Porsche 356 on the road again

I believe the main reason I am into antique cars is because I grew up with a Porsche 356.  For most of my life it sat in a garage or a barn and then in the 1980s my father brought it home and we worked on it a bit at a time.  Dad bought the car for $500 in 1966 after driving a newer one.  Below is a shot of him with the car around 1971. The car is battered but is all matching numbers including the original engine.

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When my parents moved from Illinois back to our home state of Massachusetts a few years back he sent the car to me.  I asked why and he said he thought I would fix it if it was sitting in my garage.  It took a few years but he was right. The first step was getting it running around the yard.

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Then it sat for a while longer.  Dad came down to Maryland and taught me the leading and brazing techniques that were my first foray into metalwork on antique cars.

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And finally I really got rolling on the project with the help of former students.

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It was all worth it to see Dad with the car that I grew up hearing legends of. And with it all fixed up I heard even more stories that were new to me! One of my favorite stories is of a time he was pulled over for speeding.  The trooper started yelling at my father and Dad was very confused because he was driving the speed limit.  Well it turned out Dad had been speeding (120mph) an hour or two before and the trooper gave up chasing him!

Why suddenly talk about the Porsche now when I mostly talk Jeeps? Well after a year of sitting I finally took a couple days for my Dad and I, fixed some electrical issues, and put the Porsche back on the road again.

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I feel guilty for not working on Jeeps for two days….. but it’s worth it to be able to call up my father and talk about the Porsche and having it on the road again.  As Harry Pellow, Der Maestro, used to say, “Keep the 356 Faith!”

Back to Jeeps now, but I will drive the Porsche to the shop.

 

Jeeps at the Oaks Gun show

We were invited a while back to display my ’41 Willys MB at the big gun and militaria show at the Oaks Expo Center near Philly.  It seemd like a good marketing opportunity and a chance to hang out with some old friends so I jumped at it.

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There were four WW2 vehicles on display.  Three WW2 Jeeps and Gary with his Dodge Weapons Carrier.

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Jim Cherry was setup with the Willys MB that he and his father immaculately restored.  I originally procured this for them and the job they did on it is one to be proud of.

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Jim’s grandfather was a pigeon man in WW2.  They were still using pigeons to deliver messages and JIm has pulled together quite a collection to display what was done and how the pigeons were cared for.  It is one of many little known aspects of WW2.

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Using photos and other information they had Jim and his father built a copy of the portable pigeon coop that was mounted in trailers.  Also note the large sign for Graeme park next to the trailer.  This is a wonderful WW2 event in Horsham, PA.  I will be there and I recommend it for anyone who can attend.

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The medical display set up by Kurt Eberling Jr and his fellows was quite impressive.

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I really liked the color of his Jeep and Kurt told me that he bought his GPW from the Philippines.  Apparently when the Philippine military realized there was a market for these Jeeps they repainted them and put them up for sale.  Oddly the only “olive drab” paint they could find was leftover Japanese WW2 paint, thus the color of Kurt’s Jeep.

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Towards the end of the show I spoke for a while with a WW2 veteran who was stationed in the Philippines. he said they had problems with the locals stealing the Jeeps.  Their first solution was to drill the hood number into the rear fenders of the Jeeps.  Then the locals started filling the holes with soap and drilling new holes.  After that what the GI’s started doing was tipping their Jeeps up on their sides at night.  He said the locals were too small to topple them back over so that ended up being their solution of the rest of their time stationed in the Philippines.   A new jeep story that I had not heard!

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This was the first show of its kind at the Oaks.  They plan to do it again next year.  Around 30,000 people came through over the weekend and there was a wide array of items for sale.  They plan to have more vehicle and reenactor displays next year and I definitely plan to attend.

My three P’s of restoration

I really believe there are right and wrong reasons to do a vehicle restoration.  The first two P’s encompass the right reasons, the last one covers the wrong reasons.

