Willy’s Story, CJ-3B Owned by Ivan Sanoja in Venezuela

It was 1988, when at a gas station in Valencia, Venezuela, I first saw Willy. Willy is a 1959 Jeep CJ 3B. At the time it was barely running, quite ramshackle, with a plume of blue smoke coming out of the inside of its engine, but operational at last. At that time I had a farm in the Mesa de Guanipa, near a hamlet called Coloradito, in the sandy savannahs in the State Anzoátegui, Venezuela, about 100 kilometers south of the town of El Tigre, an oil city developed.

I asked the gentleman, quite old and scruffy that was handling Willy, if he would sell it and to my surprise, he said yes and right there we traded the price and in the afternoon, Willy became my property.

In the registration document he gave me, an M3 form from the Ministry of Transport, it was recorded that the owner had bought it from the agency 19 years earlier and had been its sole owner. I believe that this was not the case, but on the contrary, it had gone through several owners with the simple delivery of the role of the registration, but without legally formalizing the sale. The thing is, Willy was moved to my farm on a platform, where the personnel welcomed him with high expectations.

Willy, with all his years, worked in every way. Its engine, quite worn, caught a tap, the box sounded a little, the double transmission was fine, the holes of the rims were so deformed that in some the nut passed through the hollow, the paint and some bruises were part of its physique, but he fulfilled his function on the farm, to move the staff, move equipment in a trailer, do fieldwork for its double traction…

The problem was when I was supposed to travel to El Tigre for supply. The top speed was 60 km per hour, because at that speed it vibrated, gasped, jumped and looked like it was going to disarm. It spent a liter of oil on the road and the average time needed exceeded an hour. In short, Willy was not designed to travel those savannahs and places where good roads invited you to hurry through. Willy was a champion on a mountain, the steeper and rougher the road, the more useful he became. On a large one-way climb and a big descent back, in second speed with the mocha there was no need to use the brakes. Anyway, on my sabanera estate, Willy was out of the mood.

So I took him to Puerto Ordaz, Bolivar State, on the banks of the Orinoco and Caroní rivers, where I had my home. He spent a few months in a relative’s place, under a mango tree, where he deteriorated and was damaged, vandalized by some rogue or petty thief. When I saw him, I was inspired to rebuild him, and so I took him to a closed shed and hired a mechanical expert friend, Vladimir, whom I gave the green light to dismantle. To my surprise, within 3 days the chassis was left alone and all components disassembled and classified for repair separately.

The chassis was cleaned with sandblasting and left in white metal, then painted with minio and another layer of anticorrosive, then he began to assemble each component. The engine was sent to a workshop where it was shipped and repaired, so it was left in the original state.

Brakes, transmissions, bearings, drive shafts and crosses, front padlocks, steering system, electrical system, exhaust pipe, suspension were also rebuilt. The gearbox and the transfer were not tapped.

The multi-measurement instrument was disassembled and rebuilt, the speedometer wire installed. Air-powered wiper motors, electrical wiring, gasoline tank and other components were also repaired, replaced or cleaned or accommodated.

Screws, fasteners, rubbers and other fasteners were also changed.

The entire body was taken to a body workshop where a complete repair was performed, but however, no corroded or unhealthy parts were replaced, but were repaired for a good appearance, but not a background job.

One odyssey was the search for spare parts. I toured many workshops and sales of automotive parts. Almost everything was achieved in Venezuela, especially in places where Jeeps are quite common, such as in Colonia Tovar near Caracas or in the Andean States. On a holiday trip to Merida, I got quite a few new components in several workshops and even, with some friends who for many years, had owned vehicles of this brand.

In 6 months, back in 1995, Willy was operational, with a new engine and in very nice condition.

Several friends, including my son Alonzo, were key to the success of this reconstruction.

Thus Willy began a new life, very rested as they were exhibition walks on weekends, kept indoors.

But its use was very sporadic and began to deteriorate little by little. An empty rubber, dry carburetor, corrosion points in some parts, stuck brakes and such increasingly frequent failures due to lack of use.

My great friend Joaquín Sánchez Silva, partner in boats, a Cessna 182 plane and companion of many adventures, was in love with Willy and one day, took him to a boat repair shop owned by his son Cesar, where Willy was brought back to life performing boat trailers movement for more than 20 years.

There he got old again, with several old-age symptoms, weather time, little use, one that another encountered with another vehicle. Nothing serious, it was still useful, but increasingly deteriorated.

My friend Joaquin again was in love with Willy. At the beginning of this year 2020 he proposed to me to rebuild it again. Joaquin, 89, a veteran of many wars, is in perfect physical, spiritual and mental condition.

At this time in Venezuela there is little economic activity, work in the engineering office owned by Joaquin and his son with the same name has decreased significantly and there was plenty of time to try again to work to Willy. So let’s get to work, it was the decision we made.

The first step was to repair some components to make it operational reliably. The radiator was repaired, the gas tank was cleaned, the brakes were completely repaired, the alternator was rebuilt, the engine was fine-rated, but there were still many details especially in the physical appearance of the body.

The second step was to get an experienced and reputable workshop. After a short journey, the work was entrusted to an expert bodyworker, Winston Campbell of Guyanese origin but with residence in Puerto Ordaz for many years, who has extensive experience in rebuilding vehicles. All corroded parts, plus the front floor, rear trunk, fences, tail door, mask, were replaced with new steel sheet or were repaired and welded with autogenous welding.

All mechanical parts were intervened, in this case with original spare parts purchased directly from Kaiser Willys who continues to manufacture all components for this and many other models. So they intervened, repaired, adjusted, replaced parts and parts, some made in a local hardware store, of all systems: differentials, drive shafts, crossovers, box and transfer with original spare parts kits, packaging, clutch, front train, steering, brakes, padlocks, suspension, steering terminals, brackets and engine bases, box, transfer, anyway, all Willy was examined, adjusted and fine-tuned to original specifications. All of its current components are original or manufactured according to materials, dimensions and design tolerances. A kind of comprehensive exploratory and reconstructive laparotomy.

The engine only needed to disassemble the carter and thoroughly clean the crankshaft and other parts from below.

We have the support and hundreds of hours of mechanics experts in Jeeps, in the stationery, in painting, in manufacture and adjustment of parts, with great dedication and passion, always under the rigorous supervision and occasional intervention, of my friend Joaquin.

Today Willy is a proud new young JEEP WILLYS, in the image and likeness of its origin in 1959 at the Willys–Overland Motors plant in Toledo, Ohio, United States of America.

Many years have passed, more than 60, and many years remain to come for Willy under the care of my friend Joaquin and mine, which will remain as a legacy of a long life dedicated to magnifying that brand, but also, to the satisfaction of those of us who have been fortunate enough to enjoy it.

May our children and future owners know this story and keep it with the same affection.

Ivan Sanoja. Lecheria, Anzoátegui State, Venezuela

Kaiser Willys Jeep Blog Story – Ivan Sanoja

If you would like to share your Willys Jeep Story please send us a line. We’d love to meet your Jeep.

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