Geeking out over WW2 motorpool tools

Working on the John Barton estate has been an amazing and inspiring learning experience. In our recent adventure I began to think beyond the tools carried on the WW2 Jeeps and wonder more about what was used in the motorpools that kept the massive motorised army rolling. A few years back I began gathering some WW2 British tools. A friend of mine had stroke of luck with a contact in England and received a box or two of WW2 marked British Military tools. I received a handfull of them and put together a small collection in a home-made 1940s era box. With the Barton experience I began putting together the US motorpool tool set. Photos of the two boxes are below.

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The toolbox on the left is an American military one.  The same model toolbox was used for a variety of purposes.  This one is marked signal corps.  But since I already have it I decided to put my mechanics’ kit in it.  The one on the right is a home made vintage box that I have collected some British tools in.  I would love to find a WW2 British toolbox.  Anyone know of any?  Or even what they looked like?

A couple shots of the British tools are below.  They are recognisable by their Broad Arrow stampings.  As Ford put a little f script on all their Jeep parts, all British military items have an arrow on them somewhere.ImageImage

As we sorted through the Barton collection I felt inspired to go beyond the typical tool roll found in the Jeep. Doing some online research I found these posts on G503.com and used them as guides: http://www.g503.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=48&t=202399                                               http://www.g503.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=48&t=111970&p=1212394&hilit=winefamily5#p1212394

Using the G503 posts I set to scrounging in my workshops.  I work with mostly vintage tools as it is so finding tools that were at least close to what should be in the box was not hard.  Going through my grandfather’s tools, and items given to me by a WW2 mechanic (who was running an autoshop fulltime up through around 2004) I found most of what should be in the box.  A couple ebay scores and some fine tuning through the Barton collection items brought the box to pretty near full.  I customised the tools by adding in specialty tools I use for Jeep repair.  And yes, some tools are not exactly what should be in there (ie the ancient Husky ratchett) but they do serve the purpose of another tool that would have been in the set.  Here are some shots of the box.

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Some details I particularly love about this tool box and collection are the following: a government stock number marked Irwin screwdriver, the small ratchett set, the correctly marked array of Williams and Barcalo wrenches, the fact that the tool tray has a hole in it for the oil can to stick through, and more.  I have many more small items to find, and other tools to replace with more authentic items as I find them; but this is a good. working toolbox that I look forward to using.

If any of my readers have photographs of WW2 American or REME motorpools, can recommend a good book on motorpools, know where to find British tools or toolboxes, or want to share anything else please either email me direct through my website or drop a comment here.  Thanks!!!

-Merlin

Update Aug 26: I started taking the toolkit to my secondary restoration shop.  The Army knew what they were doing when they chose what went into this box.  I was able to do all the work I needed for an afternoon just using tools from this set.

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In Ford Tribloc we trust

The fun part of dealing with John Barton’s collection is sorting through all the tools and goodies.  Of course the less fun part was moving it all. John lived in a vintage autoshop that had a two story house above it.  There was a trap door into a basement which I believe originally was a machine shop space and such.  All the engines, axles, and other heavy items were down there.  Thank goodness he had this installed above the trapdoor in the garage.

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This vintage Ford chain hoist made all the work we did possible in a matter of hours.  It slide back and forth on an I beam.  Below is Pete hooking up an engine for lifting.

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The process was slow, but saved our backs.  Without the hoist we would never have been able to empty the place.

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We managed to remove all the big items by the end of Saturday morning.  We actually had two pickups and a Uhaul packed by Saturday afternoon.  Below is a photo of Izzy celebrating the last of the engines being loaded in our rental truck.

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If you want to see the hoist (and us) in action click here to view a video I uploaded:

http://youtu.be/CbEYtU9HspY

Sorting the artifacts

After a whirlwind weekend that involved hours on the road, loading trucks, unloading trucks and more, we are now sorting through the finds.  It’s interesting how many more items begin to pop up as we sort through box after box.  John Barton specialised in WW2 tools for Jeeps and we have made many finds in that area.  My friend, Pete, is still sorting wrenches.  There are Vlchecks, Barcalos, Fairmounts, Williams and more.  Initially we did not think we had any Irwin screwdrivers but after some sorting you can see what we found below.

