California, Jeep Willys and Another Era

Several years ago, we took the boys to California for spring break.  Our plan was to fly into San Francisco and Drive the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) to L.A., stopping at all the places I loved as a child, and spending some time with my dad.

It was a great trip.  We spent a few days in San Francisco, taking the boys to Lombard Street, Ghiradelli Square, Alcatraz.  We then headed to Yosemite National Forest, and hiked there for a day, before heading to Woodlake where my dad lived.  We spent four nights with my dad before heading down the coast towards Santa Barbara, passing Morro Rock, with a stop in San Simeon and the famous Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle Pool

Hearst Castle Pool

and continuing on to a childhood favorite, Solvang before arriving at the Santa Barbara Mission.

Santa Barbara Mission

Santa Barbara Mission

While at my dad’s, we ate Mexican food, barbecued, and hung out.  The boys couldn’t be kept from taking a dip in his pool, even though the water temperature was only 70 degrees.  They also took a ride on his ATV, and generally had a grand time with him.

While getting the ATV from the garage, we noticed an old Jeep Willey that he had stowed in the corner.  He said he had used it for hunting twenty years prior, but had stopped using it due to low compression in one of the cylinders.  He had been told by a mechanic that the engine might need to be rebuilt, and not sure what to do with it, it had sat there for two decades.

He expressed an interest in selling it, and we ended up buying it from him.  Although we gave him the money and he sent the title, we never arranged to have it shipped.  Things just always seemed to get in the way.  While on a hunting trip the week before he died, he had been telling his friend how he wanted us to get it.  He friend replied, “Why don’t we load it up together and make a road trip out of it and haul it back there?”

My dad said, “You’d do that with me?”

His friend said, “Sure.”

My dad said, “O.K.”

He died two weeks later.  Last night, we finally had the jeep delivered and it was bittersweet.  Its weird, wonderful decrepitness feels like my dad talking to me in some strange manner, and a connection seems forged between something that is now mine that once belonged to him.   And in a peculiar way, the fact that it isn’t something I inherited makes it different, somehow.  The sadness I feel I think comes from the fact that when I look at it, I think about him coming along with it.  And in a cosmic way,  his spirit seemed to arrive here with it.

It’s in need of work, but apparently there is a strange market out there for this little survivor of WWII.  The first prototype was made by Bantam for the army, but they were unable to meet the maximum weight spec of 1300 pounds.  They turned to Ford who was competing for the Business, and because of financial problems with Bantam, the business eventually was given to Ford.  Because of the  specs and short time in which the army needed the vehicle, they suggested Ford work with Willys-Overland.  The final product was born with the two companies working together.  Once the public saw how versatile the little jeep was, a new era in car manufacturing was born, giving way to what would be the first publicly owned utility vehicle.

Before I knew the history of the Jeep Willys, I worried about availability of parts so I called around trying to get an idea of the difficulty of the job.  But it was needless worry. There are parts aplenty as well as interested guys willing to do the work, although Hubs seems keen on doing some of it as well.  One thing is certain though.  It will be a labor of love.

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This entry was posted in California, Jeep, Jeep Willys, Jeep Willys-Overland, Restoring Jeep Willys, San Simeon, Santa Barbara Mission and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to California, Jeep Willys and Another Era

  1. terry1954 says:

    a beautiful story and wonderful photos! thanks for sharing with me

  2. timkeen40 says:

    There are a couple of things here. Dad owned one of those Jeeps, a 1942 model that wouldn’t stay in 3rd gear without holding pressure on it. That is when I was a child.

    As an adult (some might argue that point) I was able to make several trips to the plant where the Willys was originally built. At the time the plant was nothing more than an assembly plant, but at the time it was built, the plant was a place where all the processes to built a Jeep was actually housed under one roof. Since all that work was and still is farmed out that meant that the plant was massive (60 miles of aisleway, I was told) and empty (I did not venture off the beaten path for fear of being forever lost).

    That plant has since been torn down, but I will never forget the walk through history that I was able to make.

    This is a great story. I am so sorry that it is centered around the passing of your father.

    Tim

    • That must have been an amazing place. There is a big warehouse down south somewhere that sells parts still. They were very helpful. I’m very excited about getting it done. Thanks for stopping by. You have lovely poetry and prose on your own site!

  3. What a sad yet wonderful story Arnel..*hugs*

  4. robincoyle says:

    I’m not sure how that Jeep pulls it off, but it sure is cute!

    You visited the best of California on that trip.

  5. adinparadise says:

    Lovely story and memories. That Jeep will be such fun when it’s fixed up. :)

  6. journeyman1977 says:

    The jeep is a timeless classic…shade tree mechanic’s dream :) You and your husband can pass it on down to your kids. It’s just one of those things that gets sweeter with time. Reading about your dad’s passing was sad but like you said…that vehicle is but just one reminder of a life well lived. The other reminders are in photos and other such sentimental things…the greatest reminder however is when you look at yourself in the mirror :) Your dad is no doubt proud of you.

  7. Smaktakula says:

    I’m sorry about your dad (even though this was a while ago, it’s still sad), but I’m glad you enjoyed my hometown.

  8. UndercoverL says:

    How sweet! Love the tale.

  9. Can’t wait to see the restoration job on Willy.

    • Me too! I showed an internet photo of my hoped-to-look-like target jeep to my oldest son, and he raised his eyebrows and then laughed! He walked away muttering, Good luck. Just wait….We’ll get there.

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