Collecting classic cars can be difficult due to the rarity of some vehicles. Even if you do find the model you’re looking for, sometimes it’s not in the best condition. Jeeps are popular among collectors due to their rich history, which began in World War II and evolved over the years, eventually becoming the Jeep Wrangler (and other modern models) we all know and love.
If this is your first time collecting, we’ll teach you the basics of how to buy a classic jeep. A complete guide like the one below will help you navigate the classic jeep market, which can be tricky sometimes. Along the way, we’ll also explore some of the most famous classic models, though given how many jeeps there have been over the years, we won’t be able to touch on all of them.
Know What Model You’re Looking For
First thing’s first, what model are you looking for? Not all classic Jeeps are as easy to find as others. Some models can be quite expensive and rare, but if you’re looking for one in working condition, the price and level of rarity can increase. Below, we’ll dive into some of the most iconic classic jeeps to narrow down your buying options.
World War II Jeeps—1941-1945
If you’re looking for the early wartime jeeps, you’re going want a model manufactured between 1941 and 1945. The invention of jeeps came from the U.S. Army’s need for a light reconnaissance vehicle on the battlefield. Thanks to contributions from Bantam, Ford, and Willys-Overland, the Willys MB was able to become that light reconnaissance vehicle. If you’re a big WWII enthusiast, then this is the Jeep you’ll want for your collection. Other models of the vehicle from this era include the Willys MA and the Ford GPW.
The First Post-War Jeeps—1945-1953
World War II was not the last war in which jeeps were beneficial; however, when this war ended, there was a period in which companies began to manufacture jeeps with the domestic workforce in mind—specifically, those in the agriculture business. These classic models are “CJs,” which stands for “Civilian Jeeps.”
The first model, the CJ-2A, made a number of improvements to its military counterpart, such as an ability to reach speeds up to 60 mph (though it could operate at speeds as low as 4 mph when necessary), the inclusion of a tailgate, and a stronger frame and clutch. The marketing for this model kept its focus on the farming industry due to these amenities, its ability to work in tandem with farming equipment, and the CJ-2A's comfortable seating.
Between 1949 and 1953, the CJ-2A led to the creation of the CJ-3A. The most distinct difference between the two models on a cosmetic level is that the CJ-2A has a two-piece windshield, whereas the CJ-3A has a one-piece windshield. Further improvements included modifications to legroom, headroom, and seat design to optimize comfort while driving. Plus, it had a better transmission and suspension for use in farming applications.
A New Era of Jeeps—1955-1983
Whereas the early CJ’s were best fit for the farming industry, the CJ-5 was an off-roading vehicle for the everyday consumer. In production from 1955 to 1983, the CJ-5 saw many improvements from previous models that included a better engine and transmission. Over time, the CJ-5 saw engine improvements in the form of the “Dauntless” V6 engine (1965) and AMC’s 304 and 360-cubic-inch V8 engines. The CJ-5 set the standard for future jeeps, including the Jeep Wrangler.
Although this guide was meant to cover Jeeps between the ’41 and ’83, it would only be right to at least briefly touch on the Jeep Wrangler YJ.
In 1986, the Jeep Wrangler’s purpose was to bring an end to the CJ series, which means that it took many of the components of previous models but made noticeable alterations to some components. For instance, the Wrangler YJ had square headlights and a wider track but a decrease in ground clearance. The initial Wrangler YJ meant to optimize on-road driving to attract a broader range of customers, but over time, the YJ series evolved. They became comfortable, powerful vehicles for both on-road and off-road driving. Although these aren’t all the classic Jeeps, they are a few of the most notable for those looking to collect some of the biggest milestones in the jeep timeline.
Know Where to Find Your Classic Jeep
Once you set your eyes on the jeep you want, it’s time to find out where you can get it. When buying classic jeeps, there are a few avenues you can go through. You might laugh, but the first place you should check is local newspapers or magazines aimed specifically at 4x4s. Sure, it sounds prehistoric, but even today, it’s still a good way of finding a classic jeep. You can also go through online avenues like Craigslist, Hemmings, or Autotrader. These aren’t the only sites you can go with, but they are the best place to start.
Know the Value of the Jeep
To avoid paying an unfair price for a classic jeep, do your research to determine the proper value of the model you’re looking for. Luckily, you can use a site like Hagerty or the previously mentioned Hemmings to do just that. Once you have a good idea of the proper value of your vehicle, it’s time to find a seller.
Know What to Ask After Finding a Seller
Before going with the first classic jeep provider you find, take a few factors into consideration. First, find out the condition of the vehicle. What parts need repair or replacement? It’s important to know this before investing in the jeep, and to be extra careful, ask for pictures as well. That way, you can confirm its condition and whether it’s really the model you were looking for. Once you’re comfortable with the condition, find out how far you’ll need to travel to pick up the vehicle.
The final piece of advice for dealing with a seller is to always see whether they’re willing to budge on the price. You don’t have to haggle with them, especially if they’re already offering a fair price, but it’s always good to test the waters to see if they have some wiggle room concerning price.
If you’re learning how to buy a classic jeep, a complete guide like the one above will help you out. Although we don’t specifically mention every Jeep model, especially those manufactured after 1983, it doesn’t exempt them from these guidelines. The purpose of this guide is to provide a complete guide to the researching and purchasing process, as opposed to clearly defining the history or value of every classic Jeep.
Plus, if you’re interested in buying a classic Jeep, chances are you have enough familiarity with the vehicle to know the model you desire. If you need further assistance restoring a classic WWII-era jeep, we’re here to help. At Army Jeep Parts, we offer military vehicle restoration services for anyone looking to restore a vehicle like the Willys MB back to its former glory.