With its seemingly endless mechanical and electrical faults, I was convinced my 1948 Willys CJ-2A off-road project had lost all will to live. But apparently, there’s some life in the little Jeep yet, because Project Slow Devil just drove 300 miles in a single day in the first leg of my 1,800 mile journey to Moab.
After the premature breakdown just 10 miles from my house on day one, my colleague Freddy and I swapped out the fuel pump, and started off again on Tuesday morning.
With a few squirts of starting fluid, the venerable Go-Devil fired up with vigor, and the journey began. I turned out of my driveway, and onto a busy street, shifting into my fresh, new second gear, and then down into third. The engine revved, and the speedometer slowly crept up to 40, my cruising speed.
The first few miles were nerve wracking, as prior experience with the Jeep told me it was only a matter of time before something broke. But eventually, the miles started adding up. Five became 10. Then 10 became 20. Then 20 became 40. After a few miles, I found myself doing 40 mph in Podunk, Michigan—and while that sounds like the most boring kind of driving, for me, it was exhilarating:
The Jeep makes all sorts of different squeaks and rattles—the interior sounds like a veritable bird sanctuary. At 34 miles per hour, some loose piece of metal makes an eardrum-piercing squeal so loud, it could shatter a wine glass. Then at about 37 mph, the rear quarter panel reaches its resonance frequency, and vibrates with such power, the first time I heard it, I actually thought the Jeep had broken in half. Anything above about 42 or 43 mph makes the Jeep roar like a distraught lion, so that leaves my cruising speed between 38 and 42.
This means, accounting for stops, it took me about four hours to go 120 miles, at which point I crossed into Ohio, my first border crossing. A moment that, admittedly, I was sure I’d ever see:
Since I could only drive 40, I took country roads the whole way, and got to experience parts of America most people never see—the small towns where tractors drive on main streets, everyone waves as they drive by, and whole communities gather at high school sports games. Driving slowly on back roads is a truly lovely way to travel across the country.
Eventually, the CJ-2A crossed into Indiana, and the landscape became even more barren, with wide open fields reminding me of one of my hometowns in eastern Kansas.
After about 230 miles, Freddy and I pulled in to a Tractor Supply parking lot to give the Jeep a little checkup. While she spilled a bit of coolant from her overflow tube, and dripped some oil from the rear main seal, the Jeep seemed in good order:
Freddy then went on ahead to find a hotel, leaving me on my lonesome as the night fell.
Those last 70 miles were the most relaxing, most pleasant two hours I’ve experienced in a long time. It was just me and my trusty (so far) Willys, driving through rural America towards the sunset without a care in the world.
The Jeep didn’t burn any oil, and even managed fuel economy in the double digits! (13 MPG by my calculations). After 300 miles and 11 hours, the Jeep finally went to sleep for the night in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Today, we’ve got another 300 miles to go, and the forecast says it’s going to pour down rain. Will the Jeep make it 300 miles today, or will it leave me stranded in the downpour? Who the heck knows. But feel free to follow along on my Twitter and Instagram.