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Old 04-28-2015, 08:36 PM   #1 (permalink)
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brengl1942's build

I've been lurking on here for the better part of a year now just watching and learning. This is my first off-road build, my previous automotive ventures have all been muscle cars or sports cars.
I've been documenting the start of my Willys project on the East Coast Willys Association forum: brengl1942's build thread | Forum

I'm finally getting into some real work on it, and I hope ya'll will allow me to leverage some of the expertise here as I get into it. I plan to stick with the highlights and interesting technical details in this thread, and not bore everyone with the usual stuff that is common to every old jeep project.

This was my grandpa's jeep that is a bit of a family heirloom. I played in it when I was a kid and remember him taking me for rides through the pastures.
It's a bit of a "Johnny Cash Special" with many parts from many different jeeps. At it's core is a '42 GPW with the original dash tags, delivered to the Army in June of 1942. From what I've been able to determine all that remains of the GPW is the cowl and dash section of the tub, possibly the windshield, and the original GPW axles. The remainder of the tub is pretty much an unidentifiable mashup of different jeep parts and bits of scrap metal.
The drivetrain is an F-head with the T-90 and D18 combo, probably from the 50's or 60's. The engine would run, but is in really rough shape. The trans also functions but is well worn. Transfer case seems to be in pretty good shape.
The frame is interesting, with some help I've identified it as a DJ frame. It has the original rear fuel tank setup, which I plan to keep. The frame itself is not in terribly bad shape, rust-wise.

Without further ado, my starting point last Feb:

Last edited by brengl1942; 10-24-2016 at 07:31 PM.
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Old 04-28-2015, 08:49 PM   #2 (permalink)
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The plan going forward is to do a resto-mod, keeping the same look and character that it has always had but with some upgrades to make it roadworthy and safe. It will mostly be for cruising around town, with some light to moderate trail rides as well. Nothing hardcore, I am keeping it conservative and simple seeing as this is my first jeep build.

Here's the rundown as it sits now:
-'93 Ford 2.3L, fuel injected OBD1. I've already acquired the engine for cheap with the complete wiring harness and ECU. Since it is a GPW I thought it should have a Ford engine. This one has roughly twice the power of the old F-head, and can run at 3500 rpm all day allowing me the possibility of reaching normal highway speeds.

-I'm keeping the T-90 and D18, and I plan to add an overdrive. I believe the most challenging part of this will be mating the trans to the engine. The "Pinto" style adapter will not work, the later Ford Lima engines have a T-5 bellhousing with a completely different pattern. The adapter will have to be custom made.

-Repair and re-enforce the frame (yes I know it is not that hard to build one from scratch).

-New suspension with a small lift.

-31" or 32" tires, probably narrow Swampers to keep that original style look. I really like the look of DanielBuck's GPW with those narrow Swampers.

-Upgrade at least the rear axle and sell the original GPW axle to a restorer/collector. Perhaps keep the front and just freshen it up. Keep the 5:38 gear ratio.

-Disk brakes

-Saginaw steering

-Complete tub rebuild.

One more pic for tonight, the powerplant:

Last edited by brengl1942; 04-28-2015 at 08:57 PM.
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Old 04-28-2015, 09:07 PM   #3 (permalink)
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So far sounds like a solid plan! Continue......
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Old 04-29-2015, 01:45 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Old 04-29-2015, 07:47 AM   #5 (permalink)
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A few photos from the teardown process:



Lots of "custom fabrication" here:


Detail of the DJ fuel tank and original GPW Spicer 23-2:


Busted welds on the front cross member that also show seems of some attempt at a previous repair:


Teardown progressing:


Bare chassis stripped and hit with a 3000psi pressure washer:
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Old 04-29-2015, 07:58 AM   #6 (permalink)
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That brings me to my current status today. T-90 and D18 are all broken down and I'm taking the cases to a machine shop to get hot tanked.
My goal right now is to get the transmission done and somehow attached to the 2.3L. The entire plan as it stands hinges on this aspect.

I also removed most the accessories from the 2.3L, I intend to run manual steering and brakes, gorilla style. Nothing but an alternator hanging off the front of the engine. The Ford 2.3 is actually slightly shorter than the old F-head and almost identical in length. It should fit nicely and allow me to remove the 'hood scoop', but dealing with the wiring harness and ECU could be a challenge.

