Home » How I Bought A World War II Jeep For Only $85

How I Bought A World War II Jeep For Only $85

85 Dollar Jeep Ts1
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“Down in San Diego most likely” was the full message my friend sent me, along with a link to a Grassroots Motorsports forum post titled “Anybody want dibs on a 1942 GPW in California.” I could’t click it fast enough. What I discovered at the link was someone who had been given a World War II Jeep for free, and just wanted it gone. I replied to the forum post immediately. Here’s what happened next.

I always hear stories from ol’ timers about how they snagged an old Ford Mustang or Model A or Corvair for $40 or some ridiculously low sum that could only have happened 50 years ago, but now I have my own such story. And it happened in 2024.

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Here’s the full forum post on Grassroots Motorsports, written by “wearymicrobe”:

I got suckered into taking a 1942 Ford GPW for what I think is going to be free from a work friend who is leaving to live in Alaska. Has some rust in the bed and the motor is a later L motor, allegedly in the DMW system already non non-op, ran when parked. I need this like a hole in the head.

Will post pictures here this weekend and confirm the documents. Worst case I will seal the metal up quick and throw it down below the house in storage. Would be fun to see it turned into something for the 2014/2015$ slammed and on slicks if somebody has the time and energy to do so. Just my fees and gas to tow it home likely.

Here you can see my friend, John, being an absolute legend:

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The seller then posted the photo below showing the Jeep, which is wearing oversize tires, aftermarket wheels, a civilian Jeep windshield/grille/tailgate/engine, and lacking seats. “So it’s on the trailer. A lot less rust than you would expect,” wearymicrobe’s post reads. “I have the military blackout lights and gauges. Engine is a 50s Willy that ‘runs.’  You could roadkill this thing with about three or four days of work no problem,” he writes. “Has a new radiator and a few other small things here and there.”

Then comes the critical bit for me: “I have a title and it is non op in California  I have the original 1963 plates when it was registered and I have documents back to about 1969 give or take.”

Hot damn, a California title! That’s a huge deal for military vehicles, which are no longer allowed to be titled in California, as I understand it (though there are ways, I’ve heard).

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Wearymicrobe then posted a link to more photos, along with the text:

So lots of photos as promised. Into the jeep for about 85$ in gas and tow so that’s what I want for it. Has a new radiator in a box. New headlights and taillights. Minimal rust but has a few cracks and pinholes here and there. Motor is a little tight so likely needs to have the head pulled and checked

First come first serve on this one. Title in hand signed with no date value of 100$. All past paperwork included. All the spare parts included.

$85! Unbelievable! Here are the photos:

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In short order, I was in touch with Wearymicrobe, whose real name is Michael, who is a bit of a legend on Grassroots Motorsports, as he has lots of amazing cars (both permanently and temporarily, as he seems to have a lot of older friends who have vehicles to get rid of) and actually races.

Michael agreed to sell me the Jeep, and even to wait a few weeks for me to get back from my $500 minivan trip, and to get healthy after getting the flu. So last weekend, I headed down from LA to San Diego.

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Unfortunately, the rental agency that I normally use (Galpin) was closed on the weekend, and no regular rental company was going to give me something for towing, so I looked into U-Haul. $20 for a pickup truck isn’t bad, but then $0.89 per mile. Yikes! The trip was nearly 300 miles, so I’d be dropping about $300 on a rental truck, then I’d have to spend $55 on the car hauler.

I was way too cheap for that.

“This Jeep is barely a real car,” I thought to myself. It’s tiny. Why do I need a car trailer? Plus, the Jeep might be too narrow for its two platforms anyway,” I thought. So what I did is forego a rental car in favor of my 1985 Jeep J10, and I forewent the car hauler in favor of a regular 12-foot utility trailer. Total cost?: $29.99! Ok, so I had to buy a hitch receiver with less of a drop than the one I had, so that was another $30, but still: $60 plus gas for a 300 mile towing operation? Not bad!

