The Jeep has served many functions over the years. From wartime hero to agricultural workhorse. From California beachcomber to Colorado Rockies 4×4. From a convenient snow plowing vehicle to hip all-around run-about. It has carried Generals, the wounded and the mail. But I am sure that it has also served another function for many. The Jeep, and perhaps more specifically the restoration of an old Jeep, has served as a bond between father and son, friend and friend, and in my case brother to brother.
I was bitten by the Willys Jeep bug thanks to my brother, Jerome, back around 1983. My brother has always had Willys Jeeps as long as I can remember. In fact, he didn’t just have a Jeep, he had an army of Jeeps. From CJ-2As to CJ-3Bs to F150 Jeep trucks to CJ-5s. My brother shared an excitement for Jeeps with my dad. While my dad didn’t own any of his own, my brother more than made up for it with his collection of barn finds! Our dad passed away in 1979 and with me being the youngest in our family and younger than my brother by about 15 years, my brother took on a more paternal role, often taking me on vacation with his young family. I remember when I was around 13 or 14 going down to Detroit to pick up a 1947 Willys CJ-2A with my brother. I remember the excitement I had when I saw that Jeep for the first time in that old dusty garage. He bought the Jeep that day and we towed it back home. Sometime during that trip back, my excitement and passion grew to the point where I had negotiated to purchase it from him before we even got back. My first Jeep and I couldn’t even drive yet! Over the course of the next two summers we worked together to restore that 47′ beauty. My passion for Jeeps grew and grew. To me, a Willys Jeep was just about the perfect vehicle. One part practical, two parts tough. One part fun and two parts oozing cool! It was an affordable vehicle to restore because it didn’t demand the costly interiors and paint jobs of other classic vehicles.
I sold the 1947 sometime in the early 2000′s and bought a 1959 Willys CJ-5. To me, this was the ultimate in cool Jeeps! While I love the flat fenders, the 50′s and 60′s Jeeps took on the feeling of muscle, cool and fun that puts the Jeep bug stinger firmly in my skin. Of course, the bond between my brother and I and Jeeps has always been there. He made the trek with me to upstate New York to take a look at it after I saw it on EBay. I ended up buying it from a “unique character” who had been the second owner of it. He had the original owner’s manual and knew the first farmer who had purchased it new in 1959. He had an interesting way of negotiating. When I offered him a bit less for the Jeep, he said he’d sooner burn the (bleep) to the ground before he’d take a cent less! Needless to say, I bought the Jeep and my brother and I laugh about it to this day.
The Jeep was drivable but rough. My brother had a unique situation come up in 2000 for work that allowed him to take some automotive body classes. While he had an arsenal of old Jeeps he could have worked on of his own, he took my 59′ Willys and began a rather ambitious restoration process. He did a complete off frame restoration and used his skills to turn the once rusty tub into a nearly new work of art. With a young family of three, and a heavy travel schedule from building up Workshop Hero™, our business of rust prevention and removal over the last 12 years or so, I have had little time to assist him with the restoration. We live about an hour or so apart so it’s not easy to grab bits of time to work on it. I’ve been able to get out to his shop for a couple of days at a time to work on paint, rust removal with our Metal Rescue™ of course, and odds and ends. But, the bulk of the restoration project has been my brother. He has been unbelievably dedicated to the task. I couldn’t ask for a better brother and friend. As the Jeep was coming together we remarked how beautiful yet simple a Jeep is-a classic work of utilitarian art. Just like a classic Willys Jeep, my brother is rugged, reliable, honest, down to earth and super cool! While the Jeep catch phrase states “it’s a Jeep thing”, I’d say it’s a “brother thing” for us. Thanks Jerome for all the time and effort on the Jeep.