Clas­sics and card­board


If you ask a kid “What do you want?” you are bound to hear some pretty crazy, out-of-this-world an­swers. But when it came to Ni­co­lai, he knew what he wanted.

To­ward the end of the school year in 2015, he was given the task to make a ve­hi­cle of some sort for the Mt. Loafer Ele­men­tary School “Kindy Car” event. This is the ul­ti­mate high­light for the kids at the end of the year. Now, Ni­co­lai is 6 years old and was still in kinder­garten. So what kind of car does a kinder­gartener want? I asked about all the ob­vi­ous choices: Bat­mo­bile? No. A po­lice car? No. A race­car? No. So fi­nally out came the ques­tion “What do you want”? And of course he an­swered me with zero hes­i­ta­tion: A 1940’s Willy’s Jeep. This beau­ti­ful Amer­i­can icon and hero of count­less friendly and un­friendly en­coun­ters - this is what the 6-year-old wanted. So the epic task be­gan.

In or­der to do it jus­tice and re­ally em­body the spirit that we all love about this clas­sic, I was go­ing to need the right box. One that was a good pro­por­tion not only for the con­cept, but for Ni­co­lai as well. That was much harder than we thought. Once the box had been lo­cated, Ni­co­lai did the re­search. Through the In­ter­net and var­i­ous shows on the Mil­i­tary chan­nel, he found what he wanted, iden­ti­fied the de­tails and noted the color scheme. I re­mem­bered what his teacher had said about this ac­tiv­ity: “Let the kids do it them­selves or the par­ents will get too car­ried away and it takes all the fun out of it.” I re­solved to let him do ev­ery­thing other than cut­ting and hot glu­ing his Jeep to­gether. It was over the course of one month that we would work on this lit­tle by lit­tle af­ter school. Four cans of spray paint, a few missed hours of sleep, 10plus hot glue sticks, two bot­tles of white craft paint, some good mu­sic, a few trips to the hobby store, lots of con­tact pa­per and a cou­ple of fruit snack breaks in be­tween. He built this car from spray­ing the paint to the wheel de­sign, the de­cal place­ment and the over­all look. Yes, he knew what he wanted much sooner than I did.

As we were en­joy­ing the Elk Ridge Clas­sic Car Show on June 27, Ni­co­lai got to see a real 1945 Willy’s Jeep. With all the strength he had to con­tain him­self af­ter a se­ri­ous shaved ice sugar rush, he man­aged to tell me that he wanted a pic­ture of his Jeep with the real one. We were able to go home, pick up his car and park it right next to its more au­then­tic coun­ter­part. History in the mak­ing. For him, at least.

In the end, Ni­co­lai wanted some­thing to be proud of. Some­thing that would en­dure and last. And what other choice fits that de­scrip­tion bet­ter than a Willy’s Jeep?

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