Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Letter From A Young Fan Of The Jeep

Last week I received an unexpected but very welcome email from Cameron Danner who lives in California. Cameron was excited to tell me about the story of his jeep. And its not just any jeep, but an awesome 1948 CJ2-A that he more or less entirely rebuilt with his own two hands. Now as any of us who have owned and built and restored an old jeep know, that’s ALOT of work for anyone. But Cameron isn’t just any guy working in his backyard garage. Cameron is 19 years old! And knowing first hand how much work and dedication and just plain perseverance is needed to carry off a major project as fully tearing down and rebuilding an old jeep that says alot. Any old jeep with its rust and previous owner’s modifications, the missing parts, the stuff that just plain needs to be stripped of old paint and new paint applied, the broken and stripped nuts and bolts and all of the busted and scraped knuckles is a major project! Cameron certainly knows that but stuck with it and now has a jeep that any of us would be proud to own.
Cameron’s love of jeeps began early on as I suspect it did for many of us. As a young boy he got to sit in the “army man’s jeep,” an MB owned by a neighbor of his grandmother. That early experience translated into Cameron becoming an apprentice in a welding and metal fabrication shop for the past four years. One day he was helping out his boss, Carl, with his project, a 1948 Willys-Overland pickup and a light bulb went off. Cameron asked Carl what he was going to do with it after it was finished and Carl, naturally wanted to keep it. Well, Cameron decided then and there that he needed a jeep of his own and set out on a search for a flat fender. Cameron soon found the jeep he was looking for and begged his boss to take him to take a look. It was owned by a little old lady and as Cameron puts it, “Once we got closer to it I noticed it was defiantly showing that it was 70 years old. The floors where rotted out, It had no motor or transmission, and hadn't been driven since 1989.” Sounds like what most of us encounter, but like any fan of the jeep, he wasn’t daunted and soon he was the proud new owner of a 1948 CJ2-A!
But Cameron, unlike many of us, got the full history of his jeep as well. The lady, Faye, told Cameron that he was now just the third owner of the jeep. The original owner bought it after returning home from the war. Like many GIs he must have been impressed with the jeep’s capabilities and bought a new civilian model for use on his almond farm in Stockton, California. The original owner used it until the flat head gave up the ghost and then decided to sell it. It was then that Robert and Faye came across. Robert fell in love with the jeep and brought it home to Vallejo. Robert replaced the little L-head with a Studebaker inline 6.
Cameron knew that the jeep was special to Robert. He even has this story, that robert and Faye’s “oldest boy, Sean who was only 2 at the time, would ride in her lap while Robert would drive them around town in the Jeep. She said it would scare her because she was always worried that baby Sean would end up falling out of the Jeep because it had no doors but luckily nothing ever happened like that.”
With the help of another friend of his boss and jeeper, Cameron soon sourced a replacement L-head from Steve who has been a mechanic since 1956. Cameron says that he loves flat heads and that was a determining factor in his picking a flat fender to restore. Cameron admits though that at the start that he had no idea how much work he was about to undertake. With this start Cameron joined a long line of fellow jeepers and formulated a plan. He says that he had decided that he “wanted to make my jeep as stock as possible but to still make it modern enough that I could drive it around town with ease.” The engine went off to the machine shop and Cameron started the total frame off resto. The engine needed a major amount of work including an 
.080 bore over to eliminate a ridge that had developed in the cylinders, new valves and seats, crank and pistons, rods and a 12 volt distributor.
One of the biggest parts of Cameron’s work had to have been restoring the frame back to its original condition as Robert had cut out parts of to make room for the old Studebaker engine. Once the running gear and frame were back in shape, Cameron fabricated a seat so that he could drive the still bodiless frame around Carl’s parking lot. He says that “people used to park in the parking lot (There is a 24 hour gym that shares the parking lot with our shop) and they would give me some interesting looks because around the corner would come this strange contraption with a kid grinning from ear to ear with several other teenagers sitting in various places on the frame driving around doing about 25 mph in a parking lot.” Awesome!
