Which One to Buy: Willys Jeepster Showdown

Willys Jeepsters

After getting a massive response from the North Carolina find, our inbox has been overloaded with emails asking about some of the cars in the pictures. There is one car in particular that many people were interested in that left me a little surprised. It isn’t that I have anything against it, I was just surprised to receive countless emails asking about the Willys Jeepster. I have always been intrigued by the Jeepster, but never done much research into them or their story. Seeing how many people wanted to know more about it, I decided to do some studying. I was able to dig up some interesting history, as well as two Jeepsters that are for sale right now! Both are barn finds, but one is in better condition. Take a look at each and let me know which one you would buy, but be sure to read about both before making a decision! Find the links to both auctions below.

1948 Willys Jeepster

So the first Jeepster I came across was this 1948 you see above. It has been in storage in Keene, New Hampshire for the past 30 years or so. It looks to be in great shape, but is an unfinished project. Apparently the project stalled in 1983 and has been sitting ever since. The seller isn’t clear on what all has been done or what’s left to do, but claims it was running when parked. They do state that the motor was completely rebuilt and has seen 1k miles, so hopefully it should be easy to get running again. Find this one here on eBay with a $9,500 BIN. The lack of detailed photos and information could make this one a hard sell, especially at the asking price. If getting it back on the road is a simple task, it might be worth paying a little extra to avoid having to do paint and body work.

1950 Willys Jeepster

The 1950 Jeepster you see above has also been in storage for more than a few decades. It was parked in a barn in upstate Indiana in 1971 and was just recently pulled out. Unlike the other one, this one hasn’t already been restored. It is going to need work, but the seller claims it only has a couple of spots in the floors that need repair and that the rest of the rust is still on the surface. It appears to be complete, but there is a surprise lurking under the hood. A previous owner decided that the original inline motor just didn’t offer enough power, so they put a 327 V8 under the hood. This isn’t an uncommon swap and adapter kits are available to make the job easier. From a value standpoint the original motor would be better, but the V8 would definitely increase the fun factor. The seller has several period correct Jeep motors that they are willing to include if the buyer prefers to make it original again. The seller also has some extra parts that they are including. This one is located in Rosedale, Indiana and can be found here on eBay, with bidding at $2,600.

Jeepster Ad

The Jeepster has a rather interesting story and while it was never a massive success, these phaetons influenced the future of the Jeep brand forever. At the end of WWII, Willys-Overland was faced with the task of adapting to the post war economy. They had incredible success during war times building military equipment, but once the war had drawn to a close, sales dropped off. They were already selling civilian versions of the military Jeep to farmers and those that needed off road work vehicles, but that market was rather small. It was decided that they needed a sportier street going vehicle that could bridge the gap. Willys had limited resources to build a new vehicle, so they had to keep it simple and similar to the Jeep, but they also knew veterans returning from the war wanted something sporty and fun. That combination gave birth to the Jeepster design. It is the last American production car to come in the phaeton body style and while it wasn’t fast by any means, it was far more sporting than the Jeep. With just 20k Jeepsters built, they had little impact on Willy’s success, but they did impact future designs and pointed the Jeep brand in a new direction.

Jeepsters

So which of these two Jeepsters would you buy? The ’48 is in better shape and will require far less work, but you also don’t know what might be hiding under the paint or if the work was done right. The ’50 is going to take a lot of work and money to get it back on the road. Even if the rust is just surface rust, it is going to need to be addressed. The V8 could be a bonus or it might turn out to be more work than it’s worth. Overall, I think both will prove to be fun projects. Personally I like the look of the ’50, plus I would want a V8 in my Jeepster! So which one is for you and why?

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Comments

  1. rancho bella

    Jeepsters are so stinkin’ cool. I don’t know why I have not done one. I’m not into hot rods but a nice Ford small block with late model automatic is what I envision. Maybe with aircon? and of course disk brakes

  2. Rich

    I personally like the patina of the ’50’s model. Clean it up, fix the mechanicals, toss a horse blanket over the remains of the seat and just drive it as is.

  3. Brian

    Give me the yellow one! I’d get it running, driving, stopping, and steering safely and dependably; other than that, I’d just clean it up and enjoy it just as it is!

  4. Rick Landau

    You may be getting letters from Shriners. These are very popular parade cars with them.

  5. jim s

    the 1950 is no longer for sale on ebay, but of the 2 that is the one i would have gone with. you are going to have to rebuild either one because of the time they sat. the 50 is a lot less of a buy in to start with and the parts you need are for sale. i would have resold the V8 to get some of my money back and put a stock motor back in as these were never intended to go real fast. nice finds

  6. Dave Wright

    I have done a couple of these…….one I put on an S10 chassis and used the 4.3 V6 running gear. It turned out great, drove, steered and stopped great. The other I left all orignal. They were originally a little crude, poor brakes, handeling and little power but the design is just irresistible, parts are not difficult and they are dead simple. I always look for the steps on top of the rear fenders for access to the rear seats. They were not designed for off road like the later ones. I don’t think they ever made a 4X4 version until the 60’s. I have seen some conversions that looked good but they were not orignal. I would buy the 1950 and use the extra 7,000 fixing it the way I wanted, that way you know what you have. Wonderful little hobby cars to drive around town on a nice day.

