Nathan’s 1948 Willys M38 Find

Nathan's Willys M38

From Nathan R – Hey Guys, I am an avid reader and love seeing the finds that you post. I was lucky enough to drag home my own last weekend: a 1948 Willys Jeep. It has the body from a Military M38 on a CJ2A civilian chassis (I understand this was common during post war time). It spent 30 years with a family living in the Osceola national forest down here in Florida, and it was in an open air carport attached to the guy’s shed.

Nathan's Willys M38

I actually saw it on craigslist an hour from my house several weeks ago, but didn’t pay much attention to it because of the high price he put up. It stayed up for nearly a month, with no changes or price drop, so I decided to call him 2 weeks ago and he said all the right things (stored under cover, not too much rust, motor turns free and TITLE), so I went out and picked it up last weekend. I knew he was ready to make a deal when I went to the truck to consult my Jeep expert and he started collecting his personal items and airing up the tires for me. 

1948 Willys M38 Dash

I am planning to just start by getting it running and driving, and then will eventually tear it down to the frame to restore it. I’m putting in some new electrics tonight to see if the old flathead will fire, and then it will get a new brake system. I’ve been told reverse it out, so the T-90 3 speed will be coming in this Spring as well. 

1948 Willys Jeep M38

It looks like Nathan has found himself a great project and I hope he will keep us updated as he gets this Jeep back on the road! Good luck with it Nathan, we can’t wait to see it back on the road!


  1. Tball

    Great find Nathan, thanks for sharing. Please keep posting, always liked those old army jeeps.

    • Davnkatz

      if you don’t mind telling, what did you pay for it?

  2. van

    Love this jeep
    Recommend try use vinegar to clean the rust, clear coat and enjoy
    Maybe a rat patrol machine gun.
    Or a Mash 4077

    • Davnkatz

      Something that works better than vinegar = coca cola

      • stp

        What about CLR and a Scotch Brite pad?

      • Jason Houston

        True indeed. There are so many things Coca Cola can be used for, not the least of which is cleaning stubborn stains off toilets!

      • van

        Vinegar is 2.00 a gallon and doesn’t attract ants

  3. Squad41

    Love the grin! Enjoy your new/old Jeep!

  4. Another Bob

    Looks like a solid foundation for a restore or have fun with it like it is after getting it safe.
    It’s got a CJ2A windshield. Is that some type of winch on the rear?
    I have a 48 2A and a 63 3B. Love them both.
    Welcome to the flatfender club!

  5. JW

    Don’t you love it when a plan comes together !!!

  6. Howard A Member

    That facial expression sez it all. I’ve had that expression several times with newly brought home treasures. Great find ( although, looked a little heavy for that single axle trailer) Tons of parts and supplies for these, and the local auto parts store probably has everything mechanical you may need. I’ve had several “flat-fenders” and you can’t find a simpler vehicle to work on. There’s an old saying with flatheads, if they turn over, they’ll run. That rear PTO is a neat option, and you could get all kinds of implements for the Willys. Top speed is about 45, so no freeway travel, but for puttin’ around town, can’t be beat.

  7. Jim B

    I agree with Howard A – there is NO duplicating that look of sheer joy that we get when we score something that our heart truly desires, car-wise. Congratulations, Nathan! Can’t wait to see further news from you!

  8. jimbosidecar

    Nice find!

  9. Todd Zuercher

    Great find! I love flat fenders. Had a 51 CJ-3A myself.

  10. Brad

    That old paint looks so, so good. I agree with “Van”, concentrate on the mechanicals and just enjoy all that post-war charm it has earned.

    I’m bogged down currently, spending thousands on paint and body work – it just isn’t worth it if it can be avoided!

  11. JamestownMike

    Nice find! I’d go through the simple mechanicals and drive it the way it is! If you make it too “perdy” (as we say in the South), you can’t enjoy it as much. How much did you pay for it?

  12. Nathan

    Thanks Guys! A new brake system is going on next week and I will be dropping off the starter for a rebuild in a few hours. The motor turns easily, so I’m sure it’ll run. After consulting a few other folks we think the windshield is from a Willys MB on top of the M38 (modified 3A) tub. More updates to come!

  13. Jason Houston

    Now, THAT’s a Real Man’s Jeep. Not the flimsy power window/airconditioned/automatic/closed car junk that has “J E E P” glued onto the hood! Congratulations on a really nice find.

