A LIFELONG BOND BETWEEN A SON AND HIS DAD’S 1953 WILLYS M38A1 SURPLUS JEEP
GDenny Ghiringhelli spent most of his life as a commercial airline pilot and mechanic. Used to piloting planes and wrenching on them, he recently traded in wings for wheels.
Little did he know that a military Jeep his father bought in the early 1970s would play a pivotal role in his life decades later. The bone-stock 1953 Willys M38A1 became a true part of his family.
The Willys M38A1’s History
Ghiringhelli’s father paid about $500 for the 24-volt Korean War surplus Jeep that donned its military paint scheme.
“An interesting coincidence is that the date of delivery stamped into the data plate and stenciled under the hood was the same day, month and year as my birthday,” Ghiringhelli said.
In high school, Ghiringhelli’s first foray into off-roading was “to load up a couple of friends and head down to the local river to test out the ‘fording’ features.” (His father wasn’t amused when the teenagers had to be extracted from the river with the family’s tractor.)
The Willys was occasionally driven to school and through vineyards (the family lived in California’s wine country). Eventually, the 24-volt system was discarded in favor of 12 volts.
Although Ghiringhelli didn’t pilot the Willys for another 40 years, his dad drove it.
“He and my mom would drive around the Napa Valley, go mushroom hunting, etcetera.”
Eventually, his father quit piloting it, and it “slept” in storage until 2013.
The Grand Reawakening
“I was retired from the airlines. One day, my dad said, ‘Why don’t you get that old Jeep running?’” (For those who aren’t Italian, what Ghiringhelli’s father actually meant was, “Get that damned thing out of here!”) So, he did.
“We towed it to my shop, where I pulled the fuel tank and the carb. We flushed out the tank, threw the carb in the trash and put in a new one.”