Do I have a 1955 CJ5 or an M38A1?

by Don
(Newbury Park, CA)

1955 M38A1 (aka Model MD) File Photo

1955 M38A1 (aka Model MD) File Photo

I bought a vehicle which on the pink slip states that it is a "1955 Willys CJ5".


It has no embossed VIN plate on the firewall. The state of California issued it a registration number which is riveted on the drivers door jamb. This is not uncommon here for salvaged or surplus vehicles.

It has a diamond metal tailgate added after the fact, a detachable gauge panel (that has a 60 MPH speedometer, and an original SW fuel gauge), a single pane windshield -- but the VIN stamped on the boss above the water pump has the VIN MD120817.

The transmission's serial is SD 807895 with the number "14" stamped to the right about 6 inches.

Is it just a combination of a bunch of old jeeps? I am just curious of what I have! Thanks!


Larry's Comment: I don't have all of the stats on these early M38A1/CJ Jeeps, but the MD in the VIN you gave would indicate that at least part of your rig is from a M38A1 military Jeep.

To complicate things more there were military CJ's built as well in that era. The military M38A1 had the serial number located on a data plate originally attached to the dashboard.

Many of the M38A1 and CJ parts were interchangeable, which would make it easy to mix and match parts over the years.

Anyone else out there able to help Don identify his Jeep?

Comments for Do I have a 1955 CJ5 or an M38A1?

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1955 CJ5 or M38AI
by: D. Strickler from Az...

I have the same vehicle type predicament, a 1955 CJ5/M38A1... I work for Vehicle Management & Analysis, a small career field in the USAF responsible for procurement, disposal and vehicle asset control for AF vehicles. In my past 20 year career, I have seen a lot of AF commercial vehicles with M-series attributes, it would not be uncommon for your CJ5 to share M-series components. I know this might only confuse the identity of your vehicle, but sometimes military vehicles are just what they are, modified commercial vehicles.

M38A1 vs. CJ5
by: Anonymous

I don't know if this will help....
CJ's were 12 volt and Military were 24 volt. Also Military has waterproof spark plugs and breather tubes or "snorkels" for driving under water.
Military had dual batteries in the cowl and CJ's had one 12 volt Battery under the hood.
Military had multiple 2 and 3 position switches on the dash while CJ's did not. Hope that helps.

M38A1 Identifiers
by: Anonymous

The serial number is also on a metal tag on the passenger rear wheel well behind the front passenger seat and another is on the right passenger side cowl. It is a recessed round hole for external power for powering equipment. Hope this helps.

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