Stock 58 Wagon - need safety suggestions

dras

Bigger Hammer
All-Star
Nov 10, 2016
43
Salt Lake City
First Name
David
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
Willys Year:
  1. 1958
I have a 58 Wagon with Super Hurricane that is essentially stock. A prior owner went through and refurbished it, and the only upgrades (as far as I know) are limited to two items: wipers are electric, not vacuum operated; and the ignition is electronic. It starts and runs great. I bought it because it was stock and I wanted to relive my childhood - learning to drive in a 51 wagon. I intend to keep it mostly stock; but am interested in some safety upgrades. It gets little mileage. I use it around town, but also occasionally on a paved mountain road up to 45 mph. I would appreciate some suggestions. Seatbelts are obvious. What else do our experienced members recommend?
 

Larry Messing

Well Oiled
Apr 5, 2014
2,257
Phoenix AZ
First Name
Larry
Willys Model
  1. Pickup
Willys Year:
  1. 1951
Hey David.......

Ok the two biggest things that could kill you .......i would go through every inch of the steering assembly the steering box and linkages and replace all worn parts and tighten things up...
go through the suspension looking at the spring packs and shocks looking for broken leaves keepers or worn bottomed out shocks.....

.then i would also go through entire brake system flushing entire system and putting new fluid in it..... maybe replacing pedal bushings if needed ,,,,checking shoe material and all the moving parts..... adjusters,... springs,.... wheel cylinders,... ...maybe while wheels are off.... repack all wheel bearings....

depending on what you have currently,.....maybe go so far as to upgrade the brakes to the Bendix 11" self adjusting/energizing brakes.

Larry
 

Lookout Ranch

Well Oiled
All-Star
May 9, 2015
5,835
Sierra Foothills
First Name
Kurt
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
Willys Year:
  1. 1957
Thinking generically, seat belts with shoulder harnesses, seats with headrests, dual reservoir master cylinders, and components that affect steering tightness and control have been among the most important automotive safety advances — short of padded dashes, shock-absorbing bumpers and anti-lock brakes.
 

WA7OPY

Precision Fit
Aug 1, 2019
969
Missoula, mt
First Name
Phil
Willys Model
  1. Jeepster
Willys Year:
  1. 1947
The fold up pass seat is a killer without seat belts, the riders in the back seat will go thru the windshield with a panic stop, I did that to my brother. Dog ran out I stomped on the brakes, David went thru the windshield. He got hurt bad. Some form of locking bar would be in order....WA7OPY
 

mickeykelley

Well Oiled
Sep 9, 2015
2,951
Republic of Texas
First Name
Mickey
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
  2. CJ
Willys Year:
  1. 1955
  2. 1958
Even happens with the front seat. In my wreck with Wilbur the front passenger seat was empty, but it flew forward and cracked the windshield. The EMS guys thought that crack was my face and we're trying to figure out how I got on that side of the car.
 

dras

Bigger Hammer
All-Star
Nov 10, 2016
43
Salt Lake City
First Name
David
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
Willys Year:
  1. 1958
Hey David.......

Ok the two biggest things that could kill you .......i would go through every inch of the steering assembly the steering box and linkages and replace all worn parts and tighten things up...
go through the suspension looking at the spring packs and shocks looking for broken leaves keepers or worn bottomed out shocks.....

.then i would also go through entire brake system flushing entire system and putting new fluid in it..... maybe replacing pedal bushings if needed ,,,,checking shoe material and all the moving parts..... adjusters,... springs,.... wheel cylinders,... ...maybe while wheels are off.... repack all wheel bearings....

depending on what you have currently,.....maybe go so far as to upgrade the brakes to the Bendix 11" self adjusting/energizing brakes.

Larry
Thanks much for the detailed checklist. I need it!
 

dras

Bigger Hammer
All-Star
Nov 10, 2016
43
Salt Lake City
First Name
David
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
Willys Year:
  1. 1958
Thanks to all for chipping in with ideas, and stories about things that can go wrong. Only trouble is, if my wife sees this thread she will insist that I sell the Willys, or park it until it is perfectly safe. Neither is going to happen.
I am thinking now: steering, brake system, seatbelts, and some kind of latch that can lock the folding seats in an upright position (and unlock them without much trouble). Anybody ever seen such a latch?
 

