After a successful event last year, I helped put on another ‘Wheels, Tracks, and Wings’ event at the Planes of Fame Air Museum! This time, we made the event much bigger, we added another day, more vehicles, more reenactors, a reenactor camp, a Sherman Tank demo, presentations all day long, and more!
It’s been a wild last few weeks as I coordinated the next Wheels, Tracks, and Wings event at the Planes of Fame Air Museum! This year was quite a journey, and while the Jeep didn’t get much showcasing to the world during the event as I hoped, she still was quite important! And I made sure to stop, when I could, to get some photo ops with some cool things like this M4A1 Sherman Tank!
Let’s go back to last year and how this all started. I came to the Planes of Fame Air Museum, where I’m a photographer and the museum’s Facebook social media creator, with the idea of a Jeep meet at the museum. Initially, it would be low-key and a way to do something different on a day when the museum would otherwise not have anything going on. This expanded into a military vehicle event, focusing heavily on WW2. We also had a P-40 Warhawk take to the sky for a flight demo.
This became my event as I hunted out and coordinated the military vehicles and recruited the reenactors. The event was a success, we had 10 Jeeps, a Dodge Command Car, a Ford Burma Jeep bomb carrier, Plymouth Staff Car, and a Dodge Ambulance. This photo was taken at the end, but it was a successful event surprising all the museum staff. We had over 600 people show up, which for what otherwise would have been a lazy Saturday, matched one of our monthly event days!
After the success of the event, I knew I wanted to do another one, but make it even bigger than this. I knew it had the potential to grow into something special!
Then it came time earlier this year to figure out when/how we could do another one. The museum felt we should catapult the event into something really huge as a large fundraising opportunity, and armed with the ideas I had after last year’s event plus input from some others, we decided to make the event TWO days this time. Not only that, we’d have several aircraft flying, a reenactor encampment, special presentations throughout the day, food trucks, kids area, and lots more.
I started to put the word out to various Jeep and military vehicles for the event once I put together this artwork for it (that’s my Jeep front and almost center!). It was slow at first, but sign-ups started to come in as we reached March of this year. I ran ads on Facebook targeting vehicle owners and military fans, and then ran more ads targeted to the general population for the event itself.
I coordinated and spread the word out to all the reenactors and military vehicle owners I knew, including last year’s attendees. Not long before the event, we put together the final schedule of events. The idea was to have something going on every hour of the event starting at 10am till about 4pm. A full day of things to see and do, not even including the military vehicles and reenactors!
I drove my Jeep up the Friday before the event so it was there ahead of time. Since I would be coordinating the vehicles and reenactors at the event, I knew I’d need my Jeep very early the next morning as my vehicle to get around the museum, leading vehicles to their parking spots, and more. I made sure to give her a good cleaning and paint touch-up since I knew she’d be on display.
Work was furiously happening around the museum, including pulling out museum vehicles to include in the displays. This included the very rare Russian GAZ-67 (more on this later) which is normally tucked deep in the Jet hangar of the museum where you can barely see it. It is parked next to one of the museum’s motorpool’s personal Jeeps, a nice Willys MB Slat Grill.
It was decided that since I would be doing a presentation on Jeeps (again, more on this later), I would be parking my Jeep in the hangar. I wanted to leave it outside with the other Jeeps, but the idea was we didn’t want to have to move my Jeep while guests were at the event.
She was in good company that Friday night, sharing a spot in the main hangar with a Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless. This Dauntless is actually a movie star, with the fuselage being used in the 1970’s movie ‘Midway’. The aircraft served with the Royal New Zealand Air Force. It flew over 30 combat missions with Squadron 25 off of the South Pacific island of Bougainville. In May 1944, it transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps. For the remainder of the war the aircraft served with six different Marine and U.S. Navy squadrons. An ex-Navy Jeep with a Navy//Marine Dauntless!
As night began to fall Friday, a small collection of Jeeps was starting to form, with two others not shown here and mine in the hangar. Seen here is that Slat Grill again, a Willys MB (left), and a very ‘bubba’ modified MB/GPW mix on the right. Plus the museum’s Sherman Tank.
The next morning, as I woke up my Jeep to start my rounds coordinating vehicles and reenactors as they arrived, I paused to get some shots with one of my favorite aircraft at the museum… the North American B-25J Mitchell ‘Photo Fanny’. I’ve flown in this bomber many times, often doing air to air shoots out of her. It’s fitting that it’s ‘Photo Fanny’ with my Jeep, ‘Picture Perfect’.
This B-25J Mitchell was built in Kansas City, Kansas, and delivered on January 16, 1945. Although it did not see combat, the Museum’s B-25 served with the U.S. Air Force as a test aircraft until 1958. She currently wears the ‘movie paint’ given to her from the recent Hulu-made ‘Catch-22’ series. If I won the lottery, I would want to get a B-25.