For my trans adapter, I am going to attempt to come up with something similar to this Advanced Adapters set up for a T-90/Ford V8 conversion. I already asked, and their adapter will not fit my T-5 bellhousing. The bellhousing I have is deeper, about 7 3/8", which means my adapter will have to be thinner. I'll have to use the longer V6 input shaft in the T-90 for sure. I welcome any advice on this if anyone has suggestions!


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Old 04-29-2015, 07:59 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Good to see another project on the board!

If the axles are original MB/GPW they should have 4.88 gears? Where the 5.38's swapped in?

If the transmission is in rough shape and your going to be have to make a custom adapter, why not just swap to a different transmission? A 4-granny 4-speed makes these vehicles MUCH better.

What do you want to do with this vehicle in the end? That will help us in determining what parts to suggest using, when to make mods, what mods to make....
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Old 04-29-2015, 08:43 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Good to see another project on the board!

If the axles are original MB/GPW they should have 4.88 gears? Where the 5.38's swapped in?

If the transmission is in rough shape and your going to be have to make a custom adapter, why not just swap to a different transmission? A 4-granny 4-speed makes these vehicles MUCH better.

What do you want to do with this vehicle in the end? That will help us in determining what parts to suggest using, when to make mods, what mods to make....
Maybe you are right about that, I could have mis-stated the gear ratio. I am fairly confident that the gears have not been swapped, they should be original.

I knew my desire to stick with the T-90 would raise questions, particularly on this forum . My rationale is primarily that I want to keep it as simple as possible. I would rather not get into building custom transmission mounts, driveshaft length changes and generally dealing with repositioning things to accommodate a longer transmission. I am not planning on lengthening the wheelbase either. Maybe there is another trans that would allow me to do that? In order to be cost effective though I would have to find one that doesn't need rebuilt in order to handle road/highway driving and doesn't need yet another adapter for the transfer case.

In the end I want something that can handle light to moderate offroading, stuff you could do in most stock 4x4 vehicles. The nearest substantial offroading venue near me is Uhwarrie, most of which can be handled in a stock vehicle. Otherwise it is more like dirt road and logging trail type stuff.
Actual offroad trips will be infrequent though, most of the time I will just be toodling around town or country roads, and perhaps driving it to work every now and then which requires a spurt on the highway. I want to be able to run 65-70 mph without dying or blowing up the engine. Doesn't have to be comfortable, just not death-defying.

Last edited by brengl1942; 04-29-2015 at 08:49 AM.
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Old 04-29-2015, 09:08 AM   #9 (permalink)
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My goal right now is to get the transmission done and somehow attached to the 2.3L. The entire plan as it stands hinges on this aspect.
This on the back of the engine...

2.3L Ford Adaptor Plate - Canfield Industries Fort Collins, Colorado

Plus a SBF bellhousing.

And this to the T90?

712505 : T90 Transmission to Ford Small Block V8 Engine Adapter | Advance Adapters
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Old 04-29-2015, 09:11 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I would look at either a T-18 or an SM420 as alternatives for that transmission. Your transfer case can still mate to either of them. The T-18 will have the shortest adapter between the two cases as it came with a factory texas bolt pattern adapter in some vehicles...

SM420's can usually be had for pretty cheap, the only downside it the price of the adapters if bought new.

But I believe the T-18 will give you the shortest setup since some came with the factory adapters...

Just a thought..

looks like a good start...
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Old 04-29-2015, 11:05 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Funny you mention that combo, I had dreamed up the exact same thing during some of my exhaustive Google work on this . That may be a viable option, but I was concerned about the added depth of the engine/bell adapter. If I had to get the AA piece milled down to compensate, that would add significant cost. I have yet to sit down and figure out exact measurements given the input shaft length I have to work with.

I'll have to do some research on the T18 option too. According to Novak it is about 3" longer and taller than the T-90, and there was a long input shaft available in one of the jeep versions.
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Old 04-29-2015, 11:12 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by brengl1942 View Post
Funny you mention that combo, I had dreamed up the exact same thing during some of my exhaustive Google work on this . That may be a viable option, but I was concerned about the added depth of the engine/bell adapter. If I had to get the AA piece milled down to compensate, that would add significant cost. I have yet to sit down and figure out exact measurements given the input shaft length I have to work with.