First and foremost a personal connection is a solid reason to do a restoration.  One customer of mine has his grandmother’s VW beetle, another has us working on his uncle’s CJ2A.  Even more have memories of their grandparents talking about Jeeps, or having an old WW2 Jeep on the farm. Some even remember driving a Jeep during the war.

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I grew up with my father’s 1956 Porsche always in the garage waiting for us to work on it.  In 2010 I finally was able to bring it back to life with some of my former students.  Dad always told stories of that car so for me this was a very personal connection.  Seeing him with it in one piece again meant everything to me.

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He also spoke alot about his Bultaco motorcycle.  He sold it to buy the Porsche.  When I stumbled into a Bultaco I grabbed it.  Once again seeing him ride off on the Bultaco was an amazing personal experience for me and I think him.  Dad had not seen another Bultaco since he sold his in 1966.

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If you have a personal connection to a vehicle then the price, pain, blood sweat and tears of a restoration is all worth it.  A personal connection is in my opinion the best driving reason for a restoration of a vintage vehicle.

Passion is the next best reason.  If you have a deep passion for something then you will see through a project to bring it to life.  Whether it be a tractor, a Jeep or any other vehicle.

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WW2 attracts a huge amount of interest.  People become very passionate about the war.  Their connection to that history comes through collecting artifacts, and for many the ultimate is to own and drive a WW2 Jeep. When I sense someone has a real passion I want to work with them just as much as with someone who has a personal connection.

People are also just plain passionate about Jeeps.  Something about Jeeps and VW Beetles inspires a wonderful following of people who care for, drive and pass on their love of these vehicles to their families.  If you have a deep passion for a vehicle it will guide you through a restoration.

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Profit is a major reason NOT to do a restoration.  I am going to bunch a few things under here too.  I will include in this the strange belief that restoring a vehicle will be a much cheaper way to obtain the vehicle you want.  That does not work…. Unless you are Scott Roberts, the man is a genius with vehicles.

The cost of restoring a vehicle is usually far above the cost of just going out and buying a restored version of the same vehicle.  The parts involved in a WW2 Jeep can make restoring one on your own cost more than just buying a restored one outright. I have seen people even try to save money by buying rusty battered versions of the parts they need in hopes that this will save them money.

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That does not work at all.  And unless you really know what you are doing and have alot of spare time, restoring a vehicle to re-sell is not going to work either.  If you can do all the mechanical work, welding, painting etc.. then you may be fine.  If you cannot then it just is not going to work out for you.  You will end up trying to sell for $30,000 a vehicle worth $9,500.  

Here is the key: Just because you put money into a vehicle does not make it worth what you put in!  There are alot of people smoking crack out there trying to sell late WW2 Jeeps that might bring  $16,000 for over $30,000.  All I can think is that in their drug addled haze they maybe hallucinated the value they came up with. (I assume they took to drugs after their wife threw them out of the house when she saw the restoration bills.)

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And yes the Jeep in these pictures was from someone involved in the third P of this lecture.

So to review: Personal connection = Good  

Passion for the vehicle = Good

Profit/ saving money = Baaaaad (don’t do it!!)

If you are in it for the right reasons, then enjoy the trip, the experience of restoration and the end results are very rewarding.

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An odd military vehicle

As I was going through files this morning I stumbled into pictures of the oddest military vehicle I ever owned, a 1962 Corvair Panelvan.  Sadly I cannot find too many good shots, these were the days before my digital camera.

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I am sure looking at this you might wonder,”how is that a military vehicle?”  Well it came with its original paperwork from the Pentagon and barely had over 32,000 miles on it.  The Corvan delivered lightbulbs of all things on the underground road network below the Pentagon.  I stumbled into it talking to a fellow at a car show and thought it might be a good replacement for my battered VW bus (a whole other set of stories there!)

I kept the Corvan for a couple years.  During that time I replaced the transmission, redid the wiring when it caught on fire, upgraded to an alternator, and experienced the wonder of the seals overheating and the van leaving a trail of oil behind it wherever it went.

