by Jeff Rowsam
The historic military vehicle (HMV) hobby is seeing a change from its traditional, static events where stationary displays of restored military vehicles are the mainstay. More and more, owners are expressing interest in driving their HMVs. That includes everything from a ride to the ice cream shop with the kids, driving into the local cruise night, to convoying to the next regional HMV weekend swap meet all the way to more extensive convoy events covering longer distances.
In 2012, the Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA) sponsored its second major cross country convoy event. 2012 Marked the 70th anniversary of the building of the Alaska Highway by the US Army in 1942. What better way to commemorate that WWII event than driving 4,100 miles on a military road in a convoy of restored HMVs?
Not a small event—the Alaska convoy did require plenty of pre-planning. A dedicated group of a dozen volunteers formed the core team.
The convoy included 77 HMVs dating from WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm. These vehicles were pulling 33 military trailers. 36 support vehicles towed 19 more civilian trailers. In all, 190 people participated including 46 women. Of those participating, 53 were veterans.
Drivers came from all corners of the US and Canada. In addition to the North American contingent, convoy drivers came from Belgium, France, Australia and New Zealand. Many drivers drove their favorite HMVs from as far as Florida, Texas, California, Ohio and Wisconsin just to get to the starting point in Dawson Creek in far northern British Columbia!
THE WAY IT WAS
Today, the Alaska Highway is a paved, all-weather, two-lane route, but we wanted to drive our HMVs on some gravel roads much like is was in the 1940s. So, the route was planned to travel off the main “ALCAN” (Alaska Highway) route for sections of the trip.
Covering 4,100 miles total, the convoy included 1,100 miles on remote gravel roads. The journey also included a side trip the Arctic circle just to say, “We did it.”
When the highway was opened, someone asked an American GI what the road was like. He thought a moment and said “Well, it’s miles and miles...of miles and miles.” But as we learned, the views, and the company couldn’t be beat.
IS CONVOYING FOR EVERYONE?
Convoying is a great way to share the hobby, make new friends and see some fabulous sites around the country. The Alaska Convoy event was no exception.
Mechanical breakdowns were few and far between. More problems were encountered in the first few days than at any other time. Most problems were either being fuel or ignition related. After a few tanks of gas and some sustained hours of operation, things smooth out very nicely. This shows that operating our HMVs really is better for them than sitting in the garage!
The group traveled about 200 miles per day at convoy speeds of 35 mph. Camping was the order of the day in this remote region, with the occasional cabin or hotel along the way in towns. Meals varied from individual MREs to “fix your own breakfast” to small groups of drivers working a planned menu together. Evening meals were sometimes pre-arranged with the campground. Some villages even provided free meals.
While the Alaska Convoy event is an extreme long distance example, there is no reason that groups of HMV owners can’t get together and plan a weekend drive with friends. Pick a spot and plan a route that makes an interesting loop. Plan a day or a couple days that returns people to the start point. This makes a nice way to come together, reconnect and then head for home when the convoy is completed.