I'll have to do some research on the T18 option too. According to Novak it is about 3" longer and taller than the T-90, and there was a long input shaft available in one of the jeep versions.
The bellhousing adapter is pretty thin. Shaving the AA adapter down that much shouldn't cost that much.

The T18 is a very nice transmission package in a flat fender. It is the only big truck transmission that you can cobble together transmission and transfer case adapters using 'stock' parts for just about any engine combo. It is large enough that you need to move the transfer case back, make a new crossmember, etc.

The T18 would be easier to adapt to your 2.3. You could use a ford T18 case and input along with a SBF bellhousing to the 2.3/SBF block adapter.
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Old 04-30-2015, 06:39 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Do you think it has a later Civvy frame underneath it or did someone cut the gun mount off?

I think a later model 4 banger is the best choice for a flatty that won't see long road trips. If that were the case a V6 would be a better pick.

But I agree with the other guys about going to a granny 4 speed. Even my '79 with an AMC 360 in it needs more gear. I've got my eyes out for that swap.
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Old 04-30-2015, 07:55 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Do you think it has a later Civvy frame underneath it or did someone cut the gun mount off?

I think a later model 4 banger is the best choice for a flatty that won't see long road trips. If that were the case a V6 would be a better pick.

But I agree with the other guys about going to a granny 4 speed. Even my '79 with an AMC 360 in it needs more gear. I've got my eyes out for that swap.
I think my frame is from a 2wd DJ3-A jeep, and the back section of my tub may also be from the DJ3-A. It had a rear mounted fuel tank and a drop down tailgate, just as mine does. The jeep has been as it is now since the late 70's when my grandpa bought it. He replaced the F-head once, but otherwise didn't change it.
I think someone before that took the front half of a '42 GPW tub and the GPW axles and mated them to a DJ frame and the back half of the DJ tub. The front fenders, grill, and hood were probably DJ as well. Somewhere along the way it got an F-head and T90/d18 combo. The guy Pop bought it from is long since dead, so we may never know the whole story. Pop always told me that they cut a lot of the decommissioned military jeeps in half after WWII, frame and all. I've seen various accounts online as to whether or not that actually ever happened, but it would explain why I only have the front half of a GPW.

Still mulling over options on the transmission situation. I get my T-90 and D18 cases back from being hot-tanked tomorrow, and I'll get it on the bench with the 2.3/T5 bellhousing and really see what I'm dealing with.

In the meantime, I'm also considering rear axle options. I've done a lot of reading on here about that, and it seems like my best choice for a bolt-in swap would be a D44 out of an early CJ5? Seems like the options are a little limited for something narrow with a passenger side offset.

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Old 05-02-2015, 09:02 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Good afternoon of jeep time today. Got the frame totally stripped down and cleaned up better. The front crossmember is FUBAR, the welds are all broken and the frame is cracked above it. I'm going to have to cut it out entirely and replace with new steel.



out with the old, in with the new



Here's what I'm working with on the T-90 and Ford bellhousing. It seems like an adapter would be fairly straightforward.

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Old 05-06-2015, 10:39 AM   #16 (permalink)
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I'm still tormenting over my axle/suspension plans and could use some advice and level-setting here...
I did some more digging on my existing axles, and I have what appears to be a matching set of original GPW axles. F-script bolt heads on the inside and on the diff covers, and the 'GP' part numbers. The gears inside look to be in great condition but I'm sure they need new bearings and a refresh.

Here's the 2 options I'm weighing. Keep in mind I'm on a budget and I'm trying to maintain the original look of the jeep. It'll be mostly street driving with some light/moderate off-road , and probably 31" tires, and no more than about 110hp on the engine.

1) Keep the original axles.
Pros: I already have them sitting here, they just need a rebuild and good cleaning. The old full-float 23-2 is just cool, and so is the fact that they could be original to my '42 GPW cowl/dash section. There is a lot of sentimental value in keeping them together. They also have a good gear ratio and obviously just bolt on.

