An interesting part of restoring classic Jeeps is learning their history. Luckily, a video from WWII resurfaced online in recent years, giving us a clear look at how the military waterproofed Willys Jeeps. In fact, this video has quite a reputation because, as you’ll learn more below, the demonstration showcases a very dated use of asbestos. Here, we’ll walk you through this intriguing process so that you can learn a little bit more about the beloved Willys Jeep before continuing to restore or modify yours.
During WWII, the first step military personnel would take to protect Jeeps from moisture was to apply an asbestos waterproofing compound (AWC). The AWC was a clay-like substance that existed in containers that looked similar to average paint cans.
To apply the compound properly, the driver and the car part they were waterproofing had to be free of contaminants. These contaminants were the same ones you must combat throughout a typical car restoration today, including moisture, grease, and any other unfriendly debris.
Drivers would apply the waterproofing compound to areas such as the fire extinguisher, distributor, tail lights, carburetor, gear housing, dash panel, and more. In other words, any component that saltwater could corrode received a layer of the asbestos compound. People also commonly used friction tape to provide extra protection to the distributor breather and Jeep horn. Back then, the benefit of the AWC was that it could form a secure seal around areas where water could seep in and ruin the Jeep.
Tubes, Tape, and Wires
After the driver covered all at-risk parts of the Jeep with AWC, they had to drive it closer to their loading dock before performing any other steps. Once the driver was within two to three miles of the dock, they attached their designated rubber tube to the end of the Jeep’s induction tube assembly, applying friction tape to create a secure seal.
Afterward, the driver had to loop a wire around the tubes near the friction tape, tightening the wire into a strong knot. But that’s not all—the drivers then covered the tubes, tape, and wire with a hefty layer of AWC.
Next, the driver took the other end of the rubber tubing and, with the help of more wire, secured the tube to the top of the windshield. After carefully closing the hood, the drivers would travel to their invasion craft to complete the final step. Once aboard, the driver applied more AWC to the distributor breather and battery vents. Before disembarking, the driver had to turn the Jeep’s ignition switch to the “on” position, resealing it once more.
As you can see, times have changed. Although we recommend using high-quality Kaiser Willys Jeep parts for authentic restorations, some techniques, such as applying AWC, are best to leave in the past. If you want to take a deeper dive into how the military waterproofed Willys Jeeps, you can still find the aforementioned demonstration video online. Go to the J and C Military YouTube page and search for the video entitled “water proofing willys jeep.”