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The name "Willys" was alive and in production in Colombia at least into 1999. Willco ("Willys Colombia") was producing several Jeep models under license, including a CJ-3B-type body on both short and long wheelbases. The Willco models are used by police forces and others who can afford them, and many older Willys Jeeps are also still in use in Colombia.
The Willco CJ-3B had square headlights, giving it a certain resemblance to the Wrangler YJ (whose headlights are actually rectangular, although they are often referred to as "square"). The Jeep used a Hercules 4-cylinder engine exported from the U.S. by Tapco International, who also export Chrysler engines and parts to a number of overseas markets.
The long-wheelbase Willco Jeep came in a hardtop and a stake-bed version (see side-view drawings of both versions, 40k GIF). A more radically different model produced by Willco was a small passenger van, built on the same frame.
Like most other Jeeps built outside North America, the Willco vehicles don't meet U.S. emissions and brake standards, so they cannot be imported as built. It seems to be legal to import them into the U.S. or Canada only as "gliders", that is without brakes or powertrain. A company in Mexico offered to make the Jeep US-legal for US$5100, with a new Ford 1.7L, 88 hp 4-cylinder engine hooked through the original tranny/transfer case, and 4-wheel power (vacuum assist) disc brakes, on top of the reported current purchase price of US$13,000.
A Universal Jeep ad published by Colombian distributor Interamericana appears to date from the early 1950's, and aims at an agricultural market. It mentions dealers in 18 cities in the country.
Ricardo Suárez writes from Bogotá: "Some people say that there are around 30,000 (pretty exaggerated number, I think) working Willys Jeeps in Colombia, and most of them are located in the coffee-producing area. About 85% of them are good old CJ-3B's, followed by CJ-3A, CJ-5 and CJ-6 models (40K JPEG). The CJ-5 is known as 'oreja de perro' (dog's ear) -- pretty interesting nickname.
"They are basically used as rural taxis and almost every small town has its own annual parade. They transport coffee and bananas and they are always loaded to the top. People call a fully-loaded Willys 'yipao' and the term has been also applied as a measurement unit. Don't be surprised if you hear people talking about two 'yipaos' of coffee."
These photos, courtesy of Ricardo Suárez and Jaime Gaviria, were taken in the Zona Cafetera, the coffee-growing region. They show more CJ-3B's together in one place than I've ever seen before (even in Ladakh). The Jeeps carry the Willys name on the grille and hood, but "JEEP" on the tailgate. Some also have "4 WHEEL DRIVE" stencilled on the tailgate, as well as under the front fenders which is a nice touch.
The logo painted behind the front fenders, reading "AUTOLUJO S.A., S.ROSA C.", is that of a rural taxi company based in Santa Rosa de Cabal, and the number MLJ-383 is the Jeep's licence number. Note also the "4 WHEEL DRIVE" stencil inside the fender, and the distinctive front wheel.
Ricardo adds: "You can find a lot of almost-original parts for the CJ-3B
in Colombia. There are places where steel body panels are made. Prices
vary according to the part needed. You can buy the complete body (14
gauge steel) for about US $1,800 or less. Ten months ago, the right
front fender for my '54 was quoted at US $65. It seems that the person that produces the body panels bought machinery from a factory called EBRO in Spain which produced a very similar version to our CJ-3B. I saw one, in pretty bad condition, a couple of months ago in the country side. They don't have the Willys logo -- instead, they have an EBRO logo in the same places."
People in Colombia like to decorate Jeeps. This CJ-3B is promoting a lottery, in Salento, Quindio, Colombia. Sebastian Lobo-Guerrero, who took this shot, says, "Salento is an amazing small town full of Willys tradition and great history."
Sebastian saw this Jeep with a popular hood ornament, and chrome trim on the grille slots, in Montenegro.
From Salento, here's another 3B with a horse on the hood. Roof racks are clearly also a popular accessory. See more of them in Salento on a red CJ-3B and a lineup of Jeeps (180K JPEGs).
Sebastian Lobo-Guerrero's dad spotted this coffee shop on wheels. Sebastian says, "Note the 'coffe' sign, the wrong spelling in English and really no meaning in Spanish (it should be 'café'.) The top white sign saying 'minutos' means cell phone minutes. You basically pay a fee and you can use their cell phone for a call -- see the lady using the phone for a call. The middle white sign offers 'mazamorra', a local dish that not everyone dares to try. Not that easy to find these days, and not really recommended if you have an afternoon full of things to do; most likely you will need a long nap after eating it. The bottom sign 'arroz con leche' means rice pudding, sweetened to perfection. It can not be more Colombian than this!"
Thanks to Sebastian Lobo-Guerrero, Ricardo Suárez and Jaime Gaviria for providing photos, and to Frank D. Gough II for additional information. -- Derek Redmond
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