Willys Jeep: We Missed a Bolt!?

In Jeep by J Michel Metz1 Comment

If you’ve been following along the trials and tribulations of the Willys Jeep saga, you’ve probably read (with some amusement) about some of the things that have made this project interesting – including my ongoing exploration of the depths of my automotive ignorance as well as the discovery of the addiction to tools.

This past weekend I hit a major milestone (in my head, anyway) and as a result I can’t help but do a little reflecting on the project so far.

But first, progress!

Working My Way Backwards

As I’ve mentioned early on, before I started this project I knew nothing about cars. Aside from changing a tire I could fit the sum of my automotive knowledge into a thimble with room left over for cream and sugar. I loved beautiful cars (who doesn’t?) but I didn’t understand them, didn’t know them, even though I really wanted to.

When I decided to do this project, I resorted to the only way I knew how to learn things – through studying and books. Through every stage of the process I had my trusty Repair Manual and Jeep Restoration Guide right by my side.

Love the pretty pictures. NEED them!

This was never more important to me than when I started taking a look at the engine – up to this point the most frightening part of the project for me (I know, I know, just wait until I get to the brakes!).

I tried to find videos on YouTube that might help me as well, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any. The two channels that I’ve found that have been the most helpful – in their own way – have been the Kaiser Willys Jeep and Walck’s 4WD channels (I’ve got wishlists for parts that I’m going to need to buy on both websites, though I haven’t actually bought anything yet).

Initially I thought that I was going to take the entire assembly off the chassis and then disassemble it once it was out. Unfortunately, it turns out that wasn’t really possible. In fact, I slowly began to realize that before I was going to be able to mount the engine on the engine stand, there were several steps that needed to be taken in turn, and I was going to have to be patient.

The first step was the transfer case:

The Transfer Case, waiting to be removed

I set up the transmission jack underneath the transfer case and prepared the hoist (hey, I had no idea how heavy it was going to be!).

Preparing for a heavy piece of metal

Pointing out the problem

So, when we released the bolts securing the transfer case to the transmission, it wouldn’t budge. As it turns out, I had missed a very important step that I had incorrectly misread in the restoration guide as ‘optional.’

Not quite.

The main shaft that goes through the transmission into the transfer case is locked in place by the gearshift levers (being pointed out in the picture above). So, that meant that before we were going to be able to remove anything, we had to take apart the gearshift.

When we did, we had a rather nasty surprise about the condition of the gears and the levers:

Looks like some sort of disease that people go out and collect money for.

You may recall what the transmission case looked like when I tried to drain the ‘fluid’ (used in the loosest possible sense of the term), so I can only wonder what actually happened inside there. I swear, it looked like barnacles.

Inside wasn’t much better:

Surface rust on gears. Fixable?

Thing is, the rust on the gears looks to be very surface-oriented. The metal feels solid and sound. My question is: is this cleanable and usable? The really good news is that the yellow gears (I’m blanking on what they’re called right now) are in excellent condition. From what I can tell from my research these are often broken and need replacing during a transmission rebuild. So, I’m happy about that.

With a few taps, a few hard pulls, and banging out a completely seamless plate that was so gunked over we didn’t even know it was there, we finally managed to dislodge the transfer case from the transmission.

Free at last!

I Can Haz Engun Now?

With the transfer case off, I thought I could try my hand at removing the engine/transmission assembly again.

Brace yerself!

After carefully checking, double-checking, and triple-checking everything, we finally decided we had done our due diligence and started to lift the engine out of the chassis. As they say, the best laid plans…


Turns out the offending bolt was attached to the chassis with a tightly braided rope that got lost in the harsh shadows of the bright sunlight:

The esteemed offendi

Fortunately, the second try went smoothly and the engine came out without any more complaints. Ultimately, though, the milestone was reached – we had taken the engine off the chassis and, considering it was our first time, I was especially proud of what we’d done so far.

Naked chassis

More Surprises

With the engine hanging from the hoist, we still needed to remove the transmission, bell housing, and flywheel and clutch plate before we could have access to the mounting holes to put it on the stand.

Not quite ready for the engine stand

And, of course, because this is the Honey Badger (yes, that’s what I’ve decided to call it), it still has quite a few nasty-ass surprises in store for me. First, removing the transmission was a bit of a shock, as apparently the main shaft wasn’t the only thing to come out through the bell housing.

I know this was a farm Jeep, but WTF!?

Closer inspection didn’t make it look any better.

Pulled out a hitchhiker, too

If you look carefully in the picture above, you’ll see a metal piece that got pulled out along with all the additional crap inside the bell housing. Even upon closer inspection, I’m still not quite sure what it is:

Part of the flywheel?

This, of course, made me dread what was still remaining inside the bell housing. As I suspected, there were things that should never be inside this part of a car:

I swear, I think there are snails in there!

Finally, we got the flywheel off (man, those teeth are sharp!) as well as the clutch plate, and finally managed to mount the engine to the stand (with the help of some newly purchased Grade 8 bolts from Orchard Hardware).



It’s hard to believe I brought the Jeep home in mid-January. In a lot of ways, I had really, really wanted to have this done by the end of the summer. Of course, life and work happen, and with a house move that took up more than 2 months of Jeeptime, it wasn’t going to happen as I had hoped (not to mention that averaging an hour per bolt can really put a damper on your schedule!)

Even so, I’ve kept several milestones in my head that would indicate my level of progress. Right or wrong, rational or not, they were there.

The first was removing the tub from the chassis. Now, I’m practically addicted to shows like Car Warriors and Wheeler Dealers (in many cases, because I can see what not to do!) and the fact that they can break down a car in such a short period of time has me green with envy.

Then again, they’ve done it hundreds of time, this is my first. So, okay, but if they can pull an engine out of a car in less than an hour and it takes me nine months, well, it does sort of put the remainder of the project into perspective, doesn’t it?

Nevertheless, when I look over what I’ve done in the past nine months I realize perhaps I’m being too hard on myself. As I had begun to expect early on, I will be touching every single bolt, nut, gear and plug on this Jeep before it’s done. And, as I’m trying to be extra careful not to damage parts that may very well be irreplaceable – and learn how to use the tools (including welding!) along the way – perhaps my timeframe was a bit unrealistic after all.

I love working on the Jeep. I love the fact that my fiancée is enjoying working on it with me, and that we can do it together (plus, there are few things sexier than a woman saying, “Can you hand me the 9/16″ socket so I can get this flywheel loose from the clutch plate?” 🙂 ). Every piece I take off the Jeep I mentally take note of what I need to do to work on it – and, of course, take note that each piece I take off will take at least a full day’s work, if not longer, to repair.

For me, it’s the building part that I’m anxious to get to. This disassembly stuff is fascinating because I’m learning so much, but I want to get to the creation part, the ‘building’ part. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a bit longer before I can get there (I have to remove the steering linkage, the axels, and the spring leaf suspension before I can get the frame to the body shop). It won’t be long now, I hope, as long as I can get through the remaining bolts!

For now, though, I’ll take my victory from the weekend, enjoy the second milestone of the restoration project, and grant myself a small celebration for this victory.


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