Honoring the Men and Women of the US Navy Seabees. I purchased the 1953 Navy Seabees M38A1 Jeep from a family on the Key Peninsula in Puget Sound, Washington in July 2011. They had purchased it from a school district in Utah who had been using it as a snowplow before putting it out in the boneyard. Its military life was with the 74th Naval Mobile Construction Battalion. As we researched the 74th NMCB we discovered that they were deployed to Da Nang Vietnam in 1967; the same year I was stationed in Da Nang. In fact they helped build the barracks I stayed in and the airport I worked at as a member of the Navy’s Land, Air Freight Division. This project became, for me, a tribute to the incredible work the Seabees did in support of our mission. The Seabees with their “Can Do” spirit, diversity and training not only helped fight the enemy but also won hearts and minds building schools, hospitals, utilities and infrastructure for the local population. The “Fearless” 74th exemplified the best of our American military. We are honored to restore this pieces of history and to remember the men and women who serve and protect our freedom.
It took five years to complete 90 percent of the frame off restoration. We worked mostly during the spring and summer and a few weekends during the fall and winter. We started with very little practical experience working on cars and had never done a restoration project. We believed if we broke the project down to it’s simplest steps we could tackle each one as it came. We obtained a number of the reproduced manuals. We also knew that “Jeep People” are generous and eager to help share their knowledge. The videos on YouTube were invaluable as were the restoration blogs, and forums. We were able to find the parts that needed replacement from sellers on eBay and Craigslist and commercial vendors like Kaiser Willys.
When we bought the Jeep it had an Arctic top. We don’t think the top was on the jeep while serving with the NMCB 74 out of Gulfport Mississippi with their average low temperature around 60 degrees. It’s more likely the school district in Utah added it to their snowplow application. It also had a civilian makeshift heater attached to the passenger side floorpan.
From the begging this was to be a family project. Members of the “Motor Pool” would lend a hand whenever they had the opportunity. We maintained a blog of the restoration highlighting events and our leaning curve. You can check it out at: [ www.53NavyJeep.com ]
Kaiser Willys Jeep Blog Story – Ron Jones
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