Turn signals on your WW2 Jeep

There are a variety of ways you can add turn signals to your WW2 jeep.  My favorite involves hiding them in the front marker lights and behind the rear reflectors. My next favorite method is to incorporate them into rear brakelights if you have one on each side (swapping out the passenger side blackout for another brakelight).

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A customer recently wanted an entirely different design so we set out and came up with another style of turn signal, this will work only on WW2 Jeeps converted to 12 volts.

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The parts we used were a standard 8 wire turn signal switch available from places like Walcks 4wd, bullet style motorcycle led turn signals that we found on ebay, and an led compatible flasher relay purchased from Napa. Make sure to ask for the flasher relay I photographed, standard flasher relays will not work with LED lights as LED do not draw enough current.

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Wiring incorporated vintage style reproduction cotton wire where it would be visible, and standard modern wiring underneath and in areas not seen.  All connections were soldered and sealed with heat shrink tubing.  Alot of this  is available at almost any auto parts store.

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The creation and installation of the system was simple but took a few hours.  With the turn signal switch comes a basic set of instructions that show you where all the wires and the fuse connect.  You need only to find a 12 volt source to connect to (like on the ignition switch) and the rest of the wiring is independent of anything else on the Jeep.

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The nice thing about the motorcycle lights is their wiring runs through their threaded base, so once you drill mounting holes these lights are easily attached without having to make any brackets.

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In the end the most difficult parts of this design were finding the right flasher relay and seeking out LED signal lights that looked vintage (ebay is the only place I can find these).  After that it was alot of soldering and running wire and voila, an unobtrusive turn signal system made from modern items.  This is a system simple enough for most folks to be able to install without any particular level of inventiveness required.

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“For Pete’s sake”

I recived an email a while back from a fellow with a very low mileage CJ3B and a WW2 Jeep.  He wanted me to come and look over the CJ3B with an eye to making it roadworthy again and look over his WW2 Jeep just to let him know what he had.  The result was meeting a wonderful fellow who has inherited a Jeep and a passion for Jeeps from his father.

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The story of the jeeps began back in 1943 when the father, Pete, shipped out with the merchant marine delivering cargoes of Jeeps to Italy.  When they had shore leave Pete would keep a spare rotor in his pocket (in WW2 Jeeps did not have keys so the men would take the rotors out of the distributors to keep Jeeps from being stolen) and he would seek out a Jeep for his weekend on the town.  Pete became very fond of Jeeps during the war.

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When he returned from WW2 Pete bought a 1947 CJ2A, and then in 1960 purchased the CJ3B pictured here.  The 1959 CJ3B came from a quarry where it saw few miles, and it moved to Pete’s 60 acre farm where it roamed the woods and made occasional forays into town. Pete’s sons grew up driving the Jeep around the farm when it was running.

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Over the years the Jeep had many periods of downtime and so with mainly driving on the farm and then sleeping for periods the CJ3B only racked up 1,795 miles.

When Pete passed away his son, Jonathan, spent alot of time sorting out the estate.  The jeep went to him.  As Jonathan put in long hours a friend suggested that when all was said and done he should buy something nice for himself.

Jonathan already had a plan, as his father loved WW2 jeeps so much Jonathan wanted to buy a WW2 Jeep and name it something like “battling Pete” or “For Pete’s Sake.”

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It turned out the owner of his favorite gun shop had just acquired a WW2 Jeep.  Jonathan and he chatted about it and the owner brought the Willys MB to the shop for him to see.  Jonathan said he teared up because the Jeep already said, “for Pete’s sake” on the side.  It was like his father was talking to him he said.

Jonathan offered to buy the Jeep then and there but the owner wanted to keep it a bit longer.  As it goes when things are meant to be Jonathan received a phone call four months later that the Jeep was his if he wanted it.  And you can see how that went!

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The 1943 Willys MB is the nicest I have ever seen.  The restoration was impeccable and it retains its original tub.  Jonathan is the owner of two real gems and I am sure his father is proud of how he carries on this family tradition.

We will be working on the CJ3B to make it roadworthy and reliable and I will post more when it comes to the shop.  I was honored to hear such a wonderful story and see such examples of Jeep history.

8th Annual Mason Dixon Willys Jeep Gathering

This show has become such a part of the year for me that I keep thinking it has gone on for much longer.  Mike Hardesty had the idea for this show after attending the Great Willys Picnic and realizing that there was nothing like it in our area.

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There was quite a lineup of Willys Jeeps in all conditions from fully restored to as found condition. Seth King’s CJ2A with an awesome dually rear caps off this row.