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The truth was: This was a bad idea. The Jeep J10 has a 112 horsepower engine, and the axle ratio is 2.73. This thing was not meant to tow. It was an underpowered dog, and even the empty 1,700 pound trailer was making its weight known at the tail end of my ol’ truck.

The traffic was OK, though getting started from a stop with the tall gearing required quite a bit of clutch slip. It was the hills that really made the job tough, requiring a downshift into third gear, and a max speed of about 40 mph on the freeway.

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After three hours praying for that poor 258 cubic-inch inline-six as it revved to the sky up those hills, I arrived at Michael’s incredible home near San Diego, and gazed at his beautiful motorcycles and automobiles. After a nice introduction, we got to work getting the Jeep onto the trailer, and I have to admit: It was a shitshow.

Those $25 I saved by skipping the car hauler in favor of the utility trailer had clearly not been worth it, though I will note that the utility trailer is about 500 pounds lighter; still, the weight and cost savings didn’t make up for the shitshow Michael and I endured as we tried to lift the 2,500 pound Jeep about a foot up onto that trailer.

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Our method was ridiculous; we unhooked the trailer from the truck, then try jacking the front of the trailer up so that the rear would drop. We then pushed the Jeep up against the back of the trailer, jacked up its rear axle with a floor jack, and then used a ratchet strap to literally pull the trailer under the Jeep’s rear wheels. Then we jacked up the Jeep’s front end and did the same, all the while carefully moving around wheel chocks to make sure that not only would the trailer not go rogue, but the Jeep wouldn’t roll backwards off the trailer.

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The paragraph above doesn’t do justice the 90-minute long nightmare that was trying to load a Jeep onto a rampless trailer using only ratchet straps, a floor jack, and brute strength, but I’ll just reiterate: I should have spent the extra $25 on the damn car-hauler. This was utter foolishness.

Though, I am a cheap bastard, so you know I was pleased to save a few bucks.

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Once the World War II Jeep was on the utility trailer and ratcheted into place, my old truck made it clear that it hated me. There was not only a 4,200 pound trailer hooked to the back, but there was a heavy axle in the bed (I should have taken that out) and a bunch of parts that had come with the old Jeep. In total, my Jeep J10 was probably dragging around 5,000 pounds in addition to its already hefty 4,200 pound curb weight.

Listen to my beloved old truck rev to the sky in second gear, going 30 mph up a steep grade between San Diego and LA:

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Somehow, though, the truck made it home without any really issue. It had fresh fluids in the diffs, transmission, engine, and transfer case, and the radiator was doing its thing — it was overloaded, sure, but this was still an AMC inline-six powering a beefy old body-on-frame machine. It can handle far more than one would think.

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Once at the Galpin parking lot, I shoved the Jeep off the trailer and pushed it into the parking spot right in front of my Holy Grail five-speed Jeep Grand Cherokee that I’m hoping to miraculously have ready for Moab in a few months. Sadly, it was raining right into the old Willys’ carburetor, so I’ll be draining the fluids, removing the cylinder head, and making sure everything is covered in some light oil before I try to crank the motor over so I can prepare it for sale. You see, this Jeep will not remain internal combustion engine-powered for long.

Huge thanks to Michael for selling me this incredible machine for such a song. More on this $85 Ford GPW’s condition and my plans with it in a future article.

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Hoonicus
Hoonicus
2 months ago

Score! May this extremely cheap, and surprisingly not that rusty Jeep serve you well. I look forward to reading the conversion.

The Car Accumulator
The Car Accumulator
2 months ago

$85 for an army jeep? I hate you.

Fourmotioneer
Fourmotioneer
2 months ago

Nice Jeep. There are externalities to cheapness lol

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
2 months ago

David: I just can’t pass up a free jeep
Galpin: David, we’re are going to start charging you storage fees
David: But it’s for an EV conversion
Galpin: not in our backyard

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
2 months ago

This website is better advertisement for Galpin than all of their other media combined. Give David the storage.

