Willys Jeep: Calm Before The Storm

In Jeep by J Michel Metz4 Comments

It all started so well this morning. A beautiful day, sunny and cool. I had finally gotten the right tools (after my third trip to Home Depot and another one to Sears) to fix the problems that I couldn’t get to last week.

Photo Credit: Christopher Foley

Photo Credit: Christopher Foley

I started off working on Honey Badger, trying my hand at my first-ever tap in order to get the frame ready to accept a screw, and it worked! Encouraged, I decided to tackle the pedal brake assembly. And that worked too!

Could I finally, finally be getting the hang of this? Could maybe, perhaps, some real progress get done today?

As it turns out, no. No it could not.

This post is not about that frustration, though. This post is about how you can get small feelings of minor accomplishment that can raise your hope that maybe, just maybe, you’re on the right track – just before that “one more thing” comes and tears it all down again.

Last week I did some work on Badger’s tires and rims. I think that considering how they used to look…


Exactly how many paint jobs did this thing have?

Exactly how many paint jobs did this thing have?


…they came out really nice, especially with the style-appropriate NDT tires installed.


Ahhh.... much nicer.

Ahhh…. much nicer.


The next day, my wife and I tried to install the leaf springs on Porkchop and Badger. While I had been working on the brakes it became pretty clear that there was no way the originals were going to pass muster.

But First, Porkchop’s Brakes

After finishing up the driver’s side front brakes back in November, I had thought that the passenger’s side would take about the same amount of work. Boy, was I wrong.


Oh, the trouble you will cause...

Oh, the trouble you will cause…


I decided to start off by cleaning all the different parts, and it looked like things were going pretty well.


Oh, how I do love before and after pictures...

Oh, how I do love before and after pictures…


Just like on the driver’s side, the pieces came off rather smoothly (comparatively speaking) and I was able to clean and reassemble everything to the point where I was quite pleased with the outcome.


Much, much better!

Much, much better!


But the nightmare was about to begin. The problem was, unfortunately, the drum.


Oh, you're a stubborn bastard, aren't you

Oh, you’re a stubborn bastard, aren’t you


I tried everything I could think of to get the screws out. I tried the impact driver which had worked like a charm on the driver’s side. No use. I spent weeks trying to loosen those screws.

I hate you. I hate you SO much

I hate you. I hate you SO much

I heated them up with a blowtorch, I used every lubricant I could think of, and nothing worked. I even tried the very expensive ($45 for the set!) extractor bits that were supposed to be able to do the trick.

Useless pieces of crap

Useless pieces of crap


Nope. Not even close.


Well, that was pointless...

Well, that was pointless…

Finally I decided to suck it up and do what I really did not want to do, which was drill the screws out.

Going with a friend's old school drill

Going with a friend’s old school drill


Even with a high-powered drill that I borrowed from a friend, the screws still weren’t giving up the ghost easily.


Keeping the drum steady proved to be something of a challenge

Keeping the drum steady proved to be something of a challenge


Eventually, after more than 2 hours of drilling, I managed to get the drum off. As it turns out, there was going to be no way that those screws were ever going to come loose. As the following picture shows, it appears that at least one of the screws had completely fused in with the backing plate. You can also see that they didn’t come off cleanly, either.

U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi, you ugly!

U-G-L-Y, you ain’t got no alibi, you ugly!


Initially, I had thought that the screws weren’t really going to be necessary anyway. I had been told that people tend to not put the screws back on for precisely the reason I had to suffer through – it’s too damn hard to get them off/out again. However, as it was to become apparent, it turns out that this is not exactly a realistic solution.

After another 2 hours, we finally got the new brake shoes and slave cylinder installed. Why two hours? Because the brake tool that I bought doesn’t work with brakes this old.


The hard part is done. Or is it?

The hard part is done. Or is it?

However, the major issue now is that the drum needs to be screwed into that plate in order to prevent it from wobbling. Sure, the tire (when loaded on the Jeep) will keep the drum from coming off, but there’s enough variance in the lug nut bolts that prevent the drum from staying in the correct position so that the brake shoes don’t rub or wear unevenly.

I have not been able to find any replacement screws for this yet, and to be honest I’m not really sure how to deal with the damaged backing plate. I had hoped that perhaps I could rotate the plate and drill new screw holes in an unmolested part of the plate, but as you can see in the close-ups of these pictures that really isn’t a likely solution.

Back to the Leaf Springs

In the meantime, while I have been working on the drums I’ve had the opportunity to spend a lot of time noticing just how bad the leaf springs were for Porkchop.

