by Steve Turchet
Factory Designation: MC
Common name: M38
Willys built approximately 60,000 of this Korean War-era was Jeep from 1950 to 1953. Basically, they were an improved/updated MB/GPW but were based on the Willys civilian CJ3A rather than being designed as a tactical military vehicle. M38s used the same Willys L-head engine as the WWII Jeeps The engine was now fitted with deep-water fording controls. The vehicle featured the standardized 24-volt M-series electrical system and other M-series components, such as dashboard instruments and tail lamps.
The M38 is about as easy to service and repair as the MB/GPW, with the exception of the M-series components and 24-volt electricals, including special military spark plugs and tune-up parts. Likewise, finding 24-volt headlamps and light bulbs may require some research. Most parts and accessories for the M38 are readily available in the historic military vehicle world, including canvas and hard cabs, deep-water fording, and arctic heater kits.
The M38 is most easily distinguished from the WWII Jeeps by its 7-inch headlamps — usually protected by guards — and its one-piece, non-openable windshield with rounded corners. There is a vent flap under the windshield glass.
Most M38s had a tailgate. The M38 is most easily distinguished from a civilian “militarized” CJ3A by its large M-series fuel filler cap outboard of the driver’s seat, and its M-series instrument panel.
Other than possibly jumping out of second gear on compression, the M38 has few common faults. Problems are usually individual depending upon how the vehicle was used or abused. The M38 may be a bit more comfortable to drive than the WWII models, but its safe highway speed is still 45- 50 mph unless fitted with an overdrive unit. Lockout hubs are available.
- Engine: Willys 4-cylinder, gasoline, L-head, 134 cid, 51 hp.
- Transmission: 3-speed manual.
- Transfer case: 2-speed (attached to transmission)
- Electrical system: 24-volt waterproof M-series.
- Tire size: 7.00 X 16
- Fuel capacity: 13 U.S. gallons
- Approximate range (highway): 220 miles
- Rated cargo capacity: 500 lbs.
- Rated towed load: 2,000 lbs.
Current prices for M38s range from around $1,000 for beaters and basket-cases to over $20,000.00 for a decent show-quality vehicle and beyond for no.1 restorations. With careful shopping, one should be able to drive an M38 home for an average price of $14-19,000.