So, you may have spotted our trusty Jeep in some of my pictures… yes we are lucky enough to have this beautiful, fun vehicle, but there is more to it that meets the eye!!

Get to know Hettie… the Jeep!

VolksWorld magazine were so intrigued by our quirky vehicle that they just had to write an article…


“When someone writes two pages of notes about the accessories on their car and talks more about the paintwork and visual adornments than they do about the car itself, it’s safe to say we’re not dealing with your average VW owner here.  But then this isn’t your average VW.  In fact, to most people it’s not a VW at all, but a Second World War Willys Jeep.  So what’s it doing on you might ask?  The answer lies in the running gear, which comprises a Volkswagen torsion bar front beam, a VW gearbox and a flat-four engine.  Look closely under the sills just ahead of the rear wheels and you will see the familiar-looking torsion bar covers, indicating the rear suspension is all VW as well, as is the steering box and the brakes, all attached to a sturdy rectangular box section chassis with a steel, not glass fibre, body on top.  The company that came up with the idea for these Jeep-alikes was Hadley Engineering Inc. in California who, as far as we have been able to ascertain, sold them both as turnkey cars and in kit form from 1977 into the early 1980s. Even with the wonders of the internet these days, very little information seems to exist about them, but here’s what we do know.

” As authentic as possible for minimal outlay “


Horn of plenty

The steel frame that underpins all Veeps is a basic H-shape, with tubular bracing in an approximate x-shape from the single central crossmember to add some rigidity.  Bolt-on brackets front and rear enable you to attach a VW front beam and complete rear torsion bar and frame horn assembly.  To this the steel body is then bolted down via six welded-on body mounts.  The frame and body package, in 1977, would have set you back $1,795, not much less than the price of a Beetle at the time, which might go some way to explaining why they are a relative rarity these days.

For your money you did also get a pair of bumpers, a windscreen frame, a roll-over hoop, lights and a set of seats, as well as all the necessary fixings and fittings and conversion parts.  These included a firewall-mounted accelerator pedal, a bolt-on bracket to accept the VW clutch, brake pedal and master cylinder, a steering column extender with UJs and a top-mount bearing and a coupler and plate to relocate the VW gear shifter.  All you needed to supply was a donor car for its engine, gearbox, suspension, brakes, steering, wiring harness and miscellaneous parts like switches and gauges.  Plus a fuel tank and windscreen.

All-steel body

Where the biggest uncertainty today seems to stem from is what the bodies actually were.  Were they genuine Willys Overland Jeep bodies or aftermarket versions?  The Hadley brochure is non-committal, describing them simply as “all steel body manufactured to original military specifications.” Knowledgeable Willys people describe them as M38 replacement bodies, rather than original M38 bodies (the M38 was the later (’49-’52) military version of the Jeep, derived from the wartime (’41-’45) Willys MA and MB models).  With an eye to continuing production after the war, CJ (for Civilian Jeep) variants of the wartime Jeep were in development even before the war finished and are most easily distinguished by the presence of a drop-down tailgate to make loading easier.

Peter’s research into his own car here turned up a seven-digit Willys part number stamped into the body tub, which Willys Overland Motors in Toledo, Ohio have dated to 1949-’51 production, though they could be no more specific than that.  “As far as I can work out,” explains Peter, “it’s either a CJ2A or an M38 tub, but as it has the tailgate, it seems likely it’s a CJ version.”  This is all getting a bit deep for a VW based web site though, so let’s get back to Peter’s car here._n8a7364

Tech Info:
Willys Veep

ENGINE: 1641cc Type 1 by Pete Roberts; Engle 110 cam; dual Solex carbs
GEARBOX: Early ’60’s Beetle 4-speed, modified to fit
SUSPENSION: VW Beetle front beam assembly; VW torsion bar and swing axle rear with coilover shocks
BRAKES: Stock VW wide-5
WHEELS: 16 x 4.5-inch, made from VW wide-5 centres and Land Rover Series One rims
TYRES: 6.00-16 bar grips

What made you buy it in the first place, we asked? “I grew up watching war films, all of which had Jeeps blasting around them and, from there on in, I really wanted one.  Prices for a decent wartime Jeep are crazy though – up to £20k – and even a complete basket case will set you back £5k.  I knew this wasn’t realistic for a car that would only see about 1,000 miles a year, so I put the idea out of my head.  Then, one day, I came across a chap in the Midlands who had this Veep for sale.”  That chap turned out to be well known Buggy enthusiast Melvin Hubbard.  Mel had bought the Veep from a guy who imported it from California in 1982 and had got as far as stripping it, blasting it and painting the body green. “When I bought it, it had an engine in it that didn’t run, no interior, instruments, wiring or brakes.  I’ve never had a VW before, but I’m quite mechanically minded, and was told that VW mechanics were pretty straightforward, so I took a punt on it.”  About a year later, the Veep was roadworthy once again and had passed its first MoT. “Much tinkering has happened since then though…” says Peter with a grin.