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One of my annual favorites, an orange Jeep, belongs to Dan Lorenz.  I love the Jeep because of the story behind it. This was a jeep that he and a friend owned back in the 1970’s, he has photos of them taking it hunting out in Colorado.

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They sold it in the early 1980’s probably expecting to never see it again.  Then a few years back his buddy was at a farm auction and a vintage Jeep was on the listing.  He found it with a tree growing through the floor, and recognized the modifications he and Dan had made.  (not the tree of course!)

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IMG_1466Dan did a wonderful job of bringing the Jeep back to life and brings it to the mason Dixon show as well as the All Breeds jeep show in York, PA.  He has even taken it back out west and photographed in locations he took shots of it back in the 1970’s.

Kyle of East Coast Willys brought his FC again and this time it had friends.

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Bill Reiss of Limestreet Carriage drove the red one all the way from their shop in Lancaster, PA.  At the end of the day the Limestreet crew lined up their Willys vehicles and headed home with the FC in the lead.

There were a good amount of parts vendors this year, new parts as well as many folks with used restorable parts for a variety of projects. Over by the parts vendors was this CJ6 with only 3600 miles on it.  Sadly the low mileage did not preserve the body of the Jeep. (This is what I was told at least.)

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IMG_1452There was a nice array of military vehicles.  I had my battered slat grill out for the day and it had some WW2 buddies to hang out with along with a recently finished M38.

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I set out a display of original dealer literature and posters along with this display of new old stock tools from WW2.  The pliers, adjustable wrench, and hacksaw all came from a fellow who served as an Army mechanic in WW2 through Korea.  When he left the service they gave him a toolbox packed with n.o.s. tools. And yes, that is an original drain plug tool.

IMG_1456I was extremely proud of our friend and volunteer shop assistant, Peter Tata. he worked his butt off to put together the rolling chassis of his Ford GPW to show in the projects section.

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IMG_1447As always it was a wonderful gathering of the jeep family.  I had time to chat with old friends and make new ones like Roger Martin who was in the area to work on an ancient Caterpillar grader.

The weather treated us well and the jeeps sat warmly in the fall sun.  Any proceeds from the show are donated to Unions Mills Homestead who graciously host us every year.  Money was also put aside for fellow Jeeper Glenn Harrington who had a stroke last spring.  It will be a happy day when we see him at a show again.

If you have not made it to this show yet, make sure it is on your schedule for next year.

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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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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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Honor Flight

A month or so ago I was contacted by Betty who works with Ocean State Job Lots as a publicist (hope I got that right).  They were looking for a WW2 Jeep to sit in the lobby of the BWI Hilton.  The occasion? Dinner for a massive Honor Flight of WW2 veterans.

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I was more than happy to bring my Jeep down for the veterans. Honor Flight is an organization flying WW2 veterans at no charge from all over the United States to see their memorial in DC.  Read more about them here: Honor Flight  This is an amazing organization doing something to say thanks to the men and women who saved the world in WW2.

My friend Butch Maisel brought items from his museum to share with the veterans.Image

The first veteran who came in on a wheelchair looked at his guardian (the volunteers who assist each veteran) and said, “see, I knew I left my Jeep here!” My friend, Ed Embry, speaks with him below.Image

The next fellow in lit up and kept saying,” A Jeep! A Jeep!” There were so many veterans and they were delightful to speak with.  Many wanted to sit in the Jeep.  The fellow below was extremely intent on sitting in the Willys MB. Ed finally was able to help him in the passenger seat.  Quite honestly we would have done anything to get him in it as he wanted to sit in the Jeep so much.Image

I had my toolbox open on the fender of the Jeep and turned around at one point to hear a man exclaim,” I have this at home.” I ended up speaking with Mr. Sennett for quite a while as we sorted through the tools and shared stories of working on Jeeps and how we used certain tools.  He worked on assembling Jeeps in Europe.  I have never had the chance to chat with a WW2 mechanic and do not know how to describe the experience of sharing knowledge, tricks and stories.  Mr. Sennett is someone I could spend hours talking to, heck, so many of these men and women are.

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Job Lots, Honor Flight, and all others involved go all out for the veterans.  There was even a trio of singers from the USO who performed beautifully.Image

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Towards the end of the evening I saw a veteran in his wheelchair by the banner. He waved me over and said, “thank you, you really made our day.” I thought he was speaking of the entire Honor Flight.  But a few minutes later I found him by the Jeep. He pointed at it and repeated his thanks again.

And all I can say and think is thank you. Thanks to Honor Flight for doing this for the greatest men and women I have known. Thanks for allowing us to share in this experience and bring to life so many memories.

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Thank you….. for everything.