JDE
JDE
2 months ago

SO yeah, I feel like the age of the title might make it a bit easy to avoid smog testing, and I would hope an electronically controlled Mahindra Diesel would be cleaner than a war era L head 4, so if that were mine I would be looking for a Roxor to body swap it onto. then I would daily the crap out of it.

Vee
Vee
2 months ago

I… Don’t think that’s a Ford GPW. It has vents under the windshield, the windshield’s from a Willys CJ-3 which shouldn’t fit a GPW, and the floorpan is wrong.
The hood also isn’t an original GPW and neither are the fenders, but those might’ve been swapped out at some point after being damaged, because that’s clearly a Jeep CJ front.

Actually this might be a Willys M38.

Vee
Vee
2 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Ah, yeah. The Fords don’t have that weird tube up front do they? It’s odd, though, and clearly cobbled together with at least two other later vehicles. Perhaps you could find the production numbers somewhere on the sheet metal and see what’s what exactly.

Jon Winsley
Jon Winsley
2 months ago
Reply to  Vee

From everything I have ever read, MB/GPWs didnt have tailgates but you do have the military gas tank hole in the floor under the drivers seat but there also appears to be a hole in the side for a later model gas tank spout outboard of the driver seat. It looks like a full float rear axle which would also be WWII.

Wearymicrobe
Wearymicrobe
2 months ago
Reply to  Vee

She is a mutt for sure. God knows the whole story on that thing. Its been sitting outside a garage in SoCal for the last couple years. I know it was in the California DMV system at some point then ended I think it ended up in Alaska for a while then back into California. Old owners are just happy that it’s getting a new lease on life

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
2 months ago

Step one: acquire 4 1/2 inch Milwaukee m18 high torque impacts and some Flexseal tape
Step two: Tape impacts to axles, then cover in more tape so it’s waterproof.
Step three: Bring on Jeep Easter Safari
Step Four: thank ESBMW for repairing your relationship with big Jeep.

Spikersaurusrex
Spikersaurusrex
2 months ago

I’m just wondering one thing: At what point does the city tell Galpin to clean up their lot?

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
2 months ago

I see you’ve never visited the fine town of Van Nuys

AlterId
AlterId
2 months ago
Reply to  Rabob Rabob

Hold on there! Van Nuys Es Very Nice, and don’t you forget it.

Last edited 2 months ago by AlterId
Farty McSprinkles
Farty McSprinkles
2 months ago

“It’s deja vu all over again” – Yogi Berra.

This is going to be a ride, I just feel it.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
2 months ago

Electric conversion? Sounds like fun and I am waiting with my popcorn ready to read it. But dude, you’re old enough now to stop doing such janky things like what happened with the trailer. Spend the few extra dollars for a safer, better solution!

The Cyclist
The Cyclist
2 months ago
Reply to  OrigamiSensei

And “budget EV converstion” to boot. But then “I bet it will take a lot of money.”

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
2 months ago
Reply to  The Cyclist

I bet David held on to the old warrantied battery from his i3 specifically for this.

Hi, I'm Danny Ganz
Hi, I'm Danny Ganz
2 months ago

Showing up with a utility trailer and asking a stranger to help load up your new car in the middle of the night would sound like a poorly staged final season Top Gear stunt if DT didn’t have such a long posting history of publicizing poor decisions like this one.

Hi, I'm Danny Ganz
Hi, I'm Danny Ganz
2 months ago

CLARKSON (voiceover): …however, when it came to bring his new purchase back to the studios, James May decided that $55 was far too much to part with.

ext. parking lot. HAMMOND and CLARKSON are bickering about their tow vehicles; a blue 1992 Dodge Ram pickup for HAMMOND and a silver 2000 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson for CLARKSON as MAY drives into the lot at the wheel of an off-white 1985 Jeep J10 pulling a U-Haul utility trailer.

