Story and Photos by Ryan Miller
Originally Published in Issue 33 of 4Low Magazine
In the spring of 2019, Ian Liljeblad contacted some fellow flatfender owners with an idea. His vision was a run to honor those that came before us, the vehicles they drove, and the hardships they endured. The plan was simple, a wheeling trip as if it took place in the late 1940s. Per the name of the run, the first rule was you need to have a Go-Devil engine, also known as the L head 134, flathead 4-cylinder. This engine came in the Willys MBs, Ford GPWs, and Willys CJ2As and CJ3As, all low hood flatfenders.
Along with this key requirement, there were a few other simple rules to keep the run “period correct.” No modern wheels, no radial tires, and no lift kits. Basically, a “stock” flatfender with a Go-Devil engine that in a black and white photo would look like it was taken 70 years ago. Along with the vehicle requirements, you were encouraged to bring “period correct” accessories and wear clothing from that period. From the initial response to the run, it appeared ten flatfenders would attend, but as the run approached, the number increased to 15. The morning of the run would find an official count of 21 Jeep, 37 people, and two dogs, including some from Utah, Arizona, Colorado, California, and even one who trekked in from Florida. Rules were a little relaxed as some in attendance had “illegal mods” or were not “period correct.” These terms would be used throughout the weekend as attendees took turns giving each other a hard time about their rides, all in the name of fun and trying to stay correct to the time period.
The Go-Devil run would take place in spring of 2020, starting in New River, Arizona, a small community on the north end of Phoenix. From there, the 21 Jeeps made a short jaunt on blacktop before turning onto dirt. The destination for the day was the back way to the Crown King Saloon and then to a camp spot a little way from there. As the caravan made their way further from blacktop, the hardships, for many, began. Simultaneously the group was pulled over with fuel pump/vaporlock issues, an ignition coil that caught fire, and a dead engine. The Jeep with the dead engine was pulled to a nearby residence where the owner was kind enough to store it until it could be recovered after the run. The vaporlock and fuel pump issues were fixed as best they could, aluminum foil wrapping in the engine bay for some, and one Jeep used a squeeze bulb fuel pump routed from the fuel filler neck to the carburetor. The ignition coil fire was the result of some incorrect wiring on a 12V conversion, which was corrected along with a new coil. It quickly became apparent that the combined knowledge of this group could fix nearly anything, all while smiling and having a good time, as this was just another part of the journey. The convoy continued from the desert floor up the mountain, making stops along the way to enjoy the view, snap Polaroid pictures, have a drink or a snack, or let the old Jeeps get a moment to cool down on a hot day. Just like the old days, there were no radios to communicate along the way, and no GPS to follow. This was old- school wheeling, you made sure the Jeep behind you was still moving and waited for them at each turn.
Further up the mountain, a few more aluminum foil heat shields were installed, a couple of Jeeps ran out of fuel or were low enough to have fuel delivery issues, and a safety wire clutch linkage was made to replace a broken stock unit. In the late afternoon/early evening, the 20 Jeeps made it to the top of the mountain and to the Crown King Saloon, dating back to 1906. Dinner and drinks were had, and everyone topped off their fuel tanks and ice chests at the general store. The group continued to a camping spot nearby, set up camp, and gathered around the fire to tell stories of the day and listen to music from a hand-crank gramophone.
The following morning a quick check of the Jeeps was made, and necessary items were repaired before the group departed camp to explore the area around Crown King. The day would be a relaxing one filled with stops, including a nearby lake and an old abandoned tennis court/basketball court with swing sets. Of course, everyone got their turn on the swings and enjoyed the shade of the cool pines. Another trip back to the nearby lake before the group headed back to the Crown King Saloon for dinner and drinks. A quick top off the fuel tanks and ice chests at the general store and the Jeeps all returned to camp for another evening of campfire stories and music.
The next morning, the group broke camp and prepared their Jeeps for the journey back down the mountain. A few ratchet strap motor mounts were needed on one Jeep and a broken shock mount removed from another, which were the main casualties from the previous day. After a nice drive down the mountain, coupled with the first tire change of the run, the group stopped in Cleator, a ghost town dating back to the mid-1800s. Here a group photo in front of the century-old James P. Cleator General Store was taken. The 20 Jeeps continued and dropped into Turkey Creek, where a few Jeeps temporarily got stuck on the hidden rocks underwater. A lunch break by the creek along with a clutch linkage adjustment on one rig readied everyone for the final stretch of the trip. The group followed the creek for a while before ending up in Black Canyon City, where blacktop was seen for the first time since the start of the run. A quick oil filter line repair on one Jeep and the convoy continued through the town and back onto dirt towards New River. Many cases of overheating and vaporlock ensued, along with another tire change, as the group made their way to the desert floor and much hotter temperatures. After some breaks to let the old iron cool when needed, 20 of the original 21 Jeeps made their way back to New River after the 3-day, 165-mile journey.
In all, the laughter, knowledge (especially related to the old flatfenders), and camaraderie of everyone in the group made the inaugural Go-Devil Run a successful and memorable one.