20 May 2015

Memorial Day: Classic cars and cherished memories

On May 25, families across America will celebrate Memorial Day – the unofficial start of summer – with picnics and cookouts, bike rides and golf, beaches and bon fires. For many, the day will also include memories of loved ones, particularly the courageous men and women who served in the military.

Hagerty’s Your Stories site is filled with automobile-related tales of soldiers, airmen and sailors. As we celebrate Memorial Day and look toward Independence Day, we would love to hear your story.

Below are five car stories with a military theme, written by their owners (and edited for length and clarity), that emphasize how automobiles link us to our past.

An Explanation of my Inexplicable Jeep: Michael’s 1944 Willys MB

I watched (the television show) M*A*S*H with my parents when I was younger, which helped draw me to the iconic Jeep. It wasn’t until I bought a house with a garage that I started to seriously consider buying an antique car. My dream of owning a Willys MB became more of a reality when I saw one at a local car show. A few months later, after an extensive search, I found a 1944 Willys MB in good working condition; it had almost all the correct parts, was drivable and would give me years of fun driving before I would need to do a major restoration…

One thing I have learned is that almost everyone either loves or at least appreciates an old Jeep, especially veterans. Whether it is a WWII Willys MB or a Korean War-era M38 or a Vietnam-era MUTT, the military Jeep has touched many soldiers who share their memories with me.

By far the most touching memory…  A veteran sitting at the entrance (to a show) stood up when he saw the Jeep and saluted. To me, this served as a testament to the emotions that an old car can evoke in people. My Jeep became more than just a fun car for me; it is a living piece of history that indirectly stands for years of service. My Jeep has also taught me that an old car doesn’t need to sparkle with a fresh coat of wax and have polished chrome. In fact, the well-worn patina of olive drab and the boxy lines of the Jeep’s body are beautiful in their own right.

It is thanks to my childhood dream and the service of others that I am able to enjoy this car. As Hagerty boasts, “This Car Matters,” and it will continue to matter as a fun project in my garage, a joy to drive on the roads and a memory of times past.

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Flashback Camaro: Mike’s 1968 Chevrolet Camaro Pro Touring

I bought my car after getting a loan for $1,200 from our local credit union (with my Dad's co-signature) when I was 18. Over 30 years later – along with a lot of busted knuckles, miles and money – my Camaro and I are still together. I once heard from someone who had owned their car for a very long time that whenever they sat behind the wheel they were looking through the eyes of a 16 year old. I can really relate …

I decided to name the car “Sarge” in memory of my father, who was a decorated U.S. Army Master Sergeant Combat Veteran (Korea/Vietnam) and who served his country proudly for nearly 30 years. This car also honors those who serve and have served this great country, giving us the freedom (one of many) to pursue our automotive passions.

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Bringing back my Army days: Richard’s 1968 Kaiser Jeep M715

I found my 1968 Kaiser Jeep in a barn in Whitewater, Wis. It is totally stock and original, except for a new set of military Michelen 36-inch tires. As a Vietnam veteran, I drove trucks like this during my six years in the army, from 1969-1975. When I drive this truck now, the memories of my days in the army flood my mind. Owning one is a dream come true.

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Good Friends as A Patriotic Veteran: Walter’s 1940 Pontiac Torpedo Series 29 Touring Sedan

I still own my first automobile, a 1940 Pontiac Torpedo 8. My grandfather bought it showroom new for $900 in Tucson, Ariz. … My parents were married in the car in 1941, in Tucson, hours before my father had to report for basic training in El Paso, Texas (as America was expected to join the fight in World War ll). While my father was in basic training, my mother – all by herself – drove the car from a ranch 55 miles southwest of Tucson to El Paso every weekend to be with my father on his days off. Following Pearl Harbor, there was no reason to go to El Paso any more. So she drove the car from the ranch to Tucson every two weeks for supplies and mail for the duration of the war (almost five years) without a flat tire on all-dirt roads except a few streets in Tucson. When I was born, I came home from the hospital in that car. It remained a family car to this day…

I drove it all through high school, where I met my beautiful bride of 50 years… When Vietnam came along, I had to go, so I put it in family storage. After returning (in one piece, thank God), I took it out of storage and pressed it into service once again.

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The Old Vet: Jim’s 1955 Jeep M38A1

All my life I have wanted a Jeep. I learned to drive on my father's Jeep as a teenager, and I have always loved all things military.

I bought “The Old Vet” sight unseen on eBay, except for some pictures. It wasn't until the car carrier pulled up in front of my house that I really got to see my prized possession for the first time. I was not disappointed. The markings are that of a 101st Military Police vehicle, complete with red light, siren, working military radio and military ignition (no key, just a switch)…

My Grandson and I love to take “The Old Vet” to our local Veterans Day parade (largest west of the Mississippi), and it never fails to draw attention. We wear replica uniforms and our helmets and look like “the real thing.”

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