This is a 1948 Willys-Overland CJ-2A. As avid readers (of which, I can sense, there are many. Maybe two) will recall, the 1967 Jeepster from two weeks ago was the definition of a car in its element, and the same can be said for this CJ. It went on sale in 1945 using surplus engine blocks and frames from the American military, hence the name “Civilian Jeep,” or CJ. God bless the army and their acronyms.
The CJ was powered by a tiny and hilariously named, “Go Devil” inline four cylinder, developing about 60 horsepower routed through a three speed manual. Now though, this car’s battles are over, and it looks to be enjoying a lovely retirement near the beach, especially with its Amerigasmic red white and blue custom paint scheme.
Despite being intended for us civilians, the Jeep is decidedly barren when it comes to interior amenities. You got a lever for changing gears, some gauges for keeping track of things under the hood, a steering wheel for, um, steering and that’s pretty much it. Oh, and the big spare wheel hanging off the rear fender (love that thing).
But a lack of luxuries and safety features, namely doors of any kind, was what made the CJ what it was. Jeeps aren’t supposed to have doors. Somehow, when looking at it, that just makes sense. The great thing about the CJ is that it has never tries to be anything beyond what it is. It is motoring at its most basic. Its most elemental, if you want to get pretentious about it. And to many, that would qualify the CJ as a bad car. But I think it goes a little deeper than that.
This is not a car for climbing the corporate ladder, or driving to prom in. It’s not for road trips, or for making a statement. Like the Jeepster, the CJ is a car of simple pleasures. It’s at home puttering by foggy New England beaches at twilight, with the roof down and sea spray on your face. Jeep is one of those remarkable companies that, even through a wide variety of owners and rebranding, has somehow managed to make one or two unique, soulful cars at any given time in its history. The CJ and the Jeepster are evidence of that. They’re from totally different eras and marketplaces, and yet they still share a certain sense of occasion about them. They’re like two lost souls. Swimming in a fishbowl. Year after year.