On Friday, I may or may not have made the claim: “This weekend is it. If I can’t get my 1948 Willys CJ-2A up and running by Sunday night, all hope is lost.” Well, I was wrong, because my friends Brandon, Steve and I didn’t get the Willys up running, but because we got a lot done, there is still as much hope as there ever was. That is to say, not much.

Before the weekend started, I fixed up my steering box by replacing the sector shaft. That involved honing out the new brass bushings so the shaft would fit nice and snug:

The final result is still very filthy, but that new shaft got rid of almost all the play in my steering. So that’s good:

When Friday came along, all attention turned to the engine.

Last week, after finding out that one of my rod bearings was wiggling around the journal, I decided to plastigauge all my crankshaft bearings. I’m glad I did, because it turned out, they were severely out of spec. So this weekend, Brandon and I polished the crankshaft to prepare it for new main and rod bearings.


Sadly, after over an hour polishing with 320-grit Emery Cloth, some gnarly grooves in the journals remained. Will they chew up the new bearings in the 2,000 miles between here and Moab? To that, I have no answer. But I don’t have time or money for machining work, so I’m just going to “run what I brung” and pray to the Jeep Gods for mercy.

While I had the crank out, I figured I’d yank the pistons and replace the rings as well. And again, boy am I glad I did, because as I removed those cups from their bores, the rings just came pouring out in pieces:

Of course, before we installed the pistons with their new rings, we had to cut off the cylinders’ ridges (the step representing the boundary of where the piston rings wear into the cylinder walls).


So my friend Steve, who had used a ridge reamer before, brushed up on the instructions to the ridge reamer, while Brandon installed the rings on the pistons:

Just to be sure we didn’t screw up the reaming process, we wheeled my spare four-liter motor (the one I blew up in that tragic mudding incident) into my kitchen, and Steve practiced reaming a few cylinders:

Once he had it down, we headed into the freezing cold garage, and tried the reamer out on the real thing. It went well:

After that, I broke out the drill, slapped on a hone I had rented from O’Reilly, and started polishing cylinder walls:

Despite my best efforts, a few scores running in the direction of the stroke remained on two of the walls, likely from those broken piston rings. The fact that this engine ran with those scored walls and broken rings is absolutely astonishing to me. Whether it will make it another 2,000 miles without burning all of its oil, or without losing compression, I honestly don’t know. Heck, I don’t even know if it’ll run again.

Once we had those piston rings and cylinders ready to go, I slathered the new main bearings with assembly lube, installed them into the block, and plopped in the crankshaft.

From there, I squeezed in the rear main rope seal, and bolted down the main bearing caps after checking clearance with a plastigauge (they’re in spec!). Then we installed the rubber plugs at the back of the engine between the rear main bearing cap and block:

Here’s a shot of some of old main and rod bearings. They may not look it, but they’re junk:

Then it was piston installation time. So we flipped the motor over, broke out our rental ring compressor tool and the back side of a ball peen hammer, and knocked all four pistons—dressed with new sets of rings and some rubber hoses over their studs to prevent wall or crank damage—into their freshly honed, ATF-covered cylinders. Then we bolted the connecting rods to their Freshly Polished But Still Flawed crank journals with a set of fresh new bearings in between.

From there, I slapped on the head gasket:

And finally, with the head bolted on, this thing started to look like an engine once again.

With the head on, we installed the front timing gear cover, complete with its new front main seal and gasket.

Next, we flipped the engine over again, hooked up the oil pickup, slapped down a new oil pan gasket, and bolted it all up.

Then we hooked up the water pump:

I then vacuumed and sprayed out the coolant passages, and installed new freeze plugs:

After bolting on the thermostat housing, some oil lines, and a couple of other odds and ends, we finally hoisted the motor off its engine stand:

From there, we installed the flywheel, clutch and pressure plate:

Here’s Brandon lining everything up with the old transmission input shaft:

With the engine all together, it was time to plop that Go-Devil into the car.

After moving the exhaust pipe to the other side of the steering linkage (I screwed this up when fixing the steering), the engine was ready to go. Well, almost.


Unfortunately, we had hooked the engine up on the rear head studs, which interfered with the top of the firewall, so we couldn’t get the engine back far enough to bolt up to the trans.

No big deal, right? Just re-attach the hoist to two other head studs, and get on with it. Well, Brandon and I, after wrenching all night Friday, all day Saturday, and all day Sunday, hit a brick wall.


The fatigue I felt on Sunday night was unlike any other I had felt before. Two and a half days wrenching in a filthy, cold garage on a total junker all came to a head on Sunday night as we were on the final step of our Go-Devil resurrection plan.

But stay tuned. Tonight, Brandon and Steve are coming over, and we’re firing this baby up. Check out my Twitter or Instagram to follow our progress.