Stored 60 Years! 1948 Willys Jeepster

In the spring of 1948, Willys introduced the Jeepster and the company thought they’d have a winner on their hands. According to Hagerty, they haven’t held their value as much as expected lately but since when has value had anything to do with the classic vehicle hobby? Hello? Guys? This 1948 Willys Jeepster is posted here on craigslist in The Air-Conditioned City: Duluth, Minnesota. The seller is asking $2,900 or best offer for this project Jeepster.

Upon first glance, as no Jeep owner has probably ever said, this Jeepster looks like a nice, fairly easy project. The seller does mention that there is rust in the floorboards and rockers but replacements are available. This one hasn’t been on the road since I was born! Come on, it wasn’t that long ago, but it was in the early-1960s so it’s been parked for almost sixty years – inside, supposedly.

The Jeepster, as most of you know, is a rare Jeep in that it’s rear-wheel-drive only, it never came with four-wheel-drive as most of us automatically think of when we think of Jeeps. In fact, the name Jeep has been taken over to mean four-wheel-drive, hasn’t it? “Hey, nice Jeep!” “Um, actually it’s a Kia, but thanks…”  They were made for 1948, 1949, and 1950 – although some models were sold in 1951 as retitled 1950 models. This one comes with an entire spare front clip which the seller says could be used rather than doing bodywork on the rusting existing sheet metal.

They weren’t fancy vehicles by any means and some folks refer to them as reportedly the last phaeton sold in America, which meant a convertible top and in this case plastic side curtains for weather protection. All for more money than a lot of other nicer, more comfortable, more powerful vehicles at the time sold for.

The engine should be a Willys Go-Devil 134 cubic-inch inline-four with 63 horsepower. This engine was directly proven in WWII and Willys thought that the Jeepster would be extremely popular for ex-service members but they never really took off. This one hasn’t been started in five decades but it turns over which is half the battle. Have any of you owned a Jeepster?

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Comments

  1. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    Oh look! It comes with a steering wheel for my wife too. Hard pass, lol

    Like 5
  2. Howard A Member

    Great write up, with one exception, I think the Jeepster WAS kind of for an upscale market. After the war, there was a huge Jeep following, and rightly so. Singlehandedly helped win the war, it did. Many people in city locations had no use for a CJ, but this was a Jeep the whole family could take to church. Jeepsters could be made pretty fancy. Things like whitewalls, hub caps and trim rings, sun visors, locking glove box, things extra on most cars. The designer, Brooks Stevens, envisioned returning GI’s, would want something like this for their families. As bright as that guy was, he has several “swing and a miss” designs, the 2wd Jeepster being one of them. They did however, lay the ground work for the more successful 4wd Commando, but as the author says, Jeep found out, it was the 4wd people were after in a Jeep, and the same holds true today. Great find.

    Like 6
  3. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    The father of a childhood friend had one, the whole time he was my friend (over a decade). I remember the father working on it every summer (he was a school teacher) and getting it running and operational…. occasionally. It seemed like as soon as you would see him puttering around town in it, it would soon be back in the garage and my friend would comment “the Jeepster is broken again.” Back then, I thought it was kind of cool, in its own way. Still do.

    Like 7
  4. chrlsful

    these are great. I’d rather the 2nd gen for a daily. Interesting ‘face lift(s?)” uring th final run. 20 yrs between 1st/2nd gen? Ck out the step on rear fender for back-seat passenger…

    Like 1
  5. Ed Sel

    Nice having the extra front clip – but with that different center-piece trim it makes me think it’s a different year – I wonder if it’s later? As far as post-WWII sales, I think a fair # of regular Jeeps were ‘de-mobbed’ (with 4-wheel drive), and the Jeepster also looks like the German “command/staff car” from WWII (or, “The Thing”), but, if I had seen extensive infantry combat in ‘The Big One’ – in Europe, I’m not sure that I would want to continue the association post-war, especially with the ‘German’ look of the Jeepster – which I happen to like, and think VW would still have a big hit if they were to produce it.

    Like 1
  6. Steve Thompson

    This is a good start for a street rod – put a V8 new trans and a nine inch in it and leave the out side mostly stock – new wheels & tires, floors, interior, paint and top – then drive – the price is reasonable too !

    Like 1
  7. Beel

    Dad found a red 1950’s Jeepster in about 1973 and took me out to look at it and buy it. The (4 cylinder) engine was frozen. Yellowed side curtains. Significant floor rust. But it was a Phaeton, complete, and the convertible top was decent and working. We got it running and I drove it around the farm because I wasn’t sixteen yet.

    Got new side curtains, fixed the floor rot, drove it regularly as we gradually restored it. Amazingly underpowered. And it didn’t go very fast because the overdrive cable was rusted stuck. I learnt what happens to vacuum windshield wipers when going up a hill.

    But at that age, anything with wheels and a motor was cool to me. It was perfect for the backroads of Ohio.

    I wrote here about what it takes to start these: https://barnfinds.com/all-original-rust-free-1949-willys-jeepster/

    Like 2
  8. Dan B.

    Great find. Those early horn buttons and the beauty ring on the second steering wheel are rare to find in such good shape.

  9. Gordon c Wells

    I have tried to get the craig List ad – not working. I want to buy the jeepster

  10. Rolls-Royce

    I like this Willys Jeepster, we have one in toy car version :)

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