Jeff Rogers’ interest in the Willy’s M38-A1 goes back to camping and hunting trips he and a buddy used to take.
“The thing was just fantastic,” he said.
The jeep rolled and was totaled. Jeff moved to Colorado, returned to California and while out with his kids, he spotted a jeep on a trailer with a for sale sign. It brought back memories of those earlier trips. He located the owner, a California wine grape grafter who shared stories about grapes and his father who’d been in occupied Germany.
As Jeff turned to leave, the man told him to make an offer. Jeff posed $500. The man countered with $2500. Jeff pointed out damage to the old jeep. The pair agreed to $900. Jeff rented a U-Haul trailer, loaded the jeep, and brought it home.
“I immediately started tearing it apart,” he said. “I must have gotten ten five-gallon buckets of dirt off it,” adding that he scraped and hosed and wondered if the dirt would ever come off. A whole lot of elbow grease and paint remover led to the discovery of the original Toledo Ohio Willy’s factory data plate.
“It’s got the original number on it,” he said.
Next up was to dismantle the jeep so that it could be reassembled. The hinge in the back frame was cracked and had been welded several times. He accidentally cut a piece of the frame off while trying to cut through the welds. Once repaired, he took the frame to have it sandblasted and primed and ordered a new support from Atlanta.
Jeff enlisted the help of his kids to finish tearing down the vehicle, and then hauled buckets of parts to a guy who would put the jeep back together. Six months later, the 1952 M38-A1 Jeep was whole and running. Jeff’s had it for about 8 years and regularly drives it to work and here and there, including a couple of long distance trips.
The M38-A1 was named after his paternal grandmother, Nellie. He’d hoped to drive his father, a Korean War veteran, for a trip down memory lane.
“My dad went into the Marine Corps in 1952 and served during the Korean War, and this jeep is a 1952 so I was hoping to get together and give him a ride in it so he could remember. I’m sure he drove one of them when they were brand new.”
His father passed away before the ride, so Jeff gave his uncle, also a Korean War veteran, the ride. Uncle Sonny said it looked like it just rolled off the assembly line.