Once he had what sounds like an amazing amount of fun even helping Carl tow vehicles into and out of his shop with the bodiless jeep, Cameron began the next big project of repairing the body. It was daunting he admits. “The body of the Jeep was hammered from its tuff life living on a farm and just being that it was 70 years old. I started out by cutting out the floors and welding thousands of patches in place over the rusted out old tub.” Luckily yet another jeep fan stepped in and helped out Cameron in the form of Jeff. Jeff helped Cameron strip paint, repair dents, apply filler and sanding it all out.
And from there on Cameron filled in all the little details. “Each weekend I would add something to it like lights or some other thing would be wired and built to be in the Jeep. Jeff spent many hours teaching me every thing he could teach me about building a car so I could then go off and work on my own. Jeff builds hot rods and custom cars out of his shop so he had more than enough experience and expertise to teach me how to build my simple little Jeep.” As he learned from Jeff, Cameron gave it a test run around Jeff’s shop working out any tweaks and bugs. As Cameron did this he also learned another valuable lesson for the do it your selfer that not only was it rewarding, but that it was flattering to members of the fairer sex! “I also found out that it was a great way to get my girlfriends to like to go out for a ride in it but don't tell them that I said that hahaha :).” Hope that I didn’t give away any of your secrets there, Cameron!
When everything was assembled and running to his satisfaction, Cameron then proceeded to pull everything apart to begin painting. Talk about patience! He labelled everything but was by now very familiar with where and how it all went together. He painted his ’48 an olive drab because he loved the look and its hard to argue with that especially considering how it all turned out! 
I also asked him about the invasion star on the hood and Cameron had this to say about it. “To address the invasion star question is because when I was building that 48 when I was in the process of looking for a Jeep I was given a 43 MB that was a basket case. It was cut in half for some reason and had so much rust on it when ever I would move any parts they would literally fall apart in my hands. Then I ended up with my 2a I decided that I would use the MB and 2A to make a nice Jeep. So my 2A has many military parts on it such as clutch linkages,battery box, hubs, gauges, and some other small things here and there. So I decided to honor the MB by making my 2A sort of military.”
With some help from a couple of his buddies, Cameron had it all back together within three days after the finish paint. And so after more than 20 years the jeep was registered and on the road again! 
Cameron hasn’t finished quite yet with his jeep. He’s also adding a neat twist to adding a stereo with these custom ammo box speakers! He says that people love them and I do too!
I asked Cameron what he thought was the jeep’s biggest contribution to society and America because I’m curious about what the next up and coming generation is thinking about in terms of the jeep. He had this to say: “And (the) biggest contribution to our modern society I think was the Jeep. It might sound cliche or odd but as General Patton said we wouldn't of won WW2 without the Jeep and the M1 rifle. It couldn't of been more contributing to the war with the invention of the Jeep for WW2. The Jeep saved lives, provided protection and even just made life easier for a GI in making it so he didn't have to march from one mission to another but rather be whisked away in a Jeep to arrive in battle quickly and rested.”
Cameron adds that “It is far from finished but it is to a point that instead of welding holes in the floor boards I am trying to pick out what kind of tires to put on it, or what kind of winch I want to put on it. Its been a long haul building that Jeep but it is something that I can look out the window and see it sitting in the drive way and know there sits something that I literally poured my blood sweat and tears into. I makes me proud to know I own a little slice of American history.” Well said, Cameron!
So I want to thank Cameron for sharing his story and experiences with us. It’s definitely rewarding to get stories like this and not only get to see an awesome restoration, but to know that the next generation of jeepers are well represented by young men like Cameron! Stories like this and of jeeping and jeepers in the past are one big part of why I began, to help preserve the history and present it for others to find. I’m honored that you shared this with us, Cameron and thanks again!
As a PS. Cameron told me that he has a friend who would soon be modeling with the jeep in a retro-style pinup girl photo shoot, so we’ll get to see more soon! You can read the rest of what Cameron has to say herein the story section and see the rest of his photos as well! Come back next week for more of the timeless jeep!

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