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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Did I accidentally buy Don Prudhomme's hot-rodded Willys CJ-5 for $1600? | Hagerty Media

I am a sucker for an old car with a good story. One of the many old-car loves of mine is of the four-wheel-drive variety-the early Willys CJ-5. There's just something about the combination of a short wheelbase, tall tires, and a driver's seat directly on top of a fuel tank that does it for me.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/automotive-history/did-i-accidentally-buy-don-prudhommes-hot-rodded-wi...
39 REPLIES 39
Brandan
Hagerty Employee

Great story Brad! It's so cool that you were able to actually ask Snake about it.
Brad
Hagerty Employee

It was an amazing opportunity for sure!
uweschmidt
Advanced Driver

Wow so close but no Cigar however the excitement of traveling this journey is what our Hobby is al about You are one Lucky man !!!
Brad
Hagerty Employee

I'd really love to know if the Jeep still exists out there somewhere. Anybody seen it?
25aniv
Intermediate Driver

Loved the story! Heck, even if it wasn't tied to Don by a big stretch, for the measly $1,600 it'd be all kinds of fun anyway!
sherwood
New Driver

Huh, a 327 broke a 9 inch?? Must have been a pretty nasty one!
GRP_Photo
Instructor

He said it had quick-change axles. Maybe not the bomb-proof FoMoCo parts?
TonyT
Instructor

Sounds like a full-floater conversion. And even a nine inch can break. I shelled one in a 68 Mustang after we installed a Tremec five speed. The people that built the center section said it shouldn't have broken, but it did. Another center section from a different vendor (Mark Williams) fixed it.
Brad
Hagerty Employee

It did sound nasty. And I did completely sidestep the clutch, which was pretty stupid!
Tinkerah
Technician

Yeah, but no. On those skinny tires no less. I have twisted driveshafts to my shame (credit?) but no broken gears. I highly suspect the diff had to be faulty.
kcreary
Pit Crew

Great story Brad! I kind of like the rat look, but the finished product is pretty awesome too.
Dhturk
Intermediate Driver

Great find and story regardless of the outcome. But, you didn’t accidentally buy a Jeep. You purposely bought the Jeep. Small point, and I wouldn’t have mentioned it if came from the comments section, but journalists ...
Now for the blowback.
bblhed
Advanced Driver

I'm thinking of an episode of Seinfeld where Kramer buys a car that belonged to Jon Voight and it turns out it was some guy that happened to be named Jon Voight and not the actor.
dbucknh
Pit Crew

Memorable episode!
It was George who bought car and the original owner was John Voight - a dentist.
Hilarity shortly ensues when they attempt to track him down.
SilentBoy741
Advanced Driver

Well, maybe not Don Prudhomme's tire, but at least the tire of a guy who knew a guy who knew Don Prudhomme. And in the world of collectible celebrity used tires, that's just as good.
LamboEd
Intermediate Driver

Thanks for sharing this great story, and I love Don's replay, why would I have an old Jeep, I'm a drag racer! To bad it wasn't his you could have sold it a Barrett Jackson for 100K, instead of the 2K you probably got for it. So you missed out on 98K, but you encounter with Don is PRICELESS!
Brad
Hagerty Employee

Story of my life- all stories and no profit! 🙂
Lightning1
Detailer

Ok...but you got a decent deal on a jeep!
JPTL
Pit Crew

I'd say a SMOKING deal on a classic Willy's.
1fastcat
Intermediate Driver

Good story I really enjoyed as I've always been a fan of Don Prudhomme . Too bad it wasn't his jeep . That tire is sure a keeper .
stevecobb45
Detailer

Stories like that happen all the time when buying a car. I bought a 63 Impala that was once owned by Dale Earnhardt Sr. so I was told. Tried contacting NC DMV for verification but they wouldn't help. Turns out this car was restored using body panels from Earnhardt's old car. So I guess I could say I owned Earnhardt's car body panels.
Goes2fast
Pit Crew

Most of the drag racers are like that, as a fan I have talked to many including Prudhomme. I have never heard of quick change axles for a Ford 9 inch. If you are referring to the fact that there are no C clips all Ford 8" and 9" rears were that design along with 50s GM rear axles as well.I abused many 9s and never damaged a ring and pinion but I have destroyed the spider gears in a couple of stock posi 9s. After that I always swapped them to Detroit lockers and never broke another. I only owned 1 CJ5 and it was a 70s Renegade with the AMC 304 V8 and it was fast so I imagine a souped up 327 would be a handful.
Brad
Hagerty Employee