  7. Clay Bryant

    The Indiana one is gone so the question is mote but if a person was going to rebuild one(By yourself,not farm it out)this would have been the one.You have to redo everything on both but you would have another 7 grand to work with.I used to have people tell me on some Corvettes,”Boy if I buy this,I’m going to strip it apart and do a frame-up.”(This was one some good drivers)I told them to go out and buy the cheapest,most complete one that was down and dirty and start with it as there wasn’t hardly a piece that you wouldn’t touch if you restored any of them except you’d probably have an extra 15-20 grand to start with.
    Incidentally,had one of these Jeepsters years ago that belonged to the Hightower family in Texas,a red one.If you find one out there with a Texas Aggies Sargeant decal blowing a bugle decal on the wing vent,that’s my old one.When I got it,it still had a nice collection of Gulf seashells in the glovebox.
    A nice little side note.When I got it,it had a set of 6/70-15 tires on it that were in good shape but they were the non-DOT tires before they started puting their codes on them ,I believe back in 68.I took the tires from it to the NCRS(Corvette)Winter Meet at Cyprus Gardens that year and sold them for a 1,000 bucks to someone redoing a 57.Nice little added profit 25 years ago.

  8. Tim Skeene

    had a ’59 Willys CJ2or3 , that some doofus put a 327 in …A not enough room for big enough radiator and fan for cooling that big of engine , would work with limits also steering linkage/rods had to be cut/modified for engine to sit in the hole …. a much more feasible V6 chevy will give ya more options and less short comings

  9. john

    the 50 green Jeepster ..I love the Grill!

  10. CraigInPA

    Jeepsters are dead simple, fairly crude machines, but carry a lot of style (it was designed by Brooks Stevens) and are nice to live with as a fair weather weekend cruiser. With the original 4 cylinder, you’re good for a top speed of 45mph. With the 6, which was available later, you might break 50mph. Now you know why seemingly every one has a replacement engine.

    Whenever I see a car that’s advertised as “ran when parked” and then sat 30 years, I laugh because they presumption is that it’s going just need fresh gas to make it a driver. By the time you’re done, you might be in for an engine rebuild, brakes all around, new brake lines, new fuel lines, fuel pump, all the rubber in the suspension and steering, tires, etc… In the worst cases, you may find that while the outside looks great, underneath is a frame that’s shot, or mice have gotten into the dashboard and engine compartment and ate all of the insulation off the wires.

    In this case, the superior purchase was the green $2600 barn find.

  11. Steve E.

    Why not buy both? And don’t be stupid and put a V8 in it, these cars only weigh 2,200 lbs. You don’t need an overpowered car causing excessive stress on the rest of the elements, unless you are experienced in building hot rods. Then it’s not about the car, it’s about the HP and noise and trying to out-do your buddies. (If you want a Chevy engine, then go buy a Chevy. I have one and they are great vehicles. But I enjoy my Jeepster just as much.)

    I’ve owned Jeepsters for over thirty years. E-mail me if you have some serious question, I don’t normally do social media and online chats. It’s a waste of time and energy. Your blog was forwarded to me by a friend.

    I hope you make a choice you will be satisfied with.
    **Steve E.**

  12. Tony Coleman

    Morning, I would like em both. One stock, one hot rod style. I have owned a pair of 67 4×4 Jeepster Commandos for about 25 years now. One mostly stock with 3.8 v-6 Buick power, no power anything. The other is a hot rod play toy. Injected 366 AMC, T-400, P/S~PDB, 4:88s with Detroit lockers, d-44s, 38″ Boggers on beadlocks. One for work , one for play. :)

  13. charlie Member

    Almost bought one two summers ago, they wanted $10,000, all original, all there, ran well, had been a summer only car, but run every year since l948, hadn’t spared the lube on the chassis, excess on every joint, and garaged the rest of the time, so rust was minimal, paint faded, a few little dents, but NOT a highway car, engine not built for more than 45 mph on a sustained basis, dreamed about buying it, made a standing offer of $5,000, but someone bit at a higher price.

  14. ORacer

    I got a kick out of the period Jeep ad…’mighty’ Jeep engine and ‘brisk’ turn on the boulevard. Mighty and brisk are not words I would associate with the Jeepster…even with the mighty straight six.

    About ten years ago I bought a yellow 1950 Jeepster from the second owner lady friend in SF that had it for 50 years. It had sat for 20 years in a garage, it had 10 footer paint job and mechanicals refreshed before it was stored and was never rusty even the floorboards. Took me a few hours to get it started and took it for run around the block before the brakes froze. After replacing the fuel tank, going over the brakes and rewiring with new harness (the insulation had dried out), it is a very nice driver condition car.

    Driving is not brisk, but it will cruise at 50, better plan ahead, you never want a panic stop at that speed. It gets more attention than some of my other cars but sits more than it should.

    So my choice wouldd be the ’48, albeit at a more reasonable selling price, $7,500 if it is as good as offered or less if not.

    There is a fellow in my town that drives his V6 powered Jeepster all the time…so if that is your goal, perhaps the V8 powered car is a better choice

  15. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    Presumably the green Jeepster sold offline and the yellow one ended without any of the 3 offers accepted.

  16. Glenn

    I have a ’50 Jeepster with the F-Head 4 cylinder and overdrive. I disagree with the comments regarding “cruising” speed of 45 or 50. I have found mine cruises comfortably on the interstate at 60 to 65 mph. Unfortunately, most traffic is running about 75 to 80 mph.

    • Dave Wright

      What gear ratio do you have? Old F heads don’t like high RPM, the bottom ends are pretty spindle.

  17. Glenn

    Sorry Dave, I don’t know the actual gear ratio. Admittedly, I don’t normally drive it on the interstate, so not often at that speed. It seemed to handle it OK, but maybe I shouldn’t push it that much at all.

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