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Step Three: Making Your Purchase Decision

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

So far, you’ve done your research and possibly even located a Jeep you’re interested in purchasing, but how do you know what it’s worth?  Use the following guide to find a ballpark figure the value of the vehicle you want to buy.

Free - $4,000.00

Back in the 1990’s, I was looking in this price range for my first Jeep.  After a long search, I wound up starting with a frame and a pair of axles. This turned out to be an unexpectedly expensive way to go. Over time, I discovered that I actually spent more on parts than I would have if I had purchased a running vehicle to begin with.

While this may seem cautionary, purchasing a vehicle in this price range may be right for you. If you are looking for a slow-moving project, or a vehicle to learn on, this might be the way to go.  Just remember, never be in a hurry to buy just any Jeep.

Jeeps within this price range typically have many unknowns.  When were they last running?  How many parts have been borrowed, or replaced, from more modern vehicles? Making a checklist of inspection items is a great way to take inventory of what you’re working with in the vehicle you’re looking at.

Take a thorough look at the frame. Have the bumpers been modified, replaced, or welded in different ways? Are the frame rails straight, and free from rot?  Are there extra patches, or reinforcing plates welded along the frame anywhere?  The frame is the most important part of your project. If you start with a bad frame, you will never be able to achieve the end result you are looking for (not to mention, it is unsafe).

How about the body, and other sheet metal?  Do you want to repair the original body, or are you willing to use a cost, and time, saving reproduction body?  Do you have the skills necessary to complete the body work, or are you able, and willing, to learn?

Has the engine been running recently?  Is it a period-appropriate engine?  Does the engine serial number match the frame number (a rare find in any condition)?

Most collectors buy jeeps in this price range for the usable parts. The more original hardware you find on a jeep is certainly a bonus on any purchase. Also, try to find a jeep with all of the vehicle identification tags. Even better, locate a jeep with a title; otherwise, you may want to continue looking. Registering a non-titled vehicle can be troublesome though it’s not impossible. Many of these old vehicles have lost titles and most DMV’s will honor a Bill of Sale with a statement of facts that are signed by both parties.

$4,000 - $8,000

This seems to be a price range that most buyers prefer. Unfortunately, it’s also where buyers tend to make the most mistakes. Don’t think buying a Jeep is like buying a good newer used car in this price range! You have to remind yourself that you cannot compare apples with oranges. These classic jeeps are becoming the next “hot” collector’s car so look at them as investments.

Sellers often use extreme comparable sales data to justify asking a higher price. Many of the jeeps in this price range turn over, and will run down the road; however, after further investigation, one will find that many short cuts were used in past maintenance attempts. What were the previous owner’s driving and maintenance habits. If you have to tear the whole vehicle apart to repair shoddy repairs to essential components, the cost could nearly negate the purchase price. This is where you need to do your research. Be very familiar with bad performance issues. A good resource for how a Jeep should perform is to ask a neutral third party who has a fully restored jeep or will let you test-drive a “good driver.” (See step #1)

Jeeps in this price range usually look good from a distance, but the work required quickly becomes more apparent on closer inspection. Issues to note are massive oil leaks, hard starting, large amounts of body filler, after-market wiring, noticeable wandering while driving, paint over rust on both the under carriage and body, rusty frame supports, etc. Look for these types of red flags. If there are numerous noticeable defects, you might as well save some more money and go look in a higher price range.

$8,000 - $13,000

A lot of jeeps in this range seem to have most of the period-correct hardware whether it is reproduced or original. If you are a purist, then you need to be looking for the later. The motors can be rebuilt or in good running order. You should make an attempt to give the engine a complete compression and/or leak-down test before you buy. Refer to your notes on a good running jeep that you have driven. This should give you a good point of reference for minor problems that could turn into major ones.

Most of the sellers in this range have had these jeeps for quite a while. They may tend to look past things like the transmissions jumping out of gear on a downhill run. I’ve heard most persons address this with,” I just hold it in by hand because you normally don’t drive in second gear”. Again, watch for oil leaks in and around the transmission and transfer case. Dried-out seals or worn-out seals are usually the culprits. Rear main leaks are also common in new rebuilds. A good re-builder, though, will have been careful with this so it shouldn’t be an issue. Unfortunately, many people are told “they all leak”. This is a definite red flag, and should not be taken as a valid excuse.

Be careful not to be mesmerized by extras like radios, machine guns and/or mounts, canvas, military carrying bags and nick knacks. Focus on the working order of the vehicle first. A lot of sellers tend to push the price up to due to the extras. It’s true that the more stuff you add to the jeep, the more authentic it looks; however, you can’t become enamored by the “glitz and glimmer” until you look deeper into the vehicle. You may still have to consider a reproduction body kit even in this price range!