  14. William H

    Wow, that brings back memories. My father picked up a ’48 just like this when I was 14 or 15 for use on the deer lease. It was smoking a little when he bought it but it ran fine. We rebuilt the engine about a year later. One of the easiest vehicles I’ve ever worked on. Built simply and straight forward. As someone did mention, top speed is about 40-45 in the highest range but these things are straight up mountain goats. If it will get traction, it will climb what ever you put it on. We only got ours stuck one time in the entirety of ownership. Ran it off in a washout and it was pretty much resting on the front and rear bumpers. After messing with it for about 30 minutes my father noticed that the front hubs weren’t even locked. Locked the hubs and it pulled itself right out. We’d been driving around all day, up and down mountains and through mud, without a hitch, in two wheel drive.

    Enjoy your find. I had that same expression on my face every time I got to drive ours and it brought years of escapades and irreplaceable memories. I was sad the day my mother called and told me he had decided to sell it when I was in my late ’20’s.

  15. Matt Tritt

    No need to find another T-90. They are very simple and easy to repair. If you hunt around the net I’m sure you’ll find the gear you’ll need at a reasonable price. I rebuilt mine (in a 52 Willys wagon) a couple times at least, as well as the X-fer case. Look for an Advance Adaptors overdrive! They plug right onto the back of the tranny and will make the Jeep practical for most driving. Nice find.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Matt, I agree that OD is a worthy option, except, I’m not sure I’d want to go over 50 mph in this. They weren’t the most stable “at speed”.

      • Jason Houston

        I’d err on the side of caution: if the car isn’t rated to go over 50, there must be a good reason.

      • Wayne S.K.

        That’s what got Patton kilt… :(

  16. Dave Wright


  17. OA5599

    This Willys put a big smile on my face! Very nice project.

  18. Matt Tritt

    So true about “at speed”! A steering stabilizer might be a good idea…

  19. rancho bella

    There is a lot of entertainment wrap up in the these little guys. You can’t go fast and who cares. Sweet find.

  20. AMX Brian

    Great find! You should clean it like the guys above said but do it in Forest Gump style with toothbrushes!

  21. MountainMan

    Sweet find! I am sure you will enjoy it Nathan

  22. Mike

    I bet yours will be easier to figure out wiring than my ’51 M38! I ripped it all out and threw away. It looks much better now. Starts right up. I have everything on 12 volts except the horn and the starter which is still 12v.

    • Mike

      oops, horn and starter is 24v. (I love autocorrect)

  23. Dave Wright

    The last flat fender I owned, I bought from the San Bruno California veteran’s cemitary. It was an MB that had been used as a grounds vehicle since the early 50’s. It ran well but had been cobbled around some over the years by various maintenance people. We drove it onto the trailer. Sold it in a week for 4 times what I paid for it to a young enthusiast. I was always amazed how much Hollywood influences the price of these historic type vehicles………when they are filming an WW2 war movie the prices rise and settle back when they finish. I have always liked them but whenever I get up close and personal with one am reminded how limited they are. I am 6’2……never could get really comfortable in one and at speed…..they scare the hell out of me. These days, I find my John Deere Gator much more useful hare at the ranch. There have been a lot of people killed in them……not George Paton…..he was in a staff car, but one of the Galo wine brothers died rolling one down a vineyard just to name an example. They are fun, super historic, and marketable. Probably not the best daily driver. This one looks great. Another note……I love 24V automotive systems. They are wonderful……start really fast, the lights are powerful……particularly when you substitute aircraft landing lights for the automotive ones. I have had 24v military vehicles of all flavors, M715’s, Chevy Diesels, Tanks, APC’s, semi trucks, they all work better than 12V vehicles of similar type. Semis all used to be 24V at the starter. They used what was called a series parallel switch to give the trucks both 12 and 24V. If you want to hook up say a 12V radio……you simply pull a leg of one of the dual batteries used to make 24V on a military vehicle.

  24. Matt Tritt

    You’re so right Dave. Being born 1n ’42, I grew up in the era of military surpluss everything, especially Jeeps. People were constantly getting maimed or killed in them – either by being bounced out of the back (very common) – or roll-overs. Much better off-road than on. 24 volts works much better for everything. The old Mercedes Unimogs have 24 volt systems, but the batteries are carried in a heated watertight enclosure (you can ford up to 36″ in a Mog), that’s a further improvement. Old Jeeps are really fun, but you have to remember not to lock your thumbs around the wheel when driving over rough terrain. Ouch. That, and the brakes aren’t all that great!

  25. Jack

    There’s a place just off 248 in Bowmanstown, PA that could probably help you out with parts, if your looking

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