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