Something tells me this is past its prime

Something tells me this is past its prime


It didn’t take much of a genius to see that there was very little salvageable from the entire assembly.

Notice anything, um, problematic here?

Notice anything, um, problematic here?


Something told me (it could have been my wife) that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to drive on these things any more.

Oh my...

Oh my…


As it turns out, leaf springs for the Badger were among the first things I ever bought for it, and they were still waiting in my shed to be placed onto Badger’s frame. Last weekend we decided to be extremely ambitious and go for broke; we wanted to install all eight of the leaf springs on the two Jeeps.

Um…. riiiiiiiiight.

Fortunately for us, disassembling the old leaf spring assembly was quite straight-forward and simple.

Laying it all out for the world to see

Laying it all out for the world to see


We thought we had run into a snafu when it looked like the shackle bolts (in the photo above you can see a “U” shaped piece, which is called a shackle. Just above them in the picture are the shackle bolts which screw onto the two “arms” of the “U”) didn’t seem to fit through the new leaf spring eyeholes:

Aw, come on. You've got to be kidding me!

Aw, come on. You’ve got to be kidding me!

What’s worse, the leaf springs for Badger had a similar problem, in that the pivot bolts were not the exact same size. Whenever I tried to put them through Badger’s frame, they got caught on a little “lip” on the bolt that the originals did not have:

Click to zoom in (you may have to on this one)

Click to zoom in (you may have to on this one)

The difference between the two bolts (the older one, cleaned up, is on the top) is practically infinitesimal. But when I tried to place the new bolt through the frame, it kept getting stuck on that little lip (where the arrow is pointing to), where the original didn’t have anything of the kind.

It turned out that both of these issues were actually non-issues. For the shackle bolt, it turns out what we had to do was insert the bolt around the “U” shackle arm and begin to ratchet it in, just like any other bolt. The bolt itself would create groves through the eyehole to secure it in place.

Just needed a bit of elbow grease, that's all

Just needed a bit of elbow grease, that’s all

As for the pivot bolt, I called up both Walck’s (where I got the bolts for the Badger) and Kaiser Willys (where I got them for Porkchop), and asked about what they thought could be going on. Unfortunately, neither of them knew. Both places tried with some of the bolts and pivot brackets they had in stock, and both of them reported that they fit perfectly.

The best guess they could come up with was that the powder coating that I had done for Badger was likely affecting the fit. I really didn’t want to go back and grind out the holes – especially after having had it powder coated. I figured I’d try to use a bit of WD-40 and the rubber mallet and see if I could get any progress made.



Will wonders never cease. I’ll be damned – it worked.

I’m not entirely sure, though, whether or not the splines on the bolt are supposed to be hammered into the bushing.

The splines come to rest against the frame...

The splines come to rest against the frame…

But there is a hole at the other end of the bolt that is partially covered by the “crown nut:”

Crown nut end

Crown nut end

If you look at the photo above with the comparison between the two bolts, you can see that there is a hole at the very end. I had guessed that there is supposed to be a cotter pin that goes through it, or something, but now I’m not so sure. I’m open to suggestions if anyone knows.

All in all, it looked like it was somewhat of a productive day, even if we couldn’t get all 8 leaf springs on. The replacement leaf spring came out looking pretty damn good, actually.








Four. Taking a step back to look at the whole thing

Four. Taking a step back to look at the whole thing

For it’s part, Badger started to look halfway decent as well.


Badger's Progress

Badger’s Progress

Badger's Springs (1)

Badger’s progress

Even as I started to see some actual progress being made, though, there were some things that were starting to worry me. I already spoke about the drum screws (and the backing plate), and there were some other elements on Badger’s frame (broken bolts that had been powder-coated over, for example) that needed attention.

That’s where I started this morning, and where things got so unbelievably disheartening. After starting off with major progress, I found myself after three hours feel like my soul had been crushed to smithereens. In the next post, I’ll explain what happened.


  1. Hey J, looks like you’re making some good progress!

    Personally I would remove the powder coating from the inside of any bolt holes.. Strictly speaking it’s not supposed to be there anyway, right? I mean would you leave the powder coating on if they were threaded? If they aren’t threaded I would use an appropriate sized drill bit instead of a grinder. If they were threaded then an appropriate sized tap..

    My inclination is to say the splines should be inside the frame bracket.

    Also, if there’s a castle nut and a hole in the bolt, that’s the universes way of saying “put a cotter pin in there or REALLY bad things may happen” 🙂

    Looking forward to the next post..


    1. Author

      Thanks, Erik. That’s my interpretation as well. Since it’s something that can’t be undone, though, I wanted to get another opinion. 🙂

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