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1950 Jeepster

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SAN FRANCISCO:  The Jeepster Phaeton convertible, introduced for the 1948 model year, was based on the 104 inch wheelbase Jeep, model 4-36 4 X 2, station wagon chassis that came out right after the war in 1946. The '48 lineup also included a panel delivery, a pickup ( in 2 or 4WD), and a platform-stake as well as the wagon and the Jeepster Phaeton .

Our feature car, a 1950 model, was rebuilt from a tatty yard decoration found on the San Francisco Peninsula by Gerry Peter who lives in suburban Sacramento, CA. No stranger to auto restoration, Jerry also owns a '48 Chevy, three MGs, and a Jag XK 140. The Jeepster was not his first restoration but it was a major lesson in auto body work. It had been left out in the elements and developed rusty floors and had a nasty rumple in the left rear corner. This was a perfect project for the autobody class Gerry was starting at Solano College. He had successfully painted cars at home in the past but wanted to learn the finer points of professional metalworking.

This was not a "frame off" restoration as the body and frame stayed together, but all else was removed. After the floors were replaced Gerry worked hours on that bent rear corner. The teacher wasn't satisfied until Gerry had done the work over a number of times. The damage is now undetectable. The Jeep was painted its original pale yellow with black trim.

The rest of the car was refurbished piece by piece. Every part was either replated, repainted, reupholstered, or polished, then re-installed with new rubber and hardware. Final touches include a black canvas top, whitewalls tires and some super reproduction hubcaps imported from Israel, of all places. The quality of the restoration is superb.

The Classic Drive

The first impression one has of the Brooks Stevens designed bodywork is sport tourer. It has a raked back windscreen and sidecurtains like a classic British roadster. From some angles, it "feels" MG but after closer inspection, nautical is the word that comes to mind. The interior has the sturdy, uncomplicated, and well-finished look of a '40s era amusement park ride - lots of painted metal and tube frame seats. An ample door allows easy entry to the spacious seating area. Wow, a six passenger sports car!

Any sporting car illusions are quickly dashed with the turn of a key and a step on the floor mounted starter pedal. The results are strictly agricultural in sound and feel. This Jeepster came equipped with the F-head 4-cylinder engine. Many of these came with a sidevalve six and some earlier models had sidevalve fours. The uprated F-head four, new for 1950, had only seven fewer horsepower than the six and provided similar overall performance.

Once in motion, we find an engine that's as high revving and flexible as a forklift and a wide ratio, three-speed, column mounted stick. Not exactly sports car material. The engine in Gerry's Jeep was balanced during the rebuild so it runs smooth and works well. It took some time mentally working out the torque curve and getting the shift points just right but soon I was bombing along a winding country road fast enough to realize that the little Jeepster had firm suspension, very little lean, and good directional response. Its longer wheelbase makes the car less "whippy" than a CJ series Jeep though the high center of gravity and cross-ply tires discouraged any REAL cornering test.

Compared to other domestic cars of the same vintage it's a pretty good sportster. Somewhere between a MG roadster and Ford sedan. Engaging the overdrive quieted down the hard working F-head on the open road. I drove the car sidecurtain-less on a mid-December morn and was really impressed by the lack of cold wind in the face motoring. It seems that the driver sits close to the tall V'd windscreen and when the wing windows are extended fully the wind blows right past. I'm sure back seat passengers wouldn't be so lucky.

Did I like it? You bet. The bodywork promises sport but the Phaeton comes into better perspective if viewed as a stylish, better-appointed, six passenger Jeep. The Jeepster was built on a light truck chassis and was never intended to be a sports car. If you live in a warm area, even today, this would be an excellent runabout. It's easy to drive and park, uses little gas, really attracts attention and parts are still relatively easy to find.

Why didn't Jeep sell more of these? In its day, the Jeepster cost just a few hundred dollars less than a power-top Chevy convertible. Most open car buyers would opt for a car with roll up windows, plusher interiors and more powerful engines, but there was a certain type of person that lived in just the right place that found these beauties irresistible. By Rick Feibusch AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

Byline:  By Rick Feibusch AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Column Name:   The Classic Drive
Topic:  The 1950 Jeepster
Word Count:   827
Photo Caption:  1950 Jeepster
Photo Credits:  Rick Feibusch
Series #:   1999 - 45

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