Real Wheels: Willys Jeepster has proud history

LIMA – At age 73, Brian Ulrey is legally blind.

That means he cannot can see well enough to drive, but it doesn’t keep him from enjoying a nice vehicle.

Ulrey is very much a “car guy.” And like many car guys, there was a vehicle he once owned that he knew he would buy again if the opportunity presented itself.

That opportunity came three years ago when he purchased a 1950 Willys-Overland Jeepster.

The Jeepster was Willys-Overland Motors’ answer to the pent-up demand for new cars following the end of World War II. The company was trying to capitalize on the popularity of its iconic World War II Jeep, which served U.S. soldiers so well and in so many ways during the war years. The highly functional Jeep remained popular with outdoors men and farmers in the years immediately following the war, but Willys-Overland Motors knew its long-term profitability depended on developing a vehicle that appealed more to the general public, thus the idea of the sportier Jeepster was hatched.

“I had one 30 years ago and really enjoyed it before selling it,” Ulrey said. “I really wasn’t looking for another one until I saw a car magazine advertise a Jeepster in Canton, Ohio.”

It whetted the appetite of a man who has been going to car shows since he was 12 years old.

“That Jeepster looked pretty nice,” Ulrey said. “I remembered the fun I had with it.”

The next thing he knew, his brother-in-law, Tom Adams, and he were making the 2½ hour, 160-mile trip on U.S. 30 to the county seat of Stark County.

They liked what they found and initiated the purchase.

Ulrey’s Jeepster, like the majority of Jeepsters made in 1950, is a four-cylinder, two-wheel drive vehicle. He’s had the engine rebuilt and the Jeepster painted by Custom Coach in Lima.

Around 19,000 Jeepsters were made in the three years Willys-Overland Motors produced the vehicle.

Willys-Overland Motors ended up being purchased by Kaiser Manufacturing Co. in 1953. In 1963, the company dropped the Willys name to the chagrin of many, and became Kaiser-Jeep Corp. Six years later, in 1969, the company was acquired by American Motors. It later became part of Fiat Chrysler, which is now under the ownership of Stellantis.

Today, Ulrey continues to enjoy going to car shows. Added to that enjoyment now is talking with people who are familiar with the proud history of the Willys jeep.


The Lima News publishes photographs of vintage cars, 20 years or older, free of charge in Real Wheels. It is easy to get your car featured:

Mail: Real Wheels, Newsroom, The Lima News; 205 W. Market St., Suite #100A; Lima, OH 45801.

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Include: Photograph of your car; year of car, make and model; how many years you have owned the vehicle; car’s history; best memory of car; your name, address and telephone number (the phone number will not be published).

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