HAMMOND and CLARKSON immediately stop talking and double over with laughter.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago

Perfect: COTD nomination right here!

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
2 months ago

I’ve had to deal with awkward loading situations from time to time. This is where having a couple of lengths of pressure-treated wood, like 2×8 or so, comes in handy. You can even get aluminum ramp-hook ends to screw on to them if you want to get fancy.

Also, with a low trailer like that, backing the end up to a curb and jacking the tongue up can be a lifesaver. Or stick some shop ramps behind the truck’s back wheels — with the trailer coupled — and back onto them to lift the tongue.

RedR58
RedR58
2 months ago

If it were me I’d try to get it looking as cosmetically close to a wartime GPW as possible. A friend of mine has one in beautiful shape, complete with all its equipment. I’m less interested in driving around something with military markings, but I do prefer the looks of the period machine and would sell off all the postwar/civilian modifications and get all right looking bits. Those huge headlights look just bizarre to me on the vehicle.

Last edited 2 months ago by RedR58
Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
2 months ago

2.73 axles? Jeez, yeah, that would make it tough. I bet it doesn’t even help fuel economy much.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
2 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

He said earlier that it got 17mpg going clear across the country. The difference is that he got 17mpg going like 70mph.

My j10 has 3.73? gears and cruises 45-50mph. It probably also gets like 17mpg cruising at 50mph. But it sure would not deliver 17mpg going 70mph, which is approaching its top speed.

sentinelTk
sentinelTk
2 months ago

You can take the David out of Michigan, but you can’t…..umm….take the car hoarding out of David?

sentinelTk
sentinelTk
2 months ago
Reply to  sentinelTk

Also, this is such a better choice for an EV conversion than the FC! Can’t wait to see the project!!!!

James Milton
James Milton
2 months ago
Reply to  sentinelTk

But the FC is so much more “interesting”.

sentinelTk
sentinelTk
2 months ago
Reply to  James Milton

Yeah, but “doable” is much more interesting than just “interesting….but a nightmare that will never come to fruition.”

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
2 months ago

The hood scoop must add 10 hp. If my calculations are correct.

James Milton
James Milton
2 months ago

A more interesting article would be on how you avoided buying a certain Jeep, etc.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
2 months ago
Reply to  James Milton

That article would be worth real money some day.

Frank Wrench
Frank Wrench
2 months ago

I would laugh at David’s short trailer tow antics but I once towed a $25 Ford Fiesta on a snowmobile trailer with my 87 Ranger. At least he had the tongue weight working right for him. I did not. Mine was a trailer swaying 40 mile white knuckle ride getting it home.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank Wrench

Oof!
Once towed a Ford 8N tractor complete with way-oversized brush-hog deck hanging out a UHaul utility trailer some 150 scary miles with a late 90s Ford truck undersized for the job. U-Haul guaranteed a flat-deck car carrier, but didn’t come through. That combo would wag the truck at anything over 50mph: I feel your pain, man.

Frank Wrench
Frank Wrench
2 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Man that sounds like a scary one and a long way to go!

My towing story was from the 1990s. The newer version of me now has a 16 ft double axle flat bed and an old F-250 to do the hauling. But I still manage to overload it at times. Tried hauling my 58 Ford farm tractor. It has a 6ft power angle plow set up with full subframe on the front that must weigh over 500 lbs. and a 5ft wide Bush Hog tiller on the back on for another 700+ lbs and then loaded tires. I didn’t make it more than a few hundred feet before the truck hitch bent down toward the ground.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank Wrench

Now, that’s serious sketch! Glad it let you know early.

My story was 20 years back, and I only continued because it was for my buddy in his 60s with medical conditions—and he would have had to sell it where it was if I didn’t. I went 40-45 on local highways and it only got real serious when we hit a patch of rain: the rear of the truck felt like it was doing 15-20° pendulums. Eased off sloooowly and maintained around 30mph for the final 15ish miles. It served him there for another 12 years till we lost touch, so worth it. <shrug> 🙂

A. Barth
A. Barth
2 months ago

I love that the J10 was the tow vehicle for this; it seems poetic somehow.

