Willys Hotchkiss Jeeps
Willys Hotchkiss JeepsWillys Hotchkiss Jeeps

Another attempt on a Sahara crossing - in a Willys!

Here's a mail I have had (including my reply) from some intrped souls tackling the Sahara in a war time willys!

Hi Barrimore, My name is B... and I am a part of a Troop attached to the British Western Desert Recce Group who plan to navigate some of the old ww2 LRDG routes (see website http://www.wdrg.org/  later this year. I have been following your adventures in the “Classic Military Vehicles” Magazine and see you modified the air cleaner on the Hotchkiss (we will be taking MB Willys etc). Can you please let me know of any modifications (details of air cleaner) etc that may be of relevance for a successful transverse of the Sahara. Well done on your travels-what an adventure you had. This sort of challenge keeps me inspired. Cheers, B...New Zealand.

Hi B...,
Good to hear from you. Your home country is fantastic was there for a few months recently, tried a few of your off roading tracks - much better than any of the stuff we have here!
The atlas mountains were the greatest challenge for me as the rocky tracks were hazardous and battered the poor jeep! The desert shouldn't need too much preparation! I wont patronise you with telling you what to carry, but I would take some epoxy resin and a complete change of diff oil (EP 90) would be advantageous. (I managed to fix the leak in the rear diff casing in a street in morocco)
I basically bought a fuel filter (paper element) that had rubber ends (think it was for a commercial van) and taped it to the air filter inlet with electrical tape.  I periodically pulled it off tapped it out and re attached.  Also when out of the wind I would empty away the oil bath and flush element in situ with petrol, then put back in oil (use engine not axle)
I put on an expansion tank onto the rad, and actually had the rad rebuilt before I went to ensure maximum water flow.  Also put on a new water pump.
I cut the fuel lines after the fuel filter and added a new paper filter in as well - I had to change this a few times on the journey as you cant help getting sand in the fuel tank.
The fuel bowl eventually vibrated loose and sucked air, so I started to loose power.  I would periodically tighten all nuts and give the vehicle a once over every morning with an oil can and spanner set!
I lost a jerry can in the desert, but had added a safety strap to the handle so I dragged it for a good 10 miles behind me, but didn't loose a single drop!  Add failsafes like this to any removable item as you can be concetrating so hard you can loose stuff off the back!
Change your charging system to a commercially available and new system.  The original willys charging units and reg are rubbish.  Also I didn't use a sealed battery as wanted to allow for expansion - so took ionised water as well.
Take spare lighting somehow, as both headlamps fell off (vibrated and snapped) and left me a liitle in the dark!
Hitting Wadis at speed were wrecking the jeep, it was the exit banks that has the gretest toll, compressing the rear shocks - and eventually they burst.  Take a spare set!! and some tools to fit them (they can be fiddly)  In the end I had the locals beef up the springs and shocks to handle all the kit I was carrying. (picture attached)
Remember to delfate your tyres - but get them back up on rocky bits as the side walls are vulnerable.   I used Kleber nato tyres, you may find the original bar grips aren't adequate.
Definately suspension parts and harvey spicer joints - the diffs do heat up, expand and you loose oil, so top ups are needed.  Its tempting to pressure wash the jeep if you get a chance - but dont as it blows grit ito all the joints and wears them out.
I had to have physio therapy when I got back due to my arms witherng away!!  If you are sitting in a jeep for weeks on end you get knackered, probably don't exercise and you get muscle wastage - believe that if you will!!  Also the noise of the jeeps are deafening after a few thousand miles - my ear plugs were worth their weight in gold.  I also drove for a few days with the top and winscreen down and than had two days suffering from severe heat exhaustion - it looks cools - is great fun, but you don't realise how you heat up so quickly and you can pass out!  Dust is the killer - I was coughing up blood after a week even though I wore two scarves and googles. I would definately look at modern masks - the old arabian scarves aren't much cop!
I have a bespoke storage bin for the back of a jeep if you wanted to borrow it - even has a built in table you can pull out - as keeps your food out the sand. Let me know
You will have a great time doing this - I'll watch the website with great interest.  If you need to talk I have a mobile. 
The parting bit of advice is to check and triple check the vehicle, replace what you can with new, and any tiny niggle you have now - will turn into a massive gaping sore on the trip!  (eg a whining diff, soft rear leaf springs, or a rattling exhaust!) you get the picture!
Good luck
I have a couple of quick videos on you tube ...