- Associated Press - Thursday, April 13, 2017

LIBERTY, Miss. (AP) - After Larry?Forman finished restoring his World War II-era Jeep, you might think he’d go mudding, or at least ride the scenic backroads of Amite County.

Nope.

Forman, who keeps the pristine Army-green vehicle in an enclosed shop, says he only takes it riding “if conditions are right,” meaning no mud, dust or pollen.

“It’s never had dew to fall on it,” says Forman. “It’s proved its point.”

He completed the restoration in 2015 but has only put 40 miles on the vehicle. He takes it mainly to car shows, and then in a covered car-hauler.

After all, this is no ordinary Jeep. It’s a 1943 Willys MB, the four-wheel drive military model made for the U.S. Army.

“I’ve always just liked Jeeps, and I’m kind of a military nut, too,” says Forman, 58, who runs the Georgia-Pacific sawmill at Brookhaven.

Forman learned how to be a mechanic from his father, the late James “Banie” Forman, who also served in the Army’s First Calvary in the Korean War.

“I was raised in a shop,” says Forman, who went on to work as a machinist for G-P for 21 years before going into management.

He’s restored old vehicles in the past but was looking for a Willys Jeep - named for Willys-Overland Motors, which won the Army bid to make four-wheel drive vehicles for the war.

The MB stands for Military model?B (a successor to Military?model A). Later, Willys and other companies made civilian versions referred to as CJ, or Civilian Jeep.

Forman ran across a Willys MB in Louisiana, a “piece of junk,” but it wasn’t for sale. He asked the owner to put out feelers for anyone else who had one, and a year later the man called.

“He said, ‘I found you a Jeep.’ I said, ‘Where is it?’ He said, ‘It’s this one here.’ “

Forman brought it home and went to work. “I brought it down to the frame and on up,” he says.

Forman assembled the vehicle, then disassembled it for painting - first red primer, then military green, and finally white letters and numbers. He even built his own paint booth.

The motor is a 70hp flathead. “I went through it completely,”?Forman says. “It’s pretty simple, but it’s well made.

“The body was completely rotted off it. I had to purchase a body from the Philippines.”

After WWII, the U.S. Army left lots of Jeeps in the Philippines, and the locals used them for transportation until they wore out.?An enterprising dentist began selling replacement parts.

It took six months for Forman’s to arrive.

The completed Jeep looks ready for action.

The cab has a gun rack for an M1 Garand military rifle. On the side are an ax and shovel, on the rear a jerrycan.

A strap on each side helps keep the driver and passenger from bouncing out. The fuel tank is under the driver’s seat, and a canvas top is stored in back.

The vehicle features “blackout lights,” or hooded, low-wattage lights used for night travel during war.

Tire rims are in two pieces so soldiers can change a flat in the field without special tools.

The vehicle also has a hand-crank in case the battery dies.

A rounded area in the middle of the floor serves as a machine gun mount. The windshield wipers are manual, and the windshield lays down if necessary.

The 2,000-pound vehicle has four heavy handles, so if it gets bogged down, soldiers can hoist it out.

It took?Forman 21?2 years to restore the Jeep. He’s won numerous awards in car shows.

One show didn’t have a category for his Jeep, and at the end, an award winner handed Forman his trophy. “He said, ‘You deserve this more than I do,’ ” Forman says.

At another show, an elderly man in a wheelchair spotted Forman’s Jeep.

“He bailed out of that chair, because he used to drive one,” Forman says. “He wanted to see the blackout lights. He said, ‘Son, can I hear it run?’ “

The vehicle cranks with a foot-operated starter.?Forman’s Jeep starts on the first try.

It puffs to life and settles into a contented purr, like a discarded cat that’s finally found a home.

___

Information from: Enterprise-Journal, https://www.enterprise-journal.com


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