~Photos by Klein Photography
The story of my Jeep really began way back in the early 70’s, when I was in training at Fort Ord, California. We had finished basic training, and were placed in the Army’s truck driver school. If you are familiar with Fort Ord, the training course we were on went through the coastal mountains, and even included going by the Laguna Seca race course on a daily basis. Part of our training involved driving Jeeps, which were built in the late 60’s to early 70’s. We drove these Jeeps for a week all over the base, even taking them at night into the mountains through some very rugged terrain, with only our blackout lights to illuminate our path. “Just follow the guy in front of you,” we’re our instructions. It was after that night that I knew I would own a Jeep someday. During my six years in the Michigan National Guard, I had many opportunities to drive a Jeep. Many times we would borrow a Jeep, and take it out to the tank trails, “just to see what they could do.”
Fast forward to about two years ago. I had been looking for a Jeep that I could enjoy in my retirement for several years. Most of the Jeeps I had been seeing on the Internet were either way too expensive, or in terrible condition. I wanted something that was drivable and would need just a little TLC. I found this one in a town just a few hours away. After talking with the owner, I knew this was “the one”. It had been restored and repainted completely about 4 years ago by the owner, who is a professional car painter. It is mostly original to 1947, having been in the same family for over 40 years. It was used as the grocery getter in Georgia at a cottage for about half of that time. The cottage was only a mile from town. When it came to Michigan, still in the same family, it was used by the owner and his daughters, who lived less than a mile from their town. As a result, this Jeep has less than 14,000 original miles. It also has the original “go devil” engine, suspension and body. The steering wheel and the rear seat are not original, but most of the rest of it is original and as it came from the Toledo factory. I also know that it was not titled until 1949, when it was put in private hands for the first time.
Within about a month of me buying it and trailering it home, my knees collapsed, literally, on the same day. I ended up with surgery the next morning to reattach my quadriceps to my knees. That led to three weeks in the hospital, several months in a wheelchair, and on crutches. The result of this was that for the first year I owned the Jeep it was hardly driven. It wasn’t until this past summer that I could walk again and be able to drive the Jeep. I took it to my first three car shows this past summer, and actually won a trophy for the Jeep at all three shows. Undoubtedly, the most fun I have with it is with my 10 grandchildren, who love it when they can have a ride in it. (With seat belts, of course). I also enjoy hearing the stories from all of the veterans at the car shows, who also have fond memories of their days with Jeeps in the military. The little girl in the pictures is Liberty Grace, taken just after her first birthday. I’m looking forward to lots of great times in the Jeep with our kids and grandkids.
If you would like to share your Willys Jeep Story please send us a line. We ‘d love to meet your Jeep.
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