The Corvair could have been a good vehicle had it not been for the accountants at GM.  The engineers knew what they were doing when they designed the air cooled 6 cylinder engine.  However the accountants said that to save a few pennies in production the engines should be fitted with a cheap set of seals.  These seals did not last on a high temperature air cooled engine and were prone to bake and then leak. What a mess!

I finally moved on and decided I needed a truck.  So the day came when I sold the Corvan to a great group of fellows from Ohio.

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They were  quite fun to deal with.  If they still have the van I hope it is treating them well.  I moved from the van to a 1964 Chevrolet C10 which I also no longer have.  I miss that truck!

I keep wondering how this van is doing and have found nothing online.  So if you ever hear about a Corvair Van that belonged to the Pentagon, let me know.  I hope it is doing well.

WW2 Jeep training filmstrip

For several years I was the librarian at a public high school.  We had an older retired fellow, named Dave, who volunteered in our Science classes.  He would come to the library and we would chat.  Dave owned a Willys MB in the 1970s and 80s so we found alot to talk about.  He gave me many of his books and one day brought in a bunch of WW2 Army vehicle training filmstrips.

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I went through them and found one for haltracks, and of course one for Jeeps!! I do not remember what was on the others.

One of the computer graphics students took the Jeep filmstrip and scanned it in for me, then made an archive of it.

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There are some wonderful detail shots.  I am particularly fond of the one with all the tools laid out.

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And there are mechanical details as well.

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If you want to see more of these just follow this link to my website: Jeep training

I realized that the archive is buried and many folks may not have seen it.  Included below are a last couple of samples for your enjoyment.

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Of bugs and yellow Jeeps (How Hanson Mechanical snowballed)

I was always a VW Beetle guy.  I grew up with my father’s 1956 Porsche sleeping in the garage and when it came time for my first car my father said that I should get a beetle.  He said I would learn everything I needed to know about cars on a simple VW bug.  So we set out with the $1500 I had saved and eventually found one for sale near our home in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

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 I drove the bug for years, all through college and shortly past.  I learned painting, engine swaps, electrical, all the basics.  Except for how a radiator works.  That came with my friend Scott Roberts.

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I met Scott through WW2 living history and he moved in next door to me in St. Mary’s county.  With him came his WW2 Jeep that I loved.  Scott would loan it to me and I would drive it around, sometimes taking it to the State Park that I worked at.  My friend, Ray Black, was a WW2 reconnaissance veteran and he loved the Jeep. The first time Ray saw it he stood there with his hands on the hood and just talked about Jeeps for an hour or two.

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Eventually I moved to Baltimore, and Scott made me a great deal on his, now I call it “our” Jeep.  Scott taught me 99% of what I know about these old fellas.  The Jeep became known in Baltimore as the “Hanson Rescue Service” for being one of the only vehicles to make it out in some of our biggest snowstorms. The Jeep helped drive shovels rescuers to a steamtug in Baltimore in the huge snow of February, 2013. After that we were at the B and O museum just after the collapse of their roundhouse.

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Fast forward a few years and I had worked on a wide array of antique cars, but Beetles and Jeeps were my constant.  When I switched from teaching in public to private schools I needed some more cash due to a paycut (worth it for my sanity!!).  I was beginning to think of doing work on antique cars on the side.  Near Christmas one year I was looking on ebay and saw a bright yellow WW2 Jeep for $500.00.  It was close to my parents in Massachusetts so I bid, and won it for less then $600.00.  I figured it would be a parts vehicle.

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I took my trailer to Massachusetts for Christmas and with an incoming blizzard my Dad and I set out and picked up the Jeep just in time.  Towing it back from Massachusetts events began to unfold that set Hanson Mechanical in motion is a bigger venture than I ever meant it to be.

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I stopped in a rest stop outside of Scranton, PA and a woman saw the Jeep and said,”it’s a Willys!” Then she told me the often heard story of a friend who had passed away who had Jeeps and Jeep parts.  I gave her my card and that is how we ended up dealing with and eventually buying out John Barton’s estate. (as well as republishing his book!!)

