Launched in the U.S. in January 1953, the Jeep® CJ-3B just celebrated its 70th birthday. The model was the first Jeep to be manufacturered by Willys-Overland in Brazil in 1954. Some earlier models had been sold in the Brazilian marketplace, but it was the CJ-3B which first integrated a national parts operation for its customer base in Brazil and putting the American adventure brand on the map in the marketplace.
The CJ-3B (CJ meaning “Civilian Jeep”), was an evolution of the models produced until then for both civilian and non-military customers. Born in 1945, with the CJ-2A, the CJ family was composed of a series of small, open-bodied off-road vehicles and compact pickup trucks, built and sold by several successive incarnations of the Jeep brand until 1986. It was then replaced by the Wrangler (YJ) and continues to play a key role in the current design of the Wrangler (JL) family.
The CJ-38 went on sale in Brazil in 1954. Built in São Bernardo do Campo (SP) by Willys-Overland of Brazil, it brought as differentials of previous generations the front grille and the higher hood to be able to accommodate Willys’ new four-cylinder Hurricane engine, generating the nickname “horse face”. Some advertisements of the time highlighted the strength and off-road capacity of the models, which remain great attributes of Jeep to this day.
Among the many adventures completed by owners of the CJ-3B over its 70-year history, one was highlighted as “Operation Pineapple”. In 1955, three Scouts left São Paulo for Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada to participate at the 8th World Scout Jamboree. The incredible trip, ended up being an extended trip to Alaska aboard a CJ-3B.
During the trip, the three scouts traveled about 73,000 kilometers (45,360 miles) in just over a year, passing through 19 countries and living incredible stories. Those scouts were named Hugo Vidal, Charles Downey, and Jan Stekly, instantly became legends in the Jeep community.
All of this was portrayed in the book “Flashes of an Adventure – Operation Pineapple”. The CJ-3B used in the expedition contained a number of parts and accessories, however, it had no mechanical issues on the journey what so ever.
A special video citing the trip was posted to the Jeep Brazil YouTube channel in 2018. In the video, Hugo Vidal, one of the scouts that made the trip gave his take on the life-changing event some 65 years later. We posted the video at the top of the page, you may have to put the closed captions on to understand him in Portugesuse, but it is a fansanating story for any Jeep diehard.
But while Jeep discontinued the CJ-3B after 1968, it continued to license the design to a number of international manufacturers including Mitsubishi of Japan and Mahindra of India. Mitsubishi’s version was built from 1953 until 1998, while Mahindra continued to produce vehicles based on the Willys CJ-3B until October 1st, 2010.
Ultimately, the CJ-3B plays a massive role in not only the Wrangler’s history, but the entire Jeep brand.
Despite having a reputation for not being the most attractive of the CJ-series, the flat fender CJ-3B continues to be a highly sought-after part of Jeep’s history. The 1953 CJ-3B pictured here sold for an amazing $12,350 in May of 2022 on BringATrailer.com.