And another photo op, with the museum’s Vought F4U-1A Corsair. The B-25, this Corsair, and the P-40 Warhawk were all set to fly demos throughout the day. The P-51 Mustang and BT-13 trainer would fly rides. This Corsair, which I’ve shot my Jeep with in the past, currently also still has movie paint on her from the recent ‘sDevotion’s Korean War movie.
I used my Jeep as a ‘golf cart’ persay, shuttling back and forth between the main museum compound and the reenactor area looking for new arrivals and getting everyone set up. It was a very hectic morning, and I put a few miles on the Jeep driving back and forth so much! As the 9am doors open time approached, I parked my Jeep right in front of the projector screen next to the stage where it would be seen all day for those watching the presentations (this was before we opened).
Speaking of presentations, aside from coordinating this event, I was also one of the many presenters putting on a 20-minute talk about my Jeep.
The title of the presentation was ‘Restoring a Legend’, and it went through a brief (but detailed) history of the Jeep’s inception from Bantam to Willys to Ford. It very briefly covered the wartime uses of the Jeep and then looked at the post-war farm uses of ex-military jeeps back home. That led to my Jeep, being an ex-farm Jeep, and I showcased a pictorial look at my Jeep’s restoration from start to finish. It was a LOT to cram into just 20 minutes, and the restoration part was very simple due to time constraints. But it seemed to go over well, I got a few compliments!
In the stillness of the day, the Jeeps await the guest’s arrival… We pre-sold tickets on the museum’s website several months before. Ticket sales were on track for a decent number, but we did have a daily minimum of people that needed to show up and buy tickets in order to make the event a true success for the museum. No pressure!
I was tasked to arrange the vehicles in the main courtyard of the museum. Some vehicle owners wanted to keep their vehicles with them over in the reenactor area. I would have liked to have had all the jeeps together here in the courtyard (which we might do next year), but we still had a good showing Saturday. We had ten Jeeps out here (eleven if you include mine in the hangar to the left out of the frame of this photo). On the end is the Russian GAZ-67.
I was originally hoping for two rows of Jeeps. In the initial sign-ups and verbal confirmations of those who were to attend, we were supposed to have close to 25 Jeeps. Sadly, we had 50% of the vehicles and 50% of the reenactors not show up for the event. Such is how events like this go I guess, quite a bummer, but we still had an impressive turnout.
It was great to have a nice lineup of Jeeps again representing all manner of Jeeps from Willys to Ford, Slat Grill to Stamped Grill. Running around like crazy and being in charge of things meant I couldn’t take as many photos and documentation as I would have liked… but I still tried to capture as much as I could when I could. So, let’s go down the line and check out each vehicle!
The rarest vehicle we had out there was the Russian GAZ-67. This ‘Jeep clone’ is made up of spare Model T and GPW parts from leftover Ford factories during WW2. They were used in the Korean War, where this very vehicle was captured by US Forces. And yes, it does run! You can read more on this about halfway down in this past update: https://1944gpw.warbirdphotos.us/blog/photoshoot-russian-jeep-clone-and-jerry-can-nozzle/
Here’s a look inside the engine bay. Very similar to the Jeep and early Ford vehicles. It has that classic 1920s vehicle sound when fired up.
Next up, we had a Willys MB. This one was dropped off on Friday before the event. The owner participated in last year’s event as well. The ‘standard issue WW2’ Nerf gun was quite the conversation piece! Kids loved it for sure. It got many smiles.
Next up, another participant in last year’s event and also owned by one of the museum motorpool members, this Ford GPW. This Jeep, which is nicknamed the ‘F’n Jeep’, is a very high class GPW restoration with every bolt and part that should have an F stamp correctly having one. She’s painted up in 1st Army, 702TD assigned to 2nd Armored.
Moving down the line, we have a Willys MB. The owner of this Jeep is an active-duty dentist with the Army. She painted with the 2nd Armored, 41st Division.
We have another Willys MB Slat Grill Jeep, a very nicely done restoration.
It’s great to have the variance of grills to showcase at the event. It always strikes me when the hood is raised showing the thin-framed design.
Next up we have another Willys MB, this one named ‘Doc’. It’s done up as a medical Jeep from 1st Armored with a Bantam trailer. I didn’t get a single shot of the Jeep behind it, but we have another Willys MB done up as 15th Air Force, 459th Bomb Group, 759th Bombardment Squadron.
We had this Willys MB radio Jeep with a .30 Cal mounted. This Jeep was only at the event Saturday.
