Editor’s note: Jake Johnson’s little red Jeep may have all the aesthetics of a vintage off-roader, but he’s built it into a capable machine perfectly at home on trails modern Jeeps tackle.
Growing up, my dad always had a Willys around, so naturally, I loved them. As soon as I got to an age where I could reach the pedals, I was driving off-road and loving it. I loved wrenching on the old rusty Jeeps my dad would bring home, and I wasn’t the only one to get hooked in my family. My two older brothers both have Jeeps and International Harvester Scouts.
This Jeep came from my dad. He and I purchased and resurrected it together. The L-head engine was seized, and the T90 transmission was full of water when we got it home after purchasing it. After about a year of work, it was back on the road. I ran it stock for a few years until a fellow coworker came across a little Kubota engine for a great price. Being a diesel technician for a local Caterpillar dealer, my wheels began turning, and that’s when the modifications really started.
I purchased an engine adapter from Overland Diesel to connect the transmission to the engine. Swapped in a later model Dana 30 front axle with factory disc brakes. The rear Dana 44 was modified to be a full float, then installed disc brake brackets from Brennan’s Garage. This little 2.2L diesel averages 25-30 mpg with impressive power.
Here’s a full list of my modifications:
- Kubota V2203T 2.2L diesel
- T90 transmission
- Spicer 18 t-case w/tera low
- Warn overdrive
- Dana 30 front w/disc 5:38 gears
- Dana 44 full float rear 5:38 gears
- Spartan lockers front and rear
- Brennan’s Garage disc brake conversion
- R&P Dual master
- Saginaw power steering
- Rancho Springs 1.5” lift
- Daystar shackles
- Warn 8274 winch
- 5” DOM roll cage
After those modifications, I needed to source a set of tires. After hours of reading reviews and looking at pricing, BFGoodrich® Mud Terrain T/A KM2 tires were the choice. Taking into account suspension and overall vehicle size, I chose 33x10.50R15 sized tires. They are mounted on Cragar 15x7 wheels. The tires perform really well on- and off-road. The Jeep lives in Utah so it sees many extreme conditions, including sandy desert, snowy Rocky Mountains, the slick-rock of Moab, and everything in between. When the tires are aired down for Moab they flatten out nicely, even though the Jeep only weighs in around 2300lbs.
My Jeep sees regular outings, including Easter Jeep Safari every year. It also travels 1000 miles, once a year with Novak Conversions War Hero to Trail Hero event. The Jeep is about where I want it to be, but of course, no project is ever finished.
To see more of this Willys, follow Jake on Instagram at @theredwillys.