$13,000 - $19,000

Don’t be fooled by what you find in this range. I have seen restorations that need to be torn down and re-done. A fully restored WWII jeep with all, or most, components being reproduced is very common these days. So much so, that even the reproduction parts are getting very pricey. If you were to start from the ground-up in our first price range, your cost outlay in parts would be in this range - not including your time or labor.

If you are lucky though, you may find collectors in this category that are only trying to recoup what they have invested. The quality of their work is solely for your discretion. Be objective. Ask a lot of pointed questions. Were the differentials rebuilt? Who rebuilt the transmission? Who did the motor? Is there a good title? What components are original and which are not? Take notes.

Make sure all of the canvas, especially the canvas summer top, is in good condition and intact. The jeep should have all of its factory equipment such as the tire pump, crank handle, fire extinguisher, oil can under the hood, lubrication chart, rifle rack, etc.  Of course, some of these items would not typically be present in earlier Jeeps, but you would know this from all of the research you’ve already done!

Have the engine and transmission checked out thoroughly by you, or by an experienced professional. Ask for all receipts, maintenance records; as well as, before and after restoration pictures. Ask about warranties for the engine and other major components. Ask for a copy of the warranties to determine whether the grantor(s) is/are still bound by the terms and conditions.

  1. A price range of $19,000 to $25,000 (Upper range)

If you are still searching for your “perfect” jeep in this range, you are probably still not convinced of the quality of the rebuilds that you’ve located so far. You can’t find that jeep that was built in that exact year of your relative’s involvement in WW2. Or you want something all original or rare or both. You may have more success in this range.

Most of these sellers keep exacting records or maintenance logs. Most of these jeeps have not seen off-road conditions. That’s not to say you should be leery of driving the jeep on such roads. Just try to stay away from enjoying a pleasant trail encountering mud and watery conditions without ending the drive with a good cleaning. Remember, these old jeeps love to be driven. Letting it just sit around in your garage waiting for a once in a while parade is not driving it!

You will most likely find both reproduction and original components in this price range. You will need to consider that the more original the jeep the higher the price.

This brings up a good question. What is the value difference between reproduction and original? The current market doesn’t really define the differences well. In a monetary sense, it currently is around $4000 to $5000 in general.

Note: If you are looking hire a professional restore one for you just the way you want it, then this price range is inadequate. When I’m asked ” how much to restore “one by custom order, the answer is still the same. It doesn’t matter if you want to restore a 1965 Mustang, 1957 Chevy, Hot Rod, or WW2 Jeep. If you have hire someone do it for you, then you are going to pay more than the current re-sale market. This is particularly due to the meticulous labor that’s involved. An average shop rate today is around $100-$125/hour. It normally takes at least 1 month just to repair the body and body components on an original style jeep. If you compute the shop rate with an average of 6 hours a day 5 days a week for 1 man over 4 weeks, it would be $15,000 for just the bodywork. However, if you can accept a reproduction body kit, then you save quite a bit. You can add from there with the engine rebuild, transmission work, electrical etc. In other words, a standard WW2 Jeep fully restored with all of the warranties, delivered with a title, should run in the neighborhood of $40,000 or more. For prototype’s, however, one must consider that the costs would be even greater due to the limited availability of parts, the need to reproduce many of the parts or having to pay top dollar to acquire them.

  1. A price of $25,000 to $40,000 (Special or customized range)

In this price range, you’ve decided that you want an all-original jeep restored to perfection with all of the bells and whistles and built exactly the way you order it. No expense spared. You want all of the best performance issues addressed such as a top of the line engine rebuild balanced, blue printed, and pre-tested. You want a rare or early body type with either the Ford or Willy’s logos on the back (also known as the “Script” era).

Whether you supply a jeep for restoration or one is supplied for you, this is a common price range to pay from a professional shop. Be careful of places that say they can do it for any less! They are not telling you the truth and will not be giving you the best job you deserve. Get more than one bid from different sources. Be sure ask them how many they have restored and for a list of restoration customers that you can interview. You get what you pay for. So, expect to be paying more to get the best!

Sometimes purchases can be made from museums or large collectors. In this instance, though, be careful to watch for whether it’s a jeep that’s been stored for display or for use. I’ve seen nice original jeeps in this category with huge oil leaks under them because the seals being were all dried out from lack of use. The brakes may not be in working order because the DOT 3 or 4 fluid has a tendency to corrode the cylinders from inactivity. However, if it’s been stored with silicon fluid then they should be fine and in working order.

The First Step: Do the Research

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

The first step in purchasing a WWII military Jeep is the same as purchasing any classic, or vintage, vehicle - Do the Research! Find as much literature as you can about the vehicle you are considering investing in. Look at all of the aspects of purchasing, restoring, repairing, maintaining, registering, insuring, and owning the vehicle. Become as intimately knowledgeable of the vehicle as possible before you start looking.  This way, you will be ready to look at the vehicles with a more realistic outlook and make an informed decision.

