Our family became interested in military trucks when we were on vacation at Fort Stevens, Ore., and rode an M211 on their bunker tour. As we rode, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to restore one of these?”
I began searching for a restoration vehicle and after much research I found a 1952 GMC XM211 with a 302 6-cylinder hydromatic automatic transmission. This one began an as Army truck, then was used by the National Guard in Oregon, then by Civil Defense before being privately owned. It was being sold by a gentleman in Buckley, Washington who had bought it from the Civil Defense.
Driving it back 300 miles across Washington state at 45 miles per hour was quite the adventure! During the ten hour drive, every vehicle traveling to eastern Washington passed us except for one military Humvee that I proudly overtook.
At one point a military convey passed by and I felt like part of the group (almost). All went well until we approached Cheney and the truck had had enough.
The final twenty miles to home was slowed down as we needed to stop every couple of miles to add water— the radiator had completely plugged up!
Restoring the truck to its original condition took over two years. Restoration involved completely sandblasting the truck, which I did myself, rebuilding the troop seats, and replacing all the canvas. My boys helped remove the original 1952 tires and replace them with all new tires.
Painting was done by K&M in Spokane. We went with the original paint of semi gloss olive drab, and restored the original markings. As a final touch, we decided to add a .50 caliber machine gun simulator.
The week after finishing the restoration, my kids and I drove it in the Spokane Lilac Parade, escorting a group of veterans from the VA home. A few months later, we drove in the Deer Park, Washington parade where we were allowed to fire the gun—a big hit with the crowd!
Our final parade of the season was the Spokane Valley parade where our passengers were veterans spanning five decades of service. Throughout the summer we attended six car shows, taking in first and second place trophies. Our biggest surprise was taking second place in a show where we were classed alongside all 1950s vehicles including T-Birds, Chevys, and Packards!
Wherever the truck goes we receive words of thanks from people for preserving this important part of our nation’s history. The stories we hear from those who worked on or drove this type of vehicle when they served our country are fascinating.
Our next project is the restoration of a 1951 MC38 Willys Jeep. I’m still trying to convince my wife that we need a half-track and a 10-ton M125 to complete the collection! ( Not really I want more) —Chris Phillips