1956 JEEP 4 X 4 CUSTOM CONVERTIBLE
by Howard J. Thompson
I purchased this 1956 L6-226 Jeep wagon in the late summer of 1968 from a private party near Hammond, WI with the expressed purpose of rebuilding it into a classic convertible.
The wagon was completely original, mechanically good, straight and as would be expected it had the usual lower body rust.
I then purchased a 1960 Ford Galaxie convertible with an operable top and a 1962 Buick Special with a low mileage V6 cast iron engine with a manual transmission from Pilquist's Auto Salvage in Bayport, MN. I left the two cars in Willie's lot and I removed the parts as I needed them.
I cut out the rusted door sills and rocker panels. I fabricated sheet metal to reshape the door openings so as to stiffen up the body before cutting off the top.
After cutting off the top I used the rear portion of the top to fashion the rear deck. This was cut to accept the full length of the Ford top frame. I retained the wagon's rear tail gate.
I removed the straight 6 Super Hurricane engine from the Jeep. I then removed the V6 from the Buick including the clutch housing. I also removed the motor mounts from the Buick, modified them and welded them into the Jeep. I coupled the GM stuff to the Jeep transmission using an after-market adapter kit.
From the Ford convertible I removed the rear seat cushions, rear seat bulkhead, top frame wells, hydraulic pump, cylinders, hoses and valve and top frame. I also removed the header over the windshield. I cut 5 inches out of all related parts to narrow them down so they fit properly into the Jeep body. After everything was in its place the top functioned perfectly.
I removed the wiring harness and gauges and cut the entire dash out of the Jeep. I then removed the wiring harness, gauges, switches and radio out
of the Buick and cut the entire dash out of the Buick that included the overhead pedal arrangement.
I cut 5 inches out of the Buick dash in the glove box area, pieced the dash together and welded the Buick dash into the Jeep. The overhead pedal assemble was modified slightly and fastened into place.
I reassembled the dash components and wired in the harness. I modified the linkages from the overhead pedals and made up the foot feed linkage. I reassembled the radiator, hoses and grill and fenders. I changed the oil and filter. I put a camp stool behind the wheel, turned the key and the engine sprang to life.
I completed all the body work and painting. I found a clean Corvair at Pilquist's and purchased the bucket seats and the steering wheel. With those in place I drove the Jeep to an upholstery and top shop in White Bear Lake, MN. They did a beautiful job with the floor mats, door panels, front and rear seats and the top.
I fabricated 1/4" thick acrylic removable windows for the side doors and quarter windows. They came in and out easily and stayed put. There was very little wind noise and no leaks.
The Jeep was fun to drive and proved to be reliable. It raised a lot of eyebrows. Often people would catch up to us on the road and ask about the car's origin. Many guessed German command car. In the fall of 1971 I traded the Jeep convertible for a new 1971 Jeep Wagoneer with the Buick 350 V8. That was the first of many Wagoneers we owned through 1987.Larry's Comment: Now that gives real meaning to the words "Hybrid Vehicle"!
Back in the day customizing was a real art and required great skill and creativity. Howard, your '56 Custom Jeep Wagon looks like a work of art.
Just wondering if you miss it?