Willys Jeep: Framing the Situation
A year ago today I found the Jeep I eventually wound up choosing for my restoration project. To be honest, I had hoped that I would be farther along by this point (at least have a rolling chassis), but in other ways I’m actually quite impressed with how far I’ve actually gotten. I suppose if you take the average of the two emotions it could be argued that I’m right where I’m supposed to be.
I’m at a point right now, though, that I’m starting to really understand what kind of commitment – both in terms of time and finance – I’ve put myself into. I had always known that I wanted to have someone else work on the frame, because I didn’t want to screw around with something so fundamental. After having put in $1000 for some minor welding and sandblasting, though, and emotionally coming to grips with the fact that I’m only about halfway done, puts my situation in some starker relief.
The frame has come a long, long way, and I flip-flop between my sense of achievement for how far I’ve come and the sense of dread of what lies ahead.
All I can say, really, is I’m very grateful for pictures. Documenting the Jeep’s progress has been pivotal on so many levels (and makes me all the more upset that when I lost the camera on a business trip in early fall I had not had the opportunity to take the Jeep pictures off first).
What I had hoped and intended to do was have the frame repaired, sandblasted, and powder-coated all in sequence. Unfortunately that was not to be, and if I waited until it was powder-coated there would be many months in between updates, so unfortunately my before-and-after photos are more like before-and-somewhere-in-the-middle photos.
Overall, it has been a very long, slow, and at times painful process. To find out that I’m not ready to be done yet is taking a bit of a toll, but I have to confess the pictures to tell a story of progress.
Broken Dreams of Crossmembers
If you’ve read this blog before, you may recall that when the grille was removed there was a huge, nasty surprise waiting for me.
With the fenders removed it became apparent just how much damage there was, and it was going to take more than a little welding to fix it.
Over time, the crossmember completely separated, which I think may have led to further problems with the frame (as explained below).
I knew that it was a race against time, but I needed to get everything off the frame before I had any hope of fixing it. Once, that was done, though,
I purchased a new crossmember piece and had the work done by Freeman Frame in San Jose.
Freeman did a very good job – the welds weren’t pretty, but they were definitely stable. One of the things that they didn’t do, though, was grind down the welds. Even in the photo above you can see that this needed to be done. I got the frame back home and started doing some grinding on the welding work, and there was quite a bit that needed to be done.
Even so, once the frame was sandblasted it did look incredible:
Or, from another angle:
Perhaps one of the more dramatic changes was when you look at the battery tray and see the metamorphosis from something that looks like camouflage vomit to something considerably more pristine:
Some more before/after pictures:
One of the things that’s really interesting to me in these before/after shots is watching how this really cleans up. After looking at the grimy color in the topmost photo below, I thought it looked great after grinding it down. But it was nothing compared to what the sandblasting could do!
And finally, a full body shot from the front:
… and the rear:
So Much More To Do
Unfortunately, while the sandblasting is awesome, it also reveals many of the problems with the frame that need to be fixed or, in some cases, replaced outright.
The range of problems is pretty wide. They go from the simply ugly-as-sin:
… to the so-minor-there’s-no-point-in-worrying-about-it…
Then there’s the ones where the part obviously needs to be replaced, like this pivot eye bracket that holds the leaf spring to the frame:
I’m not really sure how the metal worn away like that, to be honest. None of the other three pivot eye brackets have this kind of wear. It’s possible to buy another one, and it’s not expensive, but I’m wondering if there was something else that might be a problem that is causing this one.
The reason why I ask is that if you look at some of the other pivot eye brackets you can see some strain in the frame as well.
It’s not clear to me if some of these hairlines – which obviously need to be fixed – are small, normal issues given the Jeep’s age. For instance, one of the previous owners had a towbar attached to the front of the Jeep, not only ugly as hell but also likely put an unnecessary strain on the front of the frame, causing stress fractures like this:
There are two major problems that the sandblasting uncovered, however, that could have been deadly as an oversight.
The first was a crack in the bracket that attaches to the shock absorber:
What’s particularly interesting to me about the sandblasting process is how much is revealed. Not only is the crack clearly visible above, but two vertical welds are clearly visible in the photo. Here’s a picture of the same spot taken before the sandblasting:
I don’t know about you, but I can’t see anything on the frame that looks like two vertical weld strips (and before you think I’m confusing this with a different part of the frame, let me tell you I have scoured the photos of before and after and have made absolutely sure this is the same part of the frame).
The most dangerous spot of all, though, is just above one of the leaf spring pivot brackets. I’m afraid I don’t have a before photo. If there had been one at all, it would have been on the card with the missing camera, but I doubt it because I never knew this even existed. Just like the problem spot above, it wasn’t even visible until after the sandblasting.
If ever there was a piece of the puzzle that might come loose, this would be it. I don’t know how hard a hit the Jeep must have taken to cause this kind of cracking, but it certainly must have been one hell of a whallup.
Of all the damage, this is the one I’m most concerned about. It looks like it’s going to be one hell of a lot of work to get this back in tip-top shape, but as far as I have found I don’t think there are any replacement frame parts of this nature.
How to Fix?
I know there are a few parts that need to be replaced, but there are also concerns that perhaps the frame may even be bent:
I happen to have the specs for the frame, and perhaps I need to take it back to Freeman to get it straightened (after all, that’s one of the things that they do).
What about the welding? According to the restoration guide, the welder of choice is an oxy-acetyline welding torch for this kind of frame work. Most people have recommended MIG or TIG welding, and I have been practicing with the MIG welder at the Tech Shop, but now I’m not so sure. Getting the frame to the Tech Shop is difficult, at best, mostly because they only have one loading dock area (and it’s almost always in use by one of the members) and I can’t lift this frame by myself (bringing a friend to help carry costs $25 for the privilege of having a non-member there).
My house only has a 110v outlet, so maybe a small OA welder might be do-able and I can try to do it without having to cart the frame somewhere. I’m paying $100/month for the Tech Workshop membership which I rarely use anyway, so maybe from a cost perspective it’s best.
Honestly, I don’t know, mostly because I don’t have the experience with this to easily say, “Oh, you just do this and it will cost that and take this much time, versus the other way, which will take X in comparison.”
Ultimately, I’m going to have to do something, because I know that if I don’t I’ll paralyze myself long enough so that it will become an emotional weight around my neck and I’ll never get it done.