Hints on model years
I have had many questions from people asking for help in identifying the
model and year of a Willys pickup truck or wagon. Let me start by
claiming I am not an expert. There are other people who know more
than I do. I have only owned two Willys, and neither is totally stock.
So my first hand knowledge is limited; but I am observant, and I
have looked at a lot of Willys, so I've noticed a few things. Since I
decided to try to help other Willys enthusiasts with these web pages, I
might as well take on the question everybody keeps asking.
The basic design of the Willys pickup truck and wagon stayed pretty much
the same throughout the years of production. There were several changes
made in 1950, which make the pre-50 vehicles easy to spot. Willys Motor
company was known to make changes to the vehicles at various times not
corresponding to the calendar year or the model year as defined by other
auto manufacturers. They were also known occasionally to put together
vehicles with whatever parts they had on hand, so sometimes there were
vehicles produced with parts that were like those used in previous
Many times, the title was made out by the dealer when the vehicle was
sold. The year on the title can be the year of sale rather than the year
Also, many Willys vehicles have undergone
modification over the years. Worn and broken parts have often been
replaced with parts from Willys vehicles from different years. You could
never put a door from a 1957 Chevy on a 1960 Chevy, but a door from a
1950 Willys pickup can go onto a 1960 Willys wagon with no problems.
All this is to say, identifying the year of a Willys is not always a
precise and irrefutable decision.
Willys America A good source for details of changes over the
years is the Parts Catalog & Restoration Guide by Paul
Barry of Willys America. It
is not a "how to" guide to restoration, but it does give a lot of good
imformation. Much of what I know came from Paul's booklet. It contains
descriptions of minor changes made each year, along with some pictures
of vehicles and details on engines and other parts. If you are really a
Willys enthusiast, you want to buy this booklet.
Serial numbers are located on the outside of the left front frame (at
least that is what I am told - I never found them on my Willys). They
are also sometimes located on a plate on the left side of the box under
the seat. I have also had people tell be they found serial numbers on a
plate on the inside of the left door frame. There is evidence that my
Willys had a plate on the upper left firewall, inside the engine
compartment, above the steering column (it is not there anymore).
If you find a serial number, you can look them up to determine the year
your Willys was produced. Serial numbers are included in Paul's catalog,
and can be found on web at The Willys Internet Truck Club. For the pickup
trucks, look at the Willys Pickup
page. For the wagons, look at the Willys Wagon
page. One of the most comprehensive and authoritative sources for
serial number was transcribed by Charlie Weaver in 1998 from handwritten
notes kept by Norton Young. These are posted on Derek Redmond's,
The CJ3B Page.
I have duplicated them here for convenience. Serial
Key features that changed over the years:
- grill - From 1946 until 1949 the grill was relatively flat
(See B1, A6); in April 1950 it changed to a sharper peak in
the center. (F1, F3)
- grill bars - Before 1950 there were no horizontal bars on the
grills (E6); from 1950 to 1953 there were
five horizontal bars (D1) with chrome trim
on some vehicles; in 1954 the number of bars were reduced to three counting
the horizontal ribs forming the top and bottom of the grill(See
B5, B6); in
1956 the three bars were not evenly spaced, but had one at the top, one
at the bottom and one between but near the top (See B4) After 56, the grill returned to the same
configuration as before 1956, three bars (F3).
- hood - From 1946 until 1949 the hood had a rib along its
centerline, but no hood ornament (E6); in
1950 the rib was replace by a hood ornament.(F3)
- front fenders - From 1946 until 1949 the front fenders were
flat on top and flat on the front (B8); in
1950 they changed to have a slightly rounded top and a peak at the front
- bumpers - The trucks always had a plain curved front bumper,
sometimes painted and sometimes chromed (D1,
B4). The wagons sometimes had the plain
bumper and sometimes had loops across the top.(D9, F9) The loops
were optional. I don't know when the loops first appeared, but they may
have been discontinued after a few years, as I haven't seen any loops in
- rear pickup window - From 1947 until 1952 the pickups had a
small rear window (E6, F1); the window got larger in 1953.(D4, F3)
- steps on pickup - Behind the cab, in front of the rear
fenders, the pickups had steps from 1947 until 1949.(A6, B8)
- windshield - The early years had two piece windshields (A10, A11).
In 1959, Willys came out with a special "Maverick" model which had
a one piece windshield and the roof was flattened slighly to fit
(E5). All wagons and pickup trucks went
to the one piece windshield in the middle of the next year.
There are some 1960 Willys with two-piece windshields and some with
one-piece. All vehicles produced in 1961 and later have the one piece windshield.
- gauges - From 1946 until 1949 the gauges were rectangular (F4,
E6, D14), after that the speedometers
were round with small square gauges across the bottom.
D13) Later, there was a
larger round speedometer with the other gauges
incorporated into it. See pictures of all three.
- pickup tailgates - From 1946 until 1953 these vehicles were
produce by Willys Overland Motor Company, and the pickups had the WO
logo (that is a watermark on this web page) stamped in the center of the
tailgate (E6, D13). In 1953 Kaiser purchased the
company and it became the Willys Motor Company division of Kaiser. The
WO logo was abandoned, and pickup trucks had "WILLYS" stenciled in the
center and "4 Wheel Drive" at the right side (on trucks of that type). (D18) The "WILLYS" was
replaced by "Jeep" later. I'm not sure of the exact year, but a 1960 owner's
manual shows "Jeep". Chris's has been repainted
Landon's tailgate looks original. (A20)
If you recognize any errors in my dates or descriptions, please let
11/5/98, 5/4/99, 12/3/99
||© Richard B. Grover 1997 to 2006.
Thursday, March 1, 2001