All I remember was that the axles on each side had three allen headed bolts holding them in behind a little plate. Pull the bolts, the axle slid out of each side- just like that they were out.
GRP_Photo
Instructor

Sounds like stock Ford to me. My E-100 has four bolts in a plate under the rear brake drum. Remove those, and the axle pulls right out. I once changed an outer axle bearing in the parking lot of the parts store/machine shop. It took them longer to press on a new bearing than it took me to pull and re-install the axle. Caveat: mine is not a 9" rear end.

drhino
Instructor

If it was the Snakes; it would have had a Keith Black hemi in it.
johnmarianmarks
Intermediate Driver

I love the early 911! Whatever happened to that?

When I was in high school (back in that day) I never wanted a Corvette and I did not even want a 911. I could not decide between a Lotus Elan and a 912 Targa. Why a 912? Less dead weight hanging out behind the rear axle.
Brad
Hagerty Employee

The early 911 was wonderful, and I'm going to write a story about how I found that one as well and what happened to it. I am the last person on the planet to have sold one of those cheap!
Brad
Hagerty Employee

Just for fun, I have learned that the Jeep might be in Iowa. Would be super cool to talk to the current owner!
60Caddy
Pit Crew

Great story Brad, something about Jeeps. I restored a 54 willies C3 for a Mr Larry Ryden of Northern Minnesota in about 1997 ish. He was given from a friend that walked into a dealership and purchased it new for a hunt camp. it had no miles on it and was full of whoops we just side swiped a tree and tore the spare tire off, and wholly cow make sure the safety is on as you just shot a hole in the Jeep! First show, first place. Good memories.I wish I was not such a low tech red neck and I could scan and attach a few pictures...........
bellaghia
Pit Crew

Brad, stories like this reinforce the importance of being good custodians and serve as a reminder that the wonderful and interesting people we meet through this hobby is what matters the most
Buzz
Pit Crew

Great story, Brad. I gotta say though, your first clue should have been that Chevy small block. Everybody knows that if The Snake had a Jeep, it would have nothing short of a 426 Hemi between the fenders and a Dana 60 in the rear!
JPTL
Pit Crew

Love the story and the early CJ. These old Willys CJs ooze with character and like Elvis and apple pie, are American icons.
It seems like many have been owned by car guys and the mods. can be nice surprises.
I must say that doing 60 is crazy in my somewhat stock '62. Doing 80 would be insane...and I'll never do it. Mostly because the Dauntless and the gearing would never get me there, but also because I'd like to live another day 😉
Thanks for sharing a great Jeep story!
tigercat
Intermediate Driver

Well you may not have had an official Don Prudhomme Jeep but you did have and still own an official Don Prudhomme tire.
y5e06
New Driver

Good story, but the answer was clear. No, it wasn't Don Prudhomme's jeep.
jrmedsel
Pit Crew

I'm curious about the Mercedes w108 (109???) in the garage? Do you still have it? It looks like a beauty from what we can see.
Lobster70
Pit Crew

This was a well-written, fun read. It's the kind of thing any classic auto enthusiast can appreciate and identify with. And even though the Jeep only turned out to be "celebrity adjacent" it now has a verified story that actually does include Don Prudhomme!
manorborn
Pit Crew

Back in 1972, I bought an early 50s CJ2 for under a grand, in mint condition and powered by a Chevy 302. I bought a set of non-directional tires from a military surplus outfit in upsate NY, had the newly painted body re-painted in French navy gray, hand painted the canvass top in camoflouge and painted a large black star on the hood. I know...bizarre, but it was the Che era after all. Used to drive it on the beach in the Hamptons in a time when you could still do stuff like that!
chrlsful
Instructor

all good fun. I'm just wonderin what the head under the bench is in the last pic...
HistoricAfton
Intermediate Driver

Two degrees of separation. I had a student in my auto class a couple years ago who is the Snake's
grandson. No good racing stories and I didn't get him to speak to my class. Again close but no cigar. Would have made a great guest speaker. Too bad my students had no idea who he is, just like they don't know who Lou Gehrig or Johnny Unitas were they don't know the name of the all time greats of motor sports.