You don’t have a lot of free time (understatement!) but it sounds like you could recoup/save some money for the project by lightly refurbing and selling the blackout lights, gauges, trim and ancillary bits, etc. (in addition to the engine).

Also you could have used the $25 you saved on the trailer to get a proper comealong from Harbor Freight. That might have been easier than using the ratchet straps to move the beast. 🙂 (I seem to recall you and Jason using one to load up in Detroit, but not sure if you still have it.)

Looking forward to the stories!

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
2 months ago

If you could turn that awful postal Jeep into a functioning off-roader, then you can handle this project too. The only difference is that you are going to need to get really familiar with wiring and how not to electrocute yourself while working on a vehicle that is solid metal.

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
2 months ago

Autopian and GRM is a match made in heaven. (kinda)
Ya’ll should get down to the $2000 Challenge.

Thomas Hundal
Thomas Hundal
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

I’d love to at some point. Come to think of it, I’ve wanted to build a challenge car for more than a decade.

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
2 months ago

Awesome! I have played the same kind of game with small cars. I had a datsun roadster loaded backward on a 5×12 ft trailer. To unload it, we lifted the front end of the roadster with an engine hoist, tied the hoist to a tree, and then drove the trailer forward until the rear tires were at the edge of the trailer. Lowered the front end, then lifted the rear end with the hoist and drove the rest of the way out from underneath it. Battery, ignition coil, and some fuel and we were able to drive it to its parking spot after sitting an unknown number of years. No brakes though, so that got sketchy.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
2 months ago
Reply to  Lockleaf

I’ve driven around a yard with no brakes in a Land Rover 1/2 ton Lightweight. The trick was to pile wood up where I needed to stop and hope I’d guessed the turning circle right.

It was an objectively terrible car, even after we fixed it, but weirdly lovable.

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
2 months ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

That is awesome. I just popped the clutch and prayed it would slide to a halt and die before I clobbered something.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
2 months ago

I am getting my popcorn supply ready for the next installment, David. Can’t wait!

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
2 months ago

Heck inmy day you could buy as many military jeeps as you wanted for $50 out of the back of atomic book. Who here remembers those days? Did anyone ever buy one?

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Remember those ads well. Supposedly all crated, wrapped and covered in cosmoline. I eventually did own an MB, but it didn’t come from through a comic book ad.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
2 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

But was it a deal?

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

$200 in 1983. Everything worked, even had a top. Wish I still had it.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
2 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I wish I ordered a couple Jeeps but I ordered the see through goggles and they were a bust.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Lol, the infamous x-Ray specs. I suspect the jeeps were just as real, or made of plastic and about a foot long.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
2 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Okay have to ask about your user name. Is it a sun covered dinosaur or a delightful pre-dinner canapés dinosaur? Or a multiple canopy Taurus?

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

It’s the model of Flintmobile driven by Fred Flintstone; ie. Flintmobile Canopysaurus. Figured it fit my prehistoric origins, at least compared with the Autopian staff and much of the readership.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
2 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I have seen every episode of the Flintstones, never got that. I yearn for the picture or whatever proves that. I love it.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Not sure if it was mentioned in the original show, one of its spin-offs (Pebbles and Bam Bam, etc.), one of the few specials, or the 1994 movie with John Goodman. I ran across it on FlintstonesFandom.com. Supposedly, Barney’s car was a Loggin’ Continental.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
2 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Yeah John Goodman and Rick moranis.Viva rock Vegas. Not my feelings of Flintstones

Last edited 2 months ago by Mr Sarcastic
Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Ditto

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
2 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Good name!

James Carson
James Carson
2 months ago

Looks like the beginning of another great adventure. Cool score!

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