This next Jeep, a Ford GPW, is owned by a gentleman with the C-53D Skytrooper ‘D-Day Doll’ based in Riverside, CA. That C-53 flew all the way from California to France for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, which she participated in, in 2019. This Jeep was also only at the event Saturday.
We had this great-looking US Marine Corps Willys MB. The first event my Jeep ever went to after the restoration, back in early 2020 before the pandemic hit, was the Los Angeles Air Raid of 1942 event. I remember parking next to this Jeep for that event and having a conversation with the owners, who follow these updates. They could also only be at the event this year on Saturday only.
And ending this line of Jeeps is a ‘Frankenstein’ Jeep that was donated to the museum. It’s a mix of Willys MB and Ford GPW parts, with a custom hard top and roll bar welded inside. Not to mention carpet and pleather seats. The markings are, odd, to say the least. It’s a future candidate of a complete restoration!
Now let’s jump over to the reenactor encampment where we had more Jeeps! Here we have another USMC Jeep, with a lot of original patina! This is a Ford GPW Jeep.
And we had a well-known Jeeps part vendor here in Southern California bring this amazing looking highly decked out 82nd Airborne marked Ford GPW. Back when I went up to Lytle Creek for the Southern California Military Vehicle Collector’s Club fall rally in 2021, I bought several original GPW parts from him which are currently on my Jeep. I also had several inspirations I saw from his Jeep that I ended up doing on mine, like actually going out and getting a TOBE filterette.
All the reenactors and military vehicle owners who attended were entered into a raffle to win a flight on one of three flights in the Vultee BT-13 Valiant trainer aircraft. The owner of this Jeep, Chuck, actually won not once… but twice! He donated his second win to a USMC vet who also brought a Jeep.
A well-known reenactor in the 82nd Airborne Living History Association brought out this Willys MB on display with his group’s camp.
On Sunday, another Willys MB was added to the collection (which was great since we lost a few of the Jeeps). He had a nice display he put out in front of his Jeep.
And, of course, we have the other Willys MB Slat Grill which I showcased at the start of this update. This Jeep was a ‘golf cart’ Jeep as well for much of the event by the museum’s motorpool, so, while it spent most of the time in the reenactor area, it moved around a lot.
So, over the course of both days, in the museum’s courtyard and out in the reenactor encampment, plus my Jeep, not including the Russian Jeep clone… the final total number of Jeeps was:
Pretty awesome, that’s seven more than last year’s event. I would have liked the 25 to show up, and gotten a huge group shot of them all (next year, we WILL do that!), but I’m still happy with the turnout. That’s an impressive number for Southern California.
Of all the shots I took of the Jeeps during the event, this one was the most striking for me, showcasing all the steering wheels lined up.
Moving on to other vehicles, we had two Dodge vehicles. The museum’s 1941 WC-54 Dodge Ambulance was driven out to be put on display next to an impressive 1942 Dodge WC-56 Command Reconnaissance Car.
The 1942 Dodge WC-56 Command Reconnaissance Car was a big hit as well, with the owner being kind enough to chat with any and everyone who had questions both days (even gave a few rides once the event was over each day). This is one nice-looking vehicle.
We had this AM General M813 5-ton cargo truck. This thing was a beast!
In the Vietnam camp section, we had several vehicles including this AM General M818 Tractor, and another vehicle behind it that I didn’t get the type.
We had a M151 Mutt with trailer.
We had another AM General M813 or 814 cargo truck (behind the M151) and a SUV vehicle to the left.
On Saturday we had another M151 Mutt with trailer. This whole area here was all Vietnam.
We had this Studebaker M29 Weasel on display. This one is named ‘Das Hun Hunter’.
And we had a 1942 Ford Staff Car (love this so much!) in the reenactor area. I want a staff car just like that. Love the large star on top.
And topping off the vehicles, of course, is the 1942 M4A1 Sherman Tank.
The tank sported new paint, nose art, and a new name… ‘Hannibal’.
And that was all the vehicles in attendance! Here’s a look at early Saturday morning when the event had just begun. It took a little bit for the crowds to pick up, but the weather was perfect.
The line of vehicles was the first thing people would see when they walked out of the main hangar. The first Jeep, the ‘Frankenstein’ MB/GPW Jeep that the museum was given was used as the ‘play’ Jeep where kids/adults could get in and take photos/play around.
For opening ceremonies, reenactors with an honor guard began the day with a 5-gun salute.
Here’s a look at one-half of the reenactor camp (the WW2 side) at the end of the first day. Most of the reenactors stayed out here Friday-Sunday.
All throughout the day, guests were steadily coming out to the camp area to get a hands on and up-close look at this living history.
