We all know that one guy. They are loud but also just fun to be around. Mike Hallmark is one of them. The thing I like about Mike is that he is passionate about his hobbies. And he has a lot of hobbies, most of which are centered around automobiles. If there was ever a broader mix of interest in vehicles, I have never heard about it. Mike is big-time into all things VW, Defender, motorcycles, and minibikes to name a few. He is no stranger to building SEMA Show vehicles, but he loves the old stuff. Like most gearheads, he has a large garage full of different vehicles. One of the newest projects acquired is a vintage 1948 Jeep CJ-2A that he has dubbed “Willis”.
Besides being a world traveler, the occasional navigator in the Baja 1000, a whitewater rafting enthusiast, and many other adventures under his cap, Mike Hallmark is the Marketing International Sales Manager for Hellwig Suspension Products. He is very good at what he does and knows a lot about many things. And he knows how to tell a great story. So, if you ever get the chance to meet Mike out on the trail, or at a mixer, stick around and be prepared to wear a smile.
Besides his full and abundant life as a car guy, and a complex work schedule, Mike spends a lot of time volunteering for various functions. Some of which involve the SEMA Organization. He currently serves on SEMA’s TORA (Truck and Off Road Alliance) Select Committee and the group was hosting a trail run during the 2022 Easter Jeep Safari event.
Meeting Up On The Trail
After running into him briefly the night before, he said I should come along. The next day, we met up at the Moab 4×4 Off Road Expo venue for some pre-trail ice-breakers and an informative safety briefing from Matt Caldwell with Tread Lightly. After that, we headed to the Behind The Rocks trailhead.
As we convoyed down the road, that was when I first laid eyes on Mike’s nearly 75-year-old Jeep CJ-2A. In its near original configuration, plus many decades of weather and wear, the Jeep rode straight and square up highway 191. After speaking with Mike about the Jeep, we learned that it had been abandoned in a field for approximately 15 years. Hallmarked rescued the CJ-2A and worked with his friends at Old Steel Fabrication in Leona Valley, California to get it in working order.
An Old 1948 Jeep CJ-2A Named “Willis” Gets A New Lease On Life!
Part of Mike’s effort to refurbish the old Jeep was to keep it as stock as possible. This includes period-correct new Firestone knobby 650-16 tires from Coker Tires on newly acquired stock wheels. The classic M8274 WARN Winch with the standard steel cable is specific to the era. Military-style jump seats with cushions and covers were added to retain the look. Performance-wise, the machine uses front and rear Powertrax Lock-Right lockers with Motive gears, an Injen Technology custom intake, and Icon Vehicle Dynamics custom rebuildable 2.0-inch shocks.
Other New additions feature an Optima battery, Painless Performance wiring, a few new gauges, and a cool Dometic fridge/freezer.
About the only major modification that has been done is the current engine configuration. To get it going, they transplanted an F-head from a later-model CJ-3B.
This power plant has overhead intake valves that are still in the block, but since that was swapped out that’s why it has a hole in the hood. So I had to figure out a carburetor that would sit low enough. We called our friends at Injen Technology. We drew up a design on a napkin, and three days later we had a custom intake.
Additionally, Hallmark replaced the water pump, distributor, fuel pump, carburetor, brakes, brake wheel cylinders, and gaskets.
Mechanical Knowhow And Experience
Mike is an avid off-roader and is pretty savvy behind the wheel of most anything. By the nature of his work at Hellwig Suspension, he is quite familiar with vehicle dynamics. He has been known to install Hellwig’s innovative load-bearing products roadside or even on the trail.
If there are any mechanicals, Hallmark is more than capable of sorting out most issues and is always willing to lend a hand. Packing a Boxo USA Tool Roll and a pair of leather gloves, Mike is “Johnny on the spot” whenever anyone needs assistance. On this day, it was me in our brand new ORXtreme JL that needed help. I guess I was having a bit too much fun and sheared off the steering stabilizer.
Hallmark Is Well Known For Wheel His 1948 Jeep CJ-2A
Since the initial build three years ago, “Willis” had been to King Of The Hammers multiple times, and it was the second time out to Moab for the Jeep.
“We beat it up! We go everywhere that everybody goes on 40s. If I get stuck, I just get three people to pick it up, move it over two feet and we go on about our day.”
Casual about this statement, the old Jeep did bare the scars and carnage of being a trail rig. The undercarriage showed the brunt of that damage due to the vehicle’s design, stock-sized 29-inch tires, and lower ground clearance. Not afraid of hitting the tuff stuff, this old 1948 Jeep CJ-2A has been rewarded with a new lease on life.