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The top two have “Irwin” printed on the wood handles.  The next two down have Irwin and Gov. Stock # 41-S-1076 on them.  The rest say Irwin US of A.  Need a screwdriver for your toolkit???  Next we have a trio of original, early fire extinguishers.  Initially in our sorting we only found two restored green extinguishers.  But some more exploration today yielded the items below.

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Amongst some smaller, very cool finds were these NOS sparkplugs.

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We are slowly putting together WW2 Jeep toolkits with original tools and canvas tool rolls.

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Another neat small find was this original Ford GPW generator repair kit.

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And there is still much more to sort, tools and parts of course!!

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Emptying the tomb of lost Jeep tools

This story has an odd beginning as many of mine do.  In January of 2011 I was towing a Willys MB back from Massachusetts.  I stopped at a rest stop near Scranton, PA for a break.  When I came outside there was a woman happily staring at the bright yellow MB.  “It’s a Willys!” she said, and thus began the conversation.  She explained that a family friend had recently passed and that there were Jeeps and lots of parts that the family was trying to figure out how to sell.  I gave her my business card and after a fun chat went on my way.  I never expected to hear from her or the family.  Below is a photo of the yellow jeep and myself after the blizzard my father and I rescued it in.

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A month later I received a phone call from Mrs. Barton, whose daughter had inherited the house, workshops, and all Jeep contents.  Apparently a couple folks had offered insanely low amounts of money for the collection.  This sounded wrong so I made time to head up to NY state and take a look.  Plus I purchased some parts to make the trip worthwhile.  On that first trip I was more than a bit overwhelmed by what I found.  Here’s just one example of a shelf in John Barton’s workshop:

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Many of my readers who own vintage Jeeps will recognise the name John Barton.  He was active on forums like G503.com and a very helpful person.  John specialised in Jeep tools and so he had bins of wrenches, hammers, jacks, grease guns, fire extinguishers, axes and shovels etc. etc.  At the end of last summer my helpers and I headed up to the Barton workshop and spent a couple days inventorying EVERYTHING using the part numbers and guides from WW2.  In trade for doing inventory we came back with the shovel and axe collection, and a battered Jeep which we have since restored.  Below is a photo of my helpers (Vlad, Kelsey, and Izzy.  These three hold my world together!!) with the Jeep.Image

After inventorying the estate I went back one more time to purchase some parts for a project.  When I met with Diane Barton she mentioned that John had written a book on Jeep tools.  Someone had offered to re-publish the book if the family would sign over the rights to it.  That sounded rather sketchy so I took on the job and re-published the book through an online publisher.  It is available through my website.

After a few months my friend Pete asked if he would be,” stepping on my toes,” if he bought the contents of the estate.  Having no money myself I told him to go ahead.  Pete was primarily interested in the tools and Jeep accesories.  He thought the parts would make a good inventory for my business.  So numbers were discussed and finally, this past weekend, Pete, Izzy, and I went back to empty the workshops.  We spent a Friday evening and half of Saturday removing items from the workshops, organising them, and packing them in the truck. Below are some of the really nice Fire extinguishers we found.

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We ended up with boxes and boxes of tools and accesories.

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There were many first aid boxes and gas casualty boxes.

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We found three original tire pumps!!!

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And there were more mechanical parts than you can imagine.  Below is a crate of original starters and generators.

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In my next posting I will include photos of the mechanical parts, and how we removed everything from the basement workshop.  I became very good friends with an ancient chain hoist 🙂

If you are interested in anything you see in my photos just email me at: merlin@hansonmechanical.com We are inventorying everything again and should have prices for items within a couple weeks.

onwards and upwards!

-Merlin

(UPDATE: as of right now we know we have several Warren, Barcalo, and Vlcheck wrenches in the tool assortment.  If you are looking for any of these let me know. We do know the value of these though, so they will not be going for $5.00 or anything silly.)