Cons: I would always be wondering when an axle will break. Limited parts availability, although there is locker available for the rear I think. If I do a disc brake conversion, any permanent changes would ruin their collector value if I wanted to sell them and upgrade later.

2) Sell the originals to a GPW restorer and find a CJ-5 D44/D30 combo to swap in.
Pros: Should be a bolt-in swap if I found the right year model. Strong enough from anything I plan to do with the jeep. Easier to upgrade/modify if my needs change. Probably easier to deal with on the steering and brakes I want.

Cons: Cost and time, since I do not currently possess a set of these and they do not seem to be common in my area. Might require a gearing change along with any rebuilding that needs to be done. Depending on what I can find, might also require narrowing or reconfiguration to fit my needs.

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Old 05-06-2015, 11:12 AM   #17 (permalink)
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I'm still tormenting over my axle/suspension plans and could use some advice and level-setting here...
I did some more digging on my existing axles, and I have what appears to be a matching set of original GPW axles. F-script bolt heads on the inside and on the diff covers, and the 'GP' part numbers. The gears inside look to be in great condition but I'm sure they need new bearings and a refresh.

Here's the 2 options I'm weighing. Keep in mind I'm on a budget and I'm trying to maintain the original look of the jeep. It'll be mostly street driving with some light/moderate off-road , and probably 31" tires, and no more than about 110hp on the engine.

1) Keep the original axles.
Pros: I already have them sitting here, they just need a rebuild and good cleaning. The old full-float 23-2 is just cool, and so is the fact that they could be original to my '42 GPW cowl/dash section. There is a lot of sentimental value in keeping them together. They also have a good gear ratio and obviously just bolt on.

Cons: I would always be wondering when an axle will break. Limited parts availability, although there is locker available for the rear I think. If I do a disc brake conversion, any permanent changes would ruin their collector value if I wanted to sell them and upgrade later.

2) Sell the originals to a GPW restorer and find a CJ-5 D44/D30 combo to swap in.
Pros: Should be a bolt-in swap if I found the right year model. Strong enough from anything I plan to do with the jeep. Easier to upgrade/modify if my needs change. Probably easier to deal with on the steering and brakes I want.

Cons: Cost and time, since I do not currently possess a set of these and they do not seem to be common in my area. Might require a gearing change along with any rebuilding that needs to be done. Depending on what I can find, might also require narrowing or reconfiguration to fit my needs.
If you want to drive at modern highway speeds you need modern brakes and steering.

The MB/GPW rear axle is pretty weak. The original front axle is also kinda meh.

Finding a matching D44/D30 axle set may be difficult. The dana 30 was never used to my knowledge with an offset rear D44. The early D44 axles with 2-pc axles where all used with D25/27 closed knuckle front ends and are about 50.5" wide. The narrow track D30 is about 53.5" and was only used in vehicles that had centered D44 rear axles. Some of the later CJ7s had quatratrac transfer cases with offset rear axles, but I think all those where AMC20s.

There is the rare 30-spline D44 offset rear end from the 1971 cj5 but is was still the same 50.5" or so width.

Having the front and rear axles be different widths isn't the end of the world, but 3" tends to look kinda funny. You can also run a centered rear axle with an offset D18 transfer case, but the compound driveline angles can be harder to deal with. You could also swap to a transfer case with a centered rear output.....
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Old 05-06-2015, 11:40 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Just to clarify, I do not expect to find the rear and front axles together off the same vehicle, and I do expect that one or the other would probably need to be narrowed to gain a matching set.

My understanding is that my front GPW axle is just a D25, so a different 25 or 27 does not seem like much of an upgrade there. Thus why I was thinking about the D30. The GPW rear is also basically the same as the front, it is a full float D25 that doesn't steer.
I know they are considered weak but I am not sure how to quantify that in terms of "if you do X, Y, or Z, you will break it". These have lasted 73 years after all and seem none the worse for wear, there's something to be said for that.

If I boil this down to a simple question to those who are experienced on the topic, it would be will I regret taking the easy route and going with my original axles, or should I suck it up and go through the expense and trouble of an upgrade from the start?

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Old 05-06-2015, 12:32 PM   #19 (permalink)
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For a flat fender without a V8 and less than a 37" tire I think Dana 44 axles are the best fit with the most options......gearing, lockers, axle shafts, brakes, hubs, etc.

