Then there was three
It all started In 1975 I when I was visiting a long time friend of mine based in Manchester. His name is Mike Beckett and he was interested in all the second world War things that also interested me. We primarily collected German militaria, weaponry and vehicles and we had been together on many WWII amateur films primarily being filmed by Mike and Dave Elliott of Burnley. 

Mike Beckett had been diversifying in his collecting hobby for a while and had bravely started to rebuild an American Jeep. I have to say that the site of all that dirt, rust, oils and deterioration did not in any way tempt me to rush out and buy one for myself.

Mike had built scale models of military vehicles and he was using the same l meticulous eye to every detail that was his way with scale models. Over the next few months Mikes jeep started to take shape and he was turning the rusty pile of old metal into a full scale model of a World war Jeep. He was searching out nuts and bolts with the famous "flying F" stamp on them so the his finished "model" would be as accurate as he could make it.

Now he was seeking out paint of the correct colour from a company in Manchester called "H Marcel Guest - now HMG" that produced correct paint for the military vehicle restorers all over the UK. I was still not bitten! It seemed too much like hard work to me.

The "wreck" is collected from Wales

Then I made enquiries about the local military vehicle club to get more information on WWII vehicles in general and was introduced to a chap called Tom Bowman. He suggested I call into his garage in Gateshead and see a fully restored jeep, and perhaps take a ride. I arranged to meet in the next few days.

When I arrived at his garage he had  more than jeeps. Tom owned a recovery company in Gateshead called Albany Motors. This company used large American military vehicles to do the recovery work. Tom had been a founder member of the North East Military Vehicle Club and been interested in military vehicles for years. There was American half tracked vehicles, Very large trucks and centre stage a shiny green "Military Police" jeep. It looked great and it even had a siren. Tom fired up the engine and off we went on the most terrifying ride of a life time in a jeep.

We started normally enough from the garage on Saltmeadows road in Gateshead travelling at a reasonable pace on a normal tarmac road. After a few minutes we took a sharp left hand turn that took us onto the grass that ran from the road and lead directly to the River Tyne. We were now driving down a steep 45 degree bank with only the Tyne in view, the windscreen was flat to the bonnet so I thought my time had come!. The feeling I had was pure terror. A jeep is a very small open vehicle and when you are on a 45 degree angle you are sure you will fall out.

With about 40 yards to go to oblivion Tom made a U-Turn and started back up the bank. This time I was sure we were going to topple over. Across the road and up another 45 degree hill with 3 foot grass on either side, which ended in a point at the top. At the top the view was marvellous however no time to admire that. Over the top and we descended at top speed at a terrifying angle with all sides obscured by 3 foot high grass. Tom was laughing all the time, as I am sure this is the ride given to many rookies. When we returned I was white and still petrified. After a change of trousers I had to agree that the little jeep was indeed an all terrain vehicle, and deserved its excellent reputation as the best all round military utility vehicle.

But now I was well and truly smitten, I had to have one!!

 

At this time (before EBay) "Exchange and Mart" was a advertisement magazine offering hundreds of categories of items for sale. I had used it extensively to purchase militaria in the past and this seemed to me to be a good place to start.

Under "motoring" "jeeps" "World war II" There were dozens of adverts for all kinds of military vehicles, all at too high a price for me. There was one advert from Ken Hart of Wadhurst, Sussex, asking to "BUY" jeeps in any condition. I thought that if I contacted them there may be a spare one that may be in need of restoration, and going CHEAP!

I contacted Ken and he told me I was in luck. The next week he was going to pick up three jeeps. As he only had transportation for two If I could meet him in Stafford I could pick up either of the ones that he had prior to him going to Coventry for the third.

At home 16th March 1978

I had a friend called Stavely Swales who owned  Clifton Garage in Morpeth. He said I could have the loan of a vehicle and trailer and persuaded Chris Guy, who worked there would be willing to share the driving with me. We set off on the morning of 16th March 1978 for a six hour journey to Wales.

We met up with Ken who had the two jeeps already loaded on his trailer that I could choose from. One was a completely burnt out wreck however it was very complete and had little rust, it did however spell divorce from my wife Jane if I arrived home with a pile of what would appear to be scrap. The second seemed ok. It had a makeshift cab and the rear pane had been cut out otherwise it looked quite presentable.
Ken told us it had been found half way up a mountain side where it had finally come to rest. Prior to this it had been used to round up sheep (hence the cut out back) and in its latter years had no brakes. The four wheel drive had been used to slow and stop the vehicle. After many years of faithful service had come to rest and then was left on the mountain until the farmer had also seen the "Exchange and Mart" advert and contacted Ken.

The story only added to it having to be this jeep and no other for me. I handed over 450.00 and loaded the jeep onto the trailer. All the way home we got toots and waves from the passing motorists. Other than a brake seizure on the trailer the ride home passed without a hitch. Home however was another story as Jane still saw my wonderful jeep as a pile of junk and was very unhappy that it was going into our new garage. Not a good start, but it was home and my big adventure was about to begin.

 

 

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