We all know...It depends on the young!
by Mark Sigrist
Every weekend, it’s not hard to find a car show or cruise-in to attend somewhere within driving distance — even for a 70-year-old historic military vehicle (HMV). Recently, several fellow vehicle owners were lamenting the apparent “aging” of the collector participants; however, the enthusiastic show visitors seem to be the same general slice of the population as ever. Subsequent comments were related to how lucky I was to have a son who was a willing participant in my military vehicle adventures: Restoration, shows, events, and even convoys.
My son, Gunnar, was still tiny when, into the backpack he went, and off we would go for daily hikes that would keep me in physical condition for my job as wildland firefighter. I would name the various interesting vehicles we would see on our hike. When he began to talk, he would name them to me.
Later, Gunnar played in the shop and listened as I described in a running commentary, what I was doing; Changing oil, adjusting brakes, stripping paint, or banging metal. Soon, he was handing down wrenches and looking forward to the numerous “test drives” and show events. He would almost always go — even when he was still in diapers (forgive me for letting out that “secret” Gunnar!)
A SUCCESS STORY:
GUNNAR GETS INVOLVED
Gunnar and I did our first MVPA Transcontinental Convoyin 2009 when he was 13. We had no clue what to expect from the “Lincoln Highway Convoy” (even though I had driven a few M35’s in the Army). By the time we arrived in San Franciscoafter 30 days on the road, he was sad for it to be over.
He had itched to drive our Dodge WC-56 Command Car, but that was not going to happen out on the highway! Today, he remembers one of his highlights of that trip. Every night in the tent before falling asleep, I would tell him a story of my remembrances: Growing up on a dairy farm, my Army service and Vietnam tour, or a wildfire story.
Impatiently, Gunnar looked forward to 2012, when he would be 16. That year, we did the Alaska Highway Convoy. He was the envy of his entire high school as he drove our M35A3 nearly 3,000 miles of our 7,200 mile trip on his “learners permit.” And of course, he drove it to school several times.
By the time of the 2015 Bankhead Convoy, Gunnar was a “Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic” on active duty in the United States Marine Corps. He was able to obtain liberty for the last weekend of that convoy to join up and see old friends — both people and vehicles!
Gunnar fully expects to take over our small vehicle collection when the time comes. He plans to continue what we had started before the time when he could walk.
ADJUST THE WAY WE THINK?
Perhaps a personal introspective evaluation will provide each of us with an opportunity to adjust the perceived trend of “the aging of the collectors.”Each of us can do a small part: Start at home.
Encourage your children and grandchildren to “help you fix,” do preventive maintenance, go to a show, or go for rides in your HMV. Involve them in discussions about the vehicles. Ask their opinions and show them that you value their input. Heck, maybe even a little bribery doesn’t hurt: “Ya know son, these trucks are gonna be yours someday…”
Subtle “recruitment” at events: Those visitors see more than your vehicle, they see you. If your attitude is brusque, off-putting, or cold, they will not spend time learning the merits and joys of owning HMVs. Be friendly and supportive, answer all the questions — even the many people who mistake a Dodge Command Car for a Jeep. Your attention has to be on the visitors. You can be pleasant when asking them not to climb all over your pretty restoration, if you choose not to allow that highly sought after activity!
Invite folks to attend future events and your club meetings. Hand out your old subscription copies of MVM magazines if you don’t collect them. Many people are unaware that “those Army trucks” are all privately owned and “Yes, even you can buy and drive one.”
So, let’s get out there and promote our historic military vehicle addiction. We are responsible for the future of the hobby.