The Jeep came home and in the spring a friend and I took a look at what to do with it.  It had a 1952 Kaiser straight six in it.  With a little puttering the engine purred to life.  It was installed beautifully, the front cross member moved a bit forward to handle it. Someone had engineered the installation.  The rest of the jeep was a bit of a mess though. I think I took around 20 pounds of bondo out of the tub and fenders. 

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A friend of mine bought out a Jeep junkyard and soon I was making runs to Virginia to pick up frames, tubs, parts, and one very sad WW2 Jeep.  As we started working on the yellow Jeep the farm next door to me offered me their six car shop in trade for mowing the lawn.  Things just kept expanding. We took in a couple repair jobs on vintage vehicles and then a friend and customer referred the owners of the well known Jeep “Kilroy” to us for electrical work. 

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By the end of a busy summer we finished the yellow Jeep, had repairs coming in, and already were spending time in John Barton’s old shop in New York state inventorying and bringing back tools, parts, and a Jeep.  By that winter we had taken in a shipment of Jeeps from Oklahoma, and were building a GPW for a National Geographic TV show.

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Things basically snowballed.  I tell people that God decided I was going to run a Jeep shop.  Events happened at just the right time and place for everything to come together.  God willing we will be around for years to come as I continue to improve my project and business management skills as well as restoration skills.  Every one that we put back on and off the road is like bringing a piece of history to life for me.  Thanks to everyone who has supported us, been patient with us, and are enjoying our stories and Jeeps!! (along with the occasional VW…I have to get back to my roots sometimes!) Drive those Jeeps!!

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Trucks and military Jeeps at the 2013 Mason Dixon show

There was a great selection of trucks, wagons, and military vehicles at this year’s Mason Dixon Jeep gathering. Kyle from East Coast Willys (and Rausch Creek) brought this FC and set up a fall display.  I like the Bantam trailer along for the ride.Image

Glenn Harrington took a trophy again with his 1962(?) Willys pickup. Glenn will be hosting a show down his way in Petersburg, VA spring of 2014.Image

The lineup was headed by this immaculate Willys wagon.Image

I was particularly fond of this custom dump truck built by Carl Wolfson of Baltimore. He used 21 donor vehicles in its construction.  The truck combined the best aspects of Willys that he liked.  When Carl rolled in I thought he had loaded it with hay for the show.  It turned out Carl had not had a chance to unload it from the day before.  I think the hay showed that the truck can really do the job it was built for.Image

I believe many of us enjoy a vehicle with patina.  This 1940s Willys had a well loved and used look to it.  And yes, it runs well having been driven to the show.Image

Of military vehicles there was quite a variety.  We even had a 1942 GMC Deuce and a half visit for a bit.  There were several WW2 Jeeps, below are a handful led by Bob Buker’s Jeep.

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I was not sure what to make of this, a 1942 Ford script Jeep being rat rodded.  Looks cool with nice patina and ready for some fun in the mud. The tires appear vintage.Image

A surprise was this 1959 Willys M274 owned by Tim Kress of Hanover.  I did not know that Willys made any of these.  Apparently he was working on a house in Finksburg, MD and the owner said that Tim needed to go next door and see what the neighbor had in her garage.  When he bought it the mule was bright orange.  He says that he has about $3,000 in the restoration. Tim’s display was great with gear and a radio piled up.  There was even a recording running of Vietnam radio dispatches.Image

There was also this M715 tastefully upgraded for some heavy duty offroading.  It won the military class.

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There were more military Willys, an M38 and an M38A1 plus more WW2 MB’s and GPW’s I will do better at taking photos of the military class next year.

As always this was a fun and mellow show.  We took two Jeeps, my faithful and battered 1941 and Kilroy, a 1945 which we just finished assembling the day before and then drove to the show.  I had a wonderful time chatting with all my Jeep friends and meeting new ones as well.

More soon, and remember to drive your Jeep!!