Military Vehicles Are Fun
Military vehicles are very fun to own. Enzo Ferrari is famously quoted as saying that, “The (WWII) jeep is America’s one true sports car.” The variety of vehicles and their histories, as well as their idiosyncrasies, make military vehicle ownership rewarding on many levels. Then there’s the paradox that although they are available at prices that most people can afford, they remain relatively exclusive.
Ownership Circumstances Then and Now
When I bought my 1943 jeep, I didn’t own so much as a socket set. It was parked in a shared, open garage, and my mechanical experience was little more than changing oil. I used it as a daily driver. I wanted a restored vehicle that I would only need to maintain it. Initially, a mechanic did most of that maintenance.
I now have a tool set, a garage, a better and growing knowledge of DIY mechanics, and a modern car as a daily driver. The point being, that a variety people with a variety of resources and lifestyles enjoy owning military vehicles.
DIY vs. Shop
Before selecting a vehicle, plan for the maintenance it will require. How good of a mechanic are you, or are you prepared to be? Do you plan to have all the work done for you by a shop? If so, is there a shop you can get the vehicle to that is competent to do the work?
You can get a vehicle to suit any budget. It may surprise new buyers how cheap some vehicles are, and how expensive others may be. A WWII jeep can range in price from $200 – $50,000+ in 2014. Seriously.
You can pay more money up front for a restored vehicle, or you can pay less upfront and do the costly restoration later. In the end though, a restored vehicle will cost a fair amount of money. There are obviously great deals to be had, as well as opportunities to be ripped-off, so do your homework first.
On the plus side, these vehicles may come with certain tax breaks depending on where you live. This is the case in Virginia and the U.K. They also do not depreciate in the same way as a modern car, although they do remain susceptible to market forces.
For most of us, the internet is king when sourcing a vehicle, especially if it is your first. Also try looking in magazines that deal with Classic Military Vehicles.
There are plenty of online communities that are specific to each type of vehicle such as G503.COM for jeeps, or the Military Vehicle Preservation Association for military vehicles in general.
If you don’t know exactly what kind of vehicle you want, consider asking members on these sites for their advice.
If you already know what you want, these sites will frequently have vehicles come up for sale. They are also a great resource for helping to fix or restore things.
Of Special Note for World War II Vehicles
WWII vehicles typically come with a premium price tag as they are highly sought after.
Unscrupulous people and companies will try and sell “fake” WWII vehicles. A
Hotchkiss M-201 looks very similar to a GPW or MB. An M-37 is an old truck, but not old enough to have been in WWII. Those are all very good and highly collectible vehicles, but don’t be duped. Know what to look for or bring a friend who does before handing over your cash or making an expensive journey.
Most of what America used during the war, we left overseas. There is a greater variety and concentration of these kinds of vehicles in places like Europe. There are two sides to this coin however. Vehicles left overseas have been through at least one war. Vehicles that never left the U.S.A., never went through a war.
Do not be afraid of shipping a vehicle from Europe to America, or vise versa. It is not a difficult procedure and not exceedingly expensive if it means getting the exact vehicle you want.
My World War II MB is my dream car. I’ve had it for almost four years and I still love it. If you ever thought of getting an old military vehicle, and you are in a position to do so, I highly recommend going through with it.