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Annual exhibit pays homage to Jeep legacy

The Jeep History Exhibit will be open Friday, June 9, to Sunday, June 11, at the Cooper’s Lake Campground IN Worth Township. Submitted photo

There is plenty of fun to be had at the annual Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival, from Jeep Team Challenge to the Jeep ’n Seek. However, there is one event that will take spectators on a journey through time.

The festival will pay homage to the Jeep legacy at the annual Jeep History Exhibit, which is open during festival hours at the Cooper’s Lake Campground in Worth Township. There will be several exhibit showcases, along with keynote speakers that will highlight the variety of different models and adaptations that the Jeep has evolved into over the past eight decades

This year’s Jeep History Exhibit, sponsored by Omoix-ADA, will offer spectators a chance to see a number of rare and unique vehicles, civilian and military jeeps, including a one-of-a-kind BRC-40 Factory Service Truck.

“We’re proud to show the history of the Jeep,” said Bill Ringeisen, history exhibit manager. “The Jeep model started here in Bantam and we’re proud to display that here.”

Spectators also will be able to see the evolution of various accessories and grills made for the Jeeps throughout the decades.

Bill Norris — editor-in-chief for the quarterly magazine The Dispatcher, a publication that covers military and civilian Jeep models built before the 1990s — will be speaking about Jeep-approved accessories from the years 1945 through 1971.

“Being from Detroit, you go to a car show and it’s all about Camaros and Mustangs. When I show up in my Jeep, no one has any idea that they had a civilian model after the war and all of the options you could get for it,” Norris said. “A lot of people don’t know the history.”

Norris who has years of experience wrenching, restoring, researching and writing about Jeep vehicles will be sharing his intimate knowledge about the history of Jeeps accessories such as the evolution of the hitch on Jeeps.

“Jeeps during that time had a power take off point,” Norris said. “They had three of them, one in front, middle and rear. They were actually marketed in the late ’40s as a farm tractor. You could get a three-point hitch just like a ford tractor or a John Deer.”

Among the rare vehicles that will be on display is the short-wheel base pickup Jeep known as the Forward Control 150, easily recognized for its grille. There were only around 30,000 Forward Control Jeep produced.

Along with the Forward Control 150, OmixADA will be displaying a 1959 FC-150, 1955 Willy Pick-ups and a 1946 CJ-2A farming Jeep.

Also being featured at the exhibit will be a 1966 CJ-5 Kaiser, named the Sand Ship Discovery — this Jeep is a Guinness Book of World Records recipient for being the first all-land crossing vehicle of the Darien Gap of Panama and Colombia.

“We did something that no other jeep has done,” said Patty Upton, owner of the Sand Ship Discovery. “And no Jeep can do. There have been other vehicles through there … but they have never gone entirely through land.”

Upton will be speaking to the crowd about her “life-changing” adventures with her late husband and their “romantic trip” around the world.

“We did it on our own,” Upton said. “While we were not venturing to the other side of the moon or something, however when you compare with what we did to what goes on today — we had no GPS, we had no satellite phones, we had no cellphones — families didn’t hear from us to months at a time. We just had to make it work”

Also speaking at the event will be Jeep historian and author of three books Paul Bruno, who specializes in Jeep history from the end of World War I through 1941.

Bruno said he believes that the Jeep history exhibit is not just for Jeep enthusiasts, but for anyone with a healthy curiosity of American and world history.

“The Bantam Car Co. and the creation of the Jeep is a quintessential American story,” Bruno said. “I think the reason for Jeep people and non-Jeep people to care about the Jeep history especially with WWII, but beyond, is the fact that in the history of warfare there are very weapons that are consequential and decisive in winning a war. A technological leap doesn’t happen that often, but the Jeep was that leap that won a World War.

“It’s a quintessential American story,” Bruno said. “To me, that’s awe inspiring.”

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