SeeJayTwo

Sharpest Tool
May 4, 2014
421
USA
First Name
KD
Willys Model
  1. Pickup
Willys Year:
  1. 1957
Latches, seat belts, shoulder belts.........there really is no good way to do these things. In the modern world we have proper seat belts and air bags.
Attach belts to the seat frame, seat frame rips out from floor. Attach to floor, needs heavy duty backer plates. Seat still rips out and crushes you.
Shoulder belts, even harder to secure against G loads.
Folding seats can cause more injury if you are tied to them. Who knows?
A quick disconnect latch is possible I guess. 80's suburban's have some and other vehicles. Bottom line is don't tell your wife, don't take her or the kids for a fast/traffic ride. This whole subject has many opinions, but seat belt restraints, not engineered, and put on a vehicle from back in the day, is possibly a false sense of security.
The aftermarket sells belts with a big mounting washer. Good luck with that.
Then of course there is the steering wheel shaft. I have had a lot of old trucks and still do. Give it your best shot and enjoy it without thinking about it is what I do. You have read all about the brakes and steering. These babies were good to tow to hunting and use on the ranch/farm. No sweat. Low speed is your defense. Sorry. I have studied this issue many times.
On the bright side, it's no different than a motorcycle, a boat, a plane, a train, hang gliding, mountain climbing, skiing....... wait!!! that's really not a bright side? That's just other dangerous stuff. As Emily would say "Never mind."
 
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cwdtmmrs

Well Oiled
Jul 19, 2012
3,133
First Name
Tim
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
Willys Year:
  1. 1952
I disagree with SeeJayTwo. Our Willys can be made much safer to drive. Properly mounted seat and shoulder belts are a huge safety improvement. Many old cars that did not come with belts installed later had service bulletins on how to retrofit lap and shoulder belts . Better brakes are definitely a must have. Stock rebuilt, tight steering and suspension can be surprisingly good. I just finished proper rebuild of my Ross steering box and it almost feels like power steering. Yes, the solid steering box could go through your chest if you aren't wearing the proper restraints. There are aftermarket collapsible columns available if that really frightens you. Decent mirrors are a good thing . As mention above, the folding or pop out seats are a real danger. I haven't found an acceptable method to hold down my rear pop out seats yet, but I can tell you from experience that that fly all around in a roll over. I have been in 2 Willys wagon total accidents, neither of them my fault, and I am still on the forum.
 

SeeJayTwo

Sharpest Tool
May 4, 2014
421
USA
First Name
KD
Willys Model
  1. Pickup
Willys Year:
  1. 1957
It's good to present different opinions on this issue. I think the steering, suspension and brakes being up to par on any vehicle is common sense. My discussion is about seat belts. Belts were offered in some vehicles in early 60's, mandatory equipment in 1968, and N.Y. passed the first law requiring you to wear them in 1984. Seat bolting had to be redesigned later as crash info emerged.
Some perspective: A 160 lb person, wearing a seat belt and traveling at only 30 miles per hour, experiences around 30 G of force in a front-end collision with a fixed object. 30 x 160= 4800 lbs force. 2.4 Tons on the bolts, the floor, the pillar and the person. The design criteria for all backing plates, washers, bolts and vehicle structure is 5000 psi min shear and tensile strength each tie point. If one bolt holds two belts it's 10,000. The frame is the only place with that kind of strength on old vehicles. 7/16-20 or 1/2-13 will suffice. The seats attachment is a separate issue.
 
Last edited:

cwdtmmrs

Well Oiled
Jul 19, 2012
3,133
First Name
Tim
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
Willys Year:
  1. 1952
SJ. Here is entire quote from the Jeff Rasansky Law firm:

"According to GSU’s HyperPhysics Project, a 160 lb person—wearing a seat belt and traveling at only 30 miles per hour—experiences around 30 g’s of force in a front-end collision with a fixed object. That’s 2.4 tons of force acting on the body! What’s worse is that if the vehicle occupant was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, they would likely experience 150 g’s, or 12 tons of force."

A lot of force for sure. The force would be spread out over some square inches though.

More interesting info on seat belts:

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/seatb.html#cc2
 

Lookout Ranch

Well Oiled
All-Star
May 9, 2015
5,835
Sierra Foothills
First Name
Kurt
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
Willys Year:
  1. 1957
Thanks to all for chipping in with ideas, and stories about things that can go wrong. Only trouble is, if my wife sees this thread she will insist that I sell the Willys, or park it until it is perfectly safe.

If she brings it up, tell her you’ve been thinking about selling the Willys and getting a Hayabusa.
 
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