It kinda sucks having to worry about the axles when your doing stupid things.
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Old 05-06-2015, 01:44 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Upgrade would be my vote.
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Old 05-13-2015, 08:28 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Still weighing options on axles and gathering a few things I needed to be able to mock up my transmission and bellhousing and design the adapter.

In the meantime I started on the frame. I built a new crossmember from 3" square tubing and gave it a slight bend like the original, which had seen its better days and had totally separated from the frame.
In the process of positioning the new crossmember I found that the frame was about 3/16 out of square, the two frame rails were shifted slightly in relation to each other. I was able to remedy this with use of some ratcheting straps and weld in the crossmember while it was held square.

Original:



Securing the new one into the frame:





No, I'm not going to leave it like this, there are only 2 welds on each side. I'll fully integrate it with the frame as I work on the boxing and strapping, but for now this will help keep the whole thing square.

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Old 11-01-2015, 01:53 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Wow, it's been 5+ months since my last post, but several things have happened.

1. I sold my GPW rear axle to a nice fellow out in NM who restores them.

2. I scored a '68 CJ5 parts jeep, with a D30 disc brake front axle thrown in with the deal. With this I got a narrow, offset D44 rear, which was the main reason I bought it. It turned out to have a T90 and D18 combo as well, which I can source for parts. I'm selling the running Dauntless and a couple of other misc parts, and hanging on to the wheels/tires for now. The rest is going to scrap, it was more rust than metal.


3. Then I broke my arm in a freak weight lifting accident and was out of commission from August until just a few weeks ago. Clean 'torsional' break of the left humerus above the elbow, and I now have a titanium plate with 15 screws and a scar from my elbow to almost my shoulder.

4. I decided to build a bellhousing from scratch to mate the T90 to the Ford 2.3. I have created templates for the engine and trans plates out of posterboard.


My next steps are duplicating this onto some sheetmetal to test fit and finalize the templates, then get the final version cut from 1/4" steel.
After that I'll add an 1/8x2" ring around the engine plate to start the bell.
Then I have to figure out how to jig these up and align them precisely so I can weld it all together.
My plan is to use the depth of the original T90/F-head bell and basically use all Jeep parts except for the flywheel and pressure plate. I'll also need a custom pilot bushing.

So, stay tuned for what will be either a How To, or How NOT To build a bellhousing

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Old 11-01-2015, 09:20 PM   #23 (permalink)
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How did you break your bone weightlifting? I want to hear the story here!
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Old 11-02-2015, 06:16 AM   #24 (permalink)
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How did you break your bone weightlifting? I want to hear the story here!
Well, I was doing the same workout that I've done for a couple of years and it was 'heavy' day for the benchpress. I was lifting 250lbs, and on the last rep I couldn't get it all the way so I moved to rack the bar (our bench has 3 different hooks so you can rack the bar low if you need to). At that moment my left arm just snapped above the elbow. It required surgery to fix it, and I am still doing rehab although the bone is healed and I have most of the use of my arm back now. The Drs think it was just a freak event, they were unable to find anything wrong with my bone other than the fact that it broke.

How is this for some very expensive "Fab" work, I could buy 10 jeeps for what this cost:


Anyway, that is one main reason that I haven't worked on my jeep in such a long time.

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Old 11-02-2015, 01:07 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by brengl1942 View Post
Well, I was doing the same workout that I've done for a couple of years and it was 'heavy' day for the benchpress. I was lifting 250lbs, and on the last rep I couldn't get it all the way so I moved to rack the bar (our bench has 3 different hooks so you can rack the bar low if you need to). At that moment my left arm just snapped above the elbow. It required surgery to fix it, and I am still doing rehab although the bone is healed and I have most of the use of my arm back now. The Drs think it was just a freak event, they were unable to find anything wrong with my bone other than the fact that it broke.

How is this for some very expensive "Fab" work, I could buy 10 jeeps for what this cost:


Anyway, that is one main reason that I haven't worked on my jeep in such a long time.

Wow freak story. I did my wrist in a few years back and had to have the plates and screws (not nearly as extensive as you had) so I understand you could have purchased quite a few jeeps for that cost. Happy to hear you're recovering nicely.
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