More and more people are getting involved in the car hobby today as cars are no longer just considered vehicles that transport one from point A to point B. They are regarded as extension of one’s persona, or perhaps a fulfillment to some wistful affection from the past yester years. And while the hobby of automotive restoration has been focused mostly on cars, it has now evolved to include even those vehicles that nobody cared for back in its time. Add to the fact that the younger version of you who lusted over some sort of vehicle you once cannot afford have now progressed and has the resources to turn those nostalgic dreams to reality, it’s no longer surprising these days to see hearses and ambulances, old passenger jeepneys and delivery vans being restored back to their former glory.
When Willys started venturing in to passenger vehicles after the World War II, they created the Willys Utility Wagon in 1946, with the same rugged 4 wheel drive design of the war proven reliability of its military Jeep, the MB. These vehicles became true work horses of farmers and ranchers of its day. It has been used a lot by outdoors adventure-loving people, thus making the Willys Wagon the true pioneer to modern sports utility vehicles.
Martin Oliveros Semilla had a fascination for Jeeps since he was a young kid. And although he always had his eye on the CJ-7, there was an unexplainable childhood attraction over a Willys Panel Truck that use to deliver bread in their neighborhood. Yes, that’s right folks, a bread truck.
Willys wagons were relatively common vehicles in the Philippines post war. They were once the school buses and the delivery trucks, some were personal and family vehicles driven daily all over, back when paved roads were the exception rather than the rule. These vehicles were used and abused, but just like many cars of its contemporary, time was not its ally. With growing interest on more modern vehicles, many of these all terrain granddaddy of the SUV were left in abandonment and just forgotten over time.
In 2005, Martin trips upon a 1946 Willys Overland Wagon at the back of a motor shop. Although the owner’s intent was to restore it, it has been sitting derelict for over a decade. When Martin offered to purchase the tired old Jeep, the owner agreed, knowing that his beloved vehicle will be going to a car guy who will take care of it and bring it back to life.
Martin values a vehicle that is trustworthy, and his plan was to make this Jeep a driver. He never wanted a garage queen. What he wants is something that he could use anytime, anywhere, whether the streets are paved or not, whether it’s dusty or flooded. Because the Jeep is old and the underchassis may no longer be as durable as it was, Martin decided to restomod it. Although this concept may be frowned upon by purists, alteration from original may be a necessity for the benefit of comfort, safety and reliability. And as the saying goes, to each his own.
Martin then acquired a short wheelbase 1989 Mitsubishi Pajero with a fully functioning 4 wheel drive with auto hub as donor vehicle. He then married the chassis to the body of his all original 1946 Willys Overland Wagon. The roof has been chopped 2 inches to create a better line for the Jeep then a wooden roof, sidings and floor liners were custom made. The exterior was airbrush painted to make the Jeep look like a Woody. As vintage as it looks, this Willys Overland is equipped with a lot of modern technology including power windows and locks and keyless entry with alarm. An air conditioner and retrofitted Pajero seats takes care of the driver and passenger comfort, and the proven dependability of the 2.0L 4G63 motor that powers this Jeep gives Martin the peace of mind to drive it anywhere he wants.
Passion for the automobile is fascinating. It links our childhood dreams that was thought to have been gone and outgrown, until we stumble upon it again in our grown-up years. Yes, it may just be a bread truck for the non-car people, but for Martin, it was more than that. It was an unexplained attraction that sparked a lifelong passion for the automotive. And the cool thing about it, his own rendition of the bread truck he had in mind, is now a reality that sits in his garage.
Happy Lumang Oto Motoring folks.