- - Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ever since he served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne, John McCleaf Jr. has harbored a fascination for military vehicles.

He has restored several, including a 1942 Dodge radio car that won several awards and attracted the attention of the owner of a military vehicle museum in Indianapolis.

Mr. McCleaf wasn’t in the mood to sell but he would consider trading for something interesting. That something turned out to be an Army scout car made in 1940 by the company that built White trucks.

In September 1998 the swap was made when the White scout car was delivered to Mr. McCleaf’s Dayton, Md., home and his Dodge was hauled away.

The scout car was manufactured in Cleveland, Ohio, and weighs 11,750 pounds when loaded. That includes eight men, two .30-caliber and one .50- caliber machine guns along with the appropriate ammunition, two 15-gallon gas tanks, myriad heavy-duty hand tools as well as every body panel made of quarter-inch-thick armor plate.

To propel all this weight is a mighty 230-cubic-inch six-cylinder Hercules JXD engine that produces 110 horsepower.

Mr. McCleaf was aware that the vehicle he traded was in much better condition than the one he got. The scout car’s beauty was only skin deep. “It didn’t look bad,” Mr. McCleaf says, “but it had been restored only cosmetically.”

He took an inventory of his armored scout car and found it to be a hair less than 18.5 feet long, had the 360-degree skate gun rail around the cockpit but was missing all three machine guns and two trolleys that the guns rode on. Auxiliary tripods and gun mounts were missing as were the hand tools.

Mr. McCleaf promptly set about taking the engine and four-speed transmission apart. To be combat-ready the engine has two redundant fan belts, a six-blade radiator fan and wiring with protect armored braiding. After these parts were ready to reinstall, he disassembled the rest of the vehicle down to the frame.

That’s when he discovered the right front frame rail was bent. With the help of a 30-ton jack and a steel I-beam Mr. McCleaf straightened the frame.

Thereafter, the restoration involved a lot of sandblasting, repairs where necessary, and searching for missing parts.

In Pennsylvania he found a man from Belgium who sold him a trolley for his skate gun rail.

Mr. McCleaf got lucky when he located a lemon and avocado farmer in California who had numerous military vehicle parts that he needed, including a .50-caliber machine gun.

From another California man came a pair of replica .30-caliber water-cooled machine guns.

Incomplete records show the scout car spent a lot of years in France before being brought back to the United States in 1985.

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