Built on a budget

The majority of that ‘tinkering’ has been sourcing era-correct Willys Jeep parts and detailing the Veep, which Peter and his partner, Heather, or Hettie, take to military shows and wartime re-enactment events. “The whole thing has been done on a budget. The aim was to make it as authentic as possible for minimal outlay.  “It’s ‘dressed’ to mimic the US division that raided Hitler’s Eagle Nest,” explains Peter enthusiastically.  “I painted it in Olive Drab myself and the stencils mark it as 101st Airborne Division, Easy Company. Booty from that raid includes six bottles of Hitler’s own label wine and a wickerwork basket of silverware, though I’ve still to source the contents for the latter!”

Field kit includes the obligatory shovel, axe, gas mask, tow rope and ’screen cover, but Peter has personalised the Veep further with, amongst other things, a .50-calibre Browning heavy machine gun of his own making. Yes, we did say of his own making.  “I contacted Browning and explained what I was doing.  They kindly sent me plan drawings and I had them blown up to 1:1 scale at my local Staples.  That raised a few eyebrows, and they had to get the manager to agree to do it.  Then I made it out of bits of scrap metal and wood.  The barrel is a display stand from a shop, the body is made from shelving from Boots and the grips are bits of old broom handle.  The whole thing cost less than £50, compared to £700 for a replica one.”

Along similar lines, the radio is one of our favourite pieces. It’s a genuine 1940’s wartime unit but was way beyond restoration so Peter had another idea: “I stripped the valves out and replaced the internals with an amplifier and two 6 x 9 speakers. I connect this up to an iPhone, which is full of WW2 radio broadcasts, music and military chatter.”

Peter is quick to acknowledge the help of another Peter in the project – Pete Roberts at Funkenblitz in Portsmouth.  “Peter’s been amazing.  He has a real eye for detail and helped enormously in tuning the engine and modifying the gearbox (an early ‘60’s Beetle unit).  I owe a great deal to him and his engineering skills.”  Given Pete’s penchant for cubic inches, we think Peter did well to get his Veep back out of his workshop with just a mild 1641 in it.  “It might only be a small VW engine, but it goes like a rocket as the car weighs so little.  It’s quite frightening, and it’ll leave any Willys Jeep standing.”

” A .50-calibre Browning machine gun of his own making “

Eye for detail

If Peter says Pete has an eye for detail, then this proves it takes one to know one, for it’s in the bits that might be lost on most VW fans that he has really excelled.  Take the wheels for example.  Willys Jeeps had 16-inch wheels and, when Peter failed in his efforts to track down a set of 16-inch Split Beetle wheels, he used his ingenuity and cut the centres out of some 15-inch solids and mated them with Series One Land Rover rims as a stop-gap measure.

Some of the incidental details Peter has added are small, but important if you’re going to build a replica of anything and make it believable.  He’s even gone as far as printing an image of a radiator core on fibreboard and mounting it behind the front panel to further fool casual onlookers.  It works too, for the most part, and the majority of people take the Veep in the spirit to which it is intended, though Peter enjoys telling the story of the overweight paratrooper reenactor who told him rather rudly, ‘Well mate, it’s not a proper f’ing Jeep.’  “I thought, at 50-years old and 50 stone, you’re not anything like an airborne trooper!” laughs Peter.

For our money, this is one of the most convincing VW-based replicas we’ve ever seen, and think Peter’s made a superb job of detailing it both authentically and to his own tastes. The fact that his partner Hettie – that’s her doing the superb job of pin-up modelling on our shoot – clearly enjoys it, and the lifestyle it affords them, as much as him makes this a great story, and one we are delighted to be able to bring you through”

Photos by: Dan Pullen_n8a7194

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