doubt this . it just got used as a beater for anyone who needed to go any place on the island .

    • Rob Leiser

      Back in the late 70’s I purchased a M38 a1 from the DOD. Small town kid with a rollback in lower Manhattan to get to the Governor Island Ferry was one of the trips of my life.

      • Rob Leiser

        I eventually turned my off road beater with Pa Antique plates into somewhat military

  5. Doug

    Back around 1973-4 I had a ’53 M38A1 which still had the military canvas top and doors. In warmer months, I’d drive to work with the sides and back rolled up, and the doors laid in the back, and going home after midnight, I ‘d have the doors on and the sides rolled down. It was painted OD, and had a full roll cage, working blackout lights, tow bar, & a Buick V6 under the hood.. I wanted to have working front turn signals, so sourced a pair of 1971 Honda CB750 front turn signals from a local motorcycle dismantler, scuffed the chrome with steel wool and painted them OD, and mounted them vertically to the C-beam bumper. With the stock 5.38:1 gears, it would climb pretty steep grades – If it had had an overdrive, I might have kept it, but needed something that was easier on gas, due to the OPEC hassles.

  6. Steve

    Growing up we had a neighbor who had one similar. I think it was just a civilian CJ-5, though. He rain it without a windshield. He said he could get in more places like that, under trees and such, when looking for his cows. This struck me as kinda weird, as my thinking was, “OK, no windshield, so the limbs just smack YOU right in the face. (I had my share of dodging oak tree limbs (and occasionally wasps/ wasp nests) mowing my folks place on a farmall cub with a 4′ belly mower.

  7. Rob Leiser

    My 38a1 0n Pocono Raceway I somehow talked my way onto the track to participate in the pre race parade.

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