In the case of a WWII military Jeep, the first step should be to buy a reproduced manual. Reproduced manuals are available through Portrayal Press ( Order the standard TM 9-803 WW2 Jeep Manual. Read the whole book from front to back. Become familiar with all of the parts and tools involved. This will greatly enhance your knowledge of how the Jeep operates. There are also a lot of pictures and exploded diagrams of the components. This is beneficial when looking at a Jeep for purchase since it will help you make a mental inventory of the parts you are purchasing and the parts you will need to purchase to complete your restoration.

Buy a copy of the All American Wonder, ISBN 0-910667-20-9, by Ray Cowdery.¹ This book is available on, and other similar websites, or can be ordered at a local bookstore. It will give you a better perspective of the whole story of the Jeep, its evolution and the production differences between Ford, Willys-Overland and the first manufacturer, Bantam. Continue to buy as many reference books and manuals and collect as much information as possible.

Find a current owner, or a collector’s club. Inquire about the pros and cons of owning the vehicle. Better yet, test drive one. Remember that during WWII, young, thin and mostly shorter-built GI’s drove these jeeps. You may find it is somewhat uncomfortable to drive one. There are subtle changes that can be made to a seat that will make it more forgiving to drive. Knowing how the vehicle feels and handles will help you determine to what degree of authenticity you would like to own.  Do you need to have the perfectly formed original seat, or would you rather have a modified seat that allows for some extra movement?

After you have done your research, it is time to move on to our next installment: Second Step: Finding the Right Jeep.

¹ Ray Cowdery’s All American Wonder books actually come in three volumes, so be sure to read customer reviews of each book before purchasing one of them.  Although it is more expensive than the others, our recommendation is Volume III, which provides the most comprehensive overview of the history of the WWII military Jeep.

Introduction to the Military Jeep Buyer’s Guide

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

The Military Jeep Buyer’s Guide is Classic Military Automotive’s suggestions on things to consider when looking to purchase a WWII military Jeep. The focus is primarily about WWII military Jeeps; however, it really applies to purchasing any classic, or vintage, vehicle.

A buddy of mine once asked: “Do you have more money than time or more time than money?”. The real questions should be: How skilled are you at restoration or repair?” and “How badly do you have to have it?!”.

Some say that the word Jeep stands for Just Empty Every Pocket. Throughout my life, the original Jeep has always been appealing because of it’s ruggedness and compact design. Veterans that drove them were amazed by it’s capabilities, both on and off road. That feeling still holds true with many owners that drive them today.

Unfortunately, almost all of the Jeeps that you find, regardless of price range, are in need of some degree of restoration or repair. In the “old days,” one could find a running Jeep in somewhat descent shape for an affordable price; however, today, with the latest surge of activity in the collector car market and the “baby boomers” becoming closer to retirement, the WW2 jeep has escalated in value.

Thankfully, for to those who have carried on the love of this vehicle, some collectors have gone to great lengths to expand the industry. These vendors have made new old stock (NOS) and reproduction parts more obtainable for almost anyone - though these parts are not necessarily less expensive. Almost all of the parts are available now, right down to the frame. Some of the original parts like the transmission and transfer case housings, as well as the motor blocks, are not as easily obtained, and need to be found before you can say the vehicle is completely reproduced.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Military Jeep Buyer’s Guide entitled: The First Step: Do the Research.

Second Step: Finding the Right Jeep

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Searching for the right jeep can be quite a lengthy process, but armed with all of your research, and newly acquired knowledge, you should start by looking in your own back yard! Start with the classified ads section of your local newspaper. Call your local off-road clubs or supply outfits and ask if they know of jeeps for sale. Over half a million jeeps were produced during the war, so you never know what may be lurking near you.

Within the United States, the few states that massed surplus in depots are typically where the greatest concentration of jeeps ended up in the private civilian sector. For instance, in California (where we are located), the San Francisco Bay area was a huge production, supply, and shipping center during WWII. After the war, a great deal of military surplus ended up in both the rural and suburban areas around the state. Pennsylvania and Virginia were known to have large military depots as well. Many military bases around the US, in highly populated areas, have had more of these vehicles liquidated in surplus sales. They are now in the hands of private collectors.

The Military Vehicles Magazine is another good place to look for vehicles in your area. This magazine is circulated worldwide, and has a classified section towards the back of each issue. Once you obtain a copy of this magazine, look to see where the next military swap meet is being held and go to one. Many collectors sell their military vehicles at these events as well as other unique hardware for the jeep.

Another good source is to find the nearest WWII reenactment group, or club, closest to you. These groups often use vintage military equipment in their events. Sometimes they have vehicles for sale or know of someone who might be thinking of selling.

Of course, you can always refer to the Vehicles for Sale area on our site, or refer to our Military Vehicle Resources area on our homepage for other notable classic military resources.

In our next installment, we will be discussing everyone’s favorite topic - pricing! Stay tuned for: Step Three: Making Your Purchase Decision