Back in the main compound, three times a day we had warbirds take to the skies. There would be a short presentation on the aircraft, then it would start up right in front of the crowd and taxi out to the runways to take off for a flight demo over the museum. Here is the museum’s B-25 Mitchell starting up.
And here’s some of the guests watching the B-25 Mitchell fly over the museum.
But the vehicles were a hit. Every time I could go past the line of Jeeps, as long as an aircraft wasn’t flying, there were people taking an up close look at all the vehicles.
Capping off the day before one last warbird flight was the showcase demonstration of the entire event… the Sherman Tank. The museum motorpool put on an impressive display taking the tank around the tight demo space and ‘aerating the grass’, as they put it!
The crowd was really pumped with this demo, getting to see a working Sherman Tank up super close and personal (so close you had to watch out for dirt thrown from the tracks!)
And yes, they fired the main gun! With custom-made blank ammunition, they can fire the big 75mm canon. I was told it costs about $40-$50 each shot! But the results were amazing, with a very loud boom setting off all sorts of car alarms. For a fraction of a second (I mean s small fraction), if your camera is fast enough, you can get the explosive power igniting as it leaves the main gun.
Here’s the tank demo crew for the first day, decked out in their 2nd Armored finest!
One issue we did have was with kids jumping into unattended Jeeps and really being rough with the steering wheels and pushing buttons. Parents were encouraging it and taking photos. This made several owners nervous, so we ended up getting a museum docent to watch the Jeeps. We appointed one Jeep, the far left one which was the ‘Frankenstein’ Jeep, as the ‘play Jeep’ that kids could do whatever in. Next year,w e plan to make little signs we can give to the owners that say ‘Please ask permission before entering this Jeep’.
I don’t think it was as much of an issue out in the reenactor area as there were many reenactors around watching the Jeeps.
But overall, aside from that one issue, everyone said they had a blast at the event, owner and reenactor alike. Everyone had smiles and were happy to have a military event like this finally back after so many have gone under due to the pandemic. There was an excitement and joy everyone had being able to share this history again.
By the end of the first day, we had exceeded the expectations of guests to the museum and everyone was thrilled with how the day went!
For day 2, Sunday, since we lost several of the Jeeps from Saturday, we shuffled around the vehicles to better center them in the courtyard, and for this day we pulled out some of our warbirds to fill in the empty space such as our Grumman F8F-2 Bearcat.
On Sunday, as expected, it took a while for the crowds to get to the museum. Mainly due to those sleeping in, going to church, lunch, etc.
We had the same program for Sunday, but with some extra surprises. The crowds were less than Saturday, as expected, but we had several people return to visit the second day again because they had so much fun! And, of course, everyone came in time for the tank demo!
The added surprise to the demo was several pieces of furniture and appliances added to the tank’s course to crush. This included a couch, recliner, desk, microwave, and refrigerator, shown here, not even causing the tank to falter as it is crushed.
I managed to get a luck shot with this, due to my Canon R3’s rapid-fire electronic shutter. This shows an almost mushroom explosion from the igniting powder which ended up making this incredible smoke ring that traveled crazy far!
Here’s a look at the tank crew for Sunday. There’s even more who worked to get this tank demo going behind the scenes. I have to give a big shout out to the Planes of Fame Air Museum motorpool, they put so much effort into this event and it was their moment to shine!
As the second day wound down, I took some time to get some shots of the Jeep with a rare aircraft, a North American P-51A Mustang known as ‘Mrs. Virginia’.
The Museum’s P-51A was part of the third and final production block of P-51A aircraft built in Inglewood, California. It was the 249th (out of 310) P-51A built. It was delivered into service in May 1943. It was used as an instructional trainer here in the States. This early Mustang has an Allison engine, much like the P-40 Warhawk.
With the second day over and everyone starting to unwind, I drove the Jeep over and sat watching the tank giving rides to museum staff members. There was just something about this moment… hanging out in my Jeep, watching a tank tear up the field as the shadows got longer that seemed almost surreal.
And then I got a ride in the tank myself! First time being in it, even though I’ve been around the tank for years. Quite a lot of fun!
And with that, it was time to head home!
A nice sunset concludes an incredible event!
We reached our target amount of guests per day and blew past it raising a lot of money for the museum this year. Everyone was happy, guests, vehicle owners, reenactors, vendors, etc. I kept hearing from everyone how much fun they had with the hope that this event returns again. We’re already talking about when we can do this all again next time, hopefully even bigger with MORE vehicles and reenactors!
And that draws this special update to a close! While I didn’t get to focus much on my Jeep with all the others, she was seen by hundreds during the all-day-long presentations. For me, I was pretty exhausted, but the month’s worth of hard work and efforts was worth it for a wonderful event. So many people came through and put in a lot of time to make it a success as well, and I can’t thank them enough!
Till the next update…