When Home Depot Turned Olive Drab

What’s that sound? It can’t be pond frogs already!  I still have my snow shovel in the trunk and my emergency “cold weather gear” in the back seat. A walk down the highway, though, and danged if I don’t hear the pond frogs echoing their springtime love songs. Those aren’t the only sounds of spring around here, though. All through the north country, there is a symphony of audible delights as historic military vehicle owners resurrect their trucks, jeeps and tanks for another year.

Push those shed doors open. Drag those tarps off your Jeeps and trucks. Hook up the batteries, check your tire pressure, prime the carbs, and press the starter buttons.  Spring is here! And like the flowers popping up everywhere, shades of olive drab are showing up on the roads.

Okay, my apologies to our southern brethren (and those few hearty northerners). I understand you have probably been driving your vehicles all winter long. But up here in the great white north, most owners tuck away their vehicles until the snow has pretty much melted.

I have to hand it to my buddies in the Red Bull Chapter of the MVPA, however. Not only did they roll out a few vehicles when the temps were around 30 degrees Fahrenheit this past weekend for an inaugural event in Plymouth, Minnesota, they initiated something I thought has strong potential for growing the hobby.

Instead of hosting a military vehicle event in a park, campground, or other out-of-the-way location, they drove their convoy of trucks, tracks, and jeeps right to the core of mainstream America: The parking lot of a Home Depot.

I admit, when I read the show announcement, my first thought was, “WTH? Home Depot? Well that isn’t very conducive to military vehicles!” Once I pulled into the mega store’s parking lot, however, it didn’t take long before I realized the genius behind the idea.  As I parked my car, I witnessed a steady flow of curious folks walking over to see what all the “Army trucks” were about. Even though it was bitingly cold, there was never a down time for the Red Bull members who greeted and talked to people who probably never would have driven to a park or other location to see military vehicles.

I armed myself with a stack of Ambassador issues to hand to curious individuals. As the Red Bull members talked about the joys of owning and driving military vehicles, the visitors asked questions, posed for photos, and tried to imagine themselves behind the wheel of a Jeep, Land Rover ambulance, or universal  carrier.  Even though it was a small show—probably about 7 or 8 vehicles, it was one of the most effective shows I have seen for engaging a fresh audience.

Home Depot

 

The Hobby is Bigger than Us

The puritan collector in me bemoaned that the show wasn’t at some secluded, wooded venue where I could squint my eyes and pretend the vehicles were in their “natural” setting. I realized, however, the hobby is bigger than what I want. And if I want the hobby to continue to be strong, vibrant, and transferable to another generation, than I have to work hard to expose it to new audiences. The Red Bulls had apparently come to the same conclusion.

That doesn’t mean the group is committed to parking lot shows—not at all. In fact, they have a couple of countryside cruises planned in addition to participating in local reenactments, parades, and private displays. They haven’t sacrificed their historical integrity by finding a mainstream venue to promote the hobby or their club.

As I drove home from the event, I considered the opportunity that these “parking lot shows” provide. I handed out about 50 copies of the Ambassador issue in less than an hour. Truth be known, probably only a couple of recipients will ever look through the magazine. So, I decided, that probably isn’t the best use of the increasingly scarce commodity of extra issues. But, we can’t let people get away without giving them something to look at when they get home and imagine themselves behind the wheel of their own military vehicle.

To that end, I created a one-sided “FAQ”  (frequently asked questions) that can be printed quickly and inexpensively. In fact, I will attach a link to the PDF here that you can download and print out to distribute, as well. At the bottom of the page, you will see a place to enter your local club and contact info. Print out a stack. Keep them in your vehicle and give copies to the curious.

If each us does our part to spread the word, our hobby will continue to add new collectors, buyers, and restorers to our ranks. And who knows, next spring when I walk along the highway, the sounds of those sheds opening and engines firing up will drown out the pond frogs. And maybe—just maybe—Home Depot will be stocking OD 24087 in the paint section.

Keep ‘em rolling,

John Adams-Graf
Editor, Military Vehicles Magazine and Military Trader

JAG’s Shoutout: Kudos to John Bizal of Midwest Military for getting out there with his fellow Red Bulls to promote the hobby. Check out his full line of parts, vehicles, and projects at www.MidwestMilitary.net

 

 

 

 

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