It has been a busy month on the historic military vehicle (HMV) front. I have had lots to consider when pondering the hobby.
First of all, for those who didn’t know, the Military Vehicle Preservation Association held its 35th Annual International Convention in Topeka, Kansas during the second week of July. I hadn’t been to a national convention for about two years, so I was long overdue. I packed loads of magazines in the back of the Jetta and headed out to the convention.
The MVPA has been changing a great deal during the past couple of years. A new President, Board of Directors and Supply Editor have been working hard to press old creases and wrinkles out of the fabric that holds the national MV organization together. And believe me, their efforts show! The Topeka Convention appeared to run smoothly. I heard nothing but enthusiasm for the hobby and the organization.
Sitting at my table of back issues, I did recognize a few trends. First, and it is no surprise, the average age of MVPA members is going up. That should come as no surprise though. Collecting HMVs is really nostalgia-driven. Folks who started the hobby were nostalgic for WWII vehicles. Those people are getting up there in years. Folks with a connection to the Korean War or even Vietnam simply don’t number as high as those with good feelings about WWII. Couple this with the fact that vehicles are just not flowing into the surplus market as rapidly as they did after any one of those three wars, and you can see why there isn’t any real growth spurt on the horizon.
But that doesn’t mean the Board of the MVPA isn’t trying. They made a brilliant alliance with AMPS, the Armor Modeling and Preservation Society. The local AMPS chapter held a competition and display of their work. It was fascinating to watch the interaction between scale modelers and 1:1 restorers. It was like watching two long-lost groups of cousins discovering each other for the first time! The modelers knew the minutiae of details so important to good restoration and the vehicle restorers provided unbridled access to vehicles that the modelers had only seen in scale or in photos. I can see both groups benefiting from this alliance.
I overheard the next trend more than I observed it. In conversation after conversation with well-established vehicle collectors (with collections of 20 or move HMVS), it seems that many are downsizing. A lot of reasons were given, ranging from the economy to simply not having the time to maintain large fleets.
As for the vehicles at the convention, I have to say the quality of restorations and displays has really grown in the last few years. In the past, vehicles displayed at the convention ranged from “what I drove to the show” to “don’t touch without gloves!” While there were still some of both of those elements at the convention, more owners are really focusing on “displays” or dioramas that help put their vehicles in historical context. This might be an area where the AMPS modelers will be of some critical assistance. MV collectors are paying more attention to the details of uniforms, accouterments, weapons and accessories that are appropriate for display with their vehicle. Moreover, they are attempting to put together displays that tell a story…not just draping gear on their trucks. For example, there was an amazing display of a WWII weather station that centered on the task-built CCKW 2-1/2-ton truck. There was a great WWII firebase set up in the convention area entry complete with sound affects. Another group of vehicles depicted various Vietnam-era motorpool scenes with mannequin “mechanics” in grease-stained HBTs pulling wrenches. Looking at these scenes made it easy to consider the soldiers’ sacrifice. These dioramas really are good for helping the public to understand that the hobby isn’t about the trucks, jeeps or tanks, but rather, it is all about honoring the soldiers who drove them.
On A Legal Front
Many of you have read or heard about difficulties titling HMVs in Wisconsin. Thankfully, a group of clubs and owners banded together, cooperated and formulated a bill that they felt served the largest group of owners and not any one individual or type of vehicle. Due to the efforts of these Badgers, anyone can title a non-tracked, U.S.-made HMV or any foreign, non-tracked HMV over 25 years old for private use. For more information on the law that serves all HMV enthusiasts in Wisconsin, log onto http://wihmvbill.blogspot.com/.
While I was at the MVPA Convention, I learned of the death of two Philadelphia tourists who were riding a WWII DUKW when it experienced engine failure, was struck by a commercial barge and sank. [see article] It seems most news outlets haven’t connected the dots between what they are calling a “duck boat” and the HMV hobby. But, eventually they will. These types of accidents are never good for the hobby. Let this event serve as a reminder to all of us that the vehicles that we love to show off to our neighbors, drive in parades or transport our families are antique vehicles that were never intended for a life beyond military service. HMVs are just like elephants: Cool to look at, fun to ride, a bitch to clean up after and they will CRUSH YOU IF YOU AREN’T CAREFUL.
Keep ‘em safe, keep ‘em legal and keep ‘em rolling,
Editor, Military Vehicles Magazine and Military Trader