Tonka's Arrival

It all started one otherwise un-remarkable Saturday afternoon late in the last century with an ad in the newspaper classifieds-

"Airplane For Sale- Coot Amphibian"

Being as I was a recently minted pilot & the price was right I gave the number a call & yes, the plane was still available. It was located a ways down the south shore of Nova Scotia so I tell Rachel we're going for a Sunday drive :). Eventually we found the place-

The story on the plane is an all to familiar one for home builts, the original builder died before completion, it changed hands a half dozen times, eventually got finished but never flown. The plane itself looked great, beautiful workmanship, factory quality if not better. The current owner had, quite intelligently, decided to check the workmanship on the "hidden" bitties before he flew it. What he found was that some wheres along the line after completion the wings had been stored outside in a position that didn't allow water to exit out through the drain holes & consquently the wing spars were rotted :(. Pity, apart from the bad sections they were beautifully done :(. So beautifully done that I knew I was never going to able to replicate them, so that was it for the airplane.

End of Story.

Oh wait, Whats that?
You want to know about the Jeep??

Well, O.K., If you insist-

Where was I- oh yes, Airplane, Sunday drive, No Sale :(.

So it's Sunday Afternoon & we have nothing better to do so lets drive some more. We point the car south & keep going. Some where around a place called Western Shore (located on the south-east coast, apparently the early settlers were a little geographicly challenged) we drive past an old jeep sitting by the side of the road with a "For Sale" sign on it. Now, Rachel had been saying for a while that she'd like to have a Jeep & I wasn't adverse to the idea so we turn around & head back to have a closer look.

It was Brown.
It was Yellow.
It was Funky.

After the pre-requisite wait while I poked, peered & prodded the owner came out & commenced the hard sell. The jeep was in great shape, he asked me what year I thought it was & I muttered something about being somewhere's in the 70s.
The look on my face when he said it was a '55 musta been priceless :(.
In point of fact, the serial number is 378, that places it in the first week or two of CJ5 production back in '54-
The story on the jeep was that it had originally been fitted out as a Zamboni Model "E" ice machine. Between 1955 & some wheres in the 70's it belonged to the Montreal Forum. It was then, along with couple of siblings, auctioned off & picked up by a rink in nearby Chester N.S. where it laboured on for another decade or so- When the Chester rink decided to upgrade to more modern equipment the old jeeps were let go. Somehow an older gentlemen acquired this one & proceeded to start the transformation back into a road vehicle. He held onto it for a few years & then sold it to the guy who had it when we saw it. This fellow had completed the "restoral" & was using it to haul fire wood form his wood lot 1/4 mile up the road.

From 1955 to 1990 this was the only road mileage it got. The odometer actually read "20"

A little more tire kicking & a short road test later the dickering commenced-
To make a long story short ('bout time 'Eh?) after some hard bargaining I succeeded it buying it for exactly what he was asking & No More:).

It was a rather nerve racking, incredibly noisy, two hour drive home during which it would absolutely refuse to go over 35 miles an hour :(.
Heres what it looked like when we got there-

The paint looks a lot better in the pictures than it really was, it was latex that had been applied with a brush, & looked like it- The PO had put some old shag carpeting (remember that green stuff from the 70's?) on the floor, once we pulled it out from behind the pedals we now found that the jeep would go 50 MPH :).

The first thing thats gonna happen is to get rid of that roof-

The top was something special, the PO had taken a half top, cut it across from side to side & grafted in some 22 gu. aluminum & supports to make a full top. Once in place the whole assembly got about 20lbs. of body fill smeared over it to make it look even, it's that white stuff all over the ground.

This whole conglomeration was solidly bolted to the body & windshield with a couple of dozen bolts, absolutely no two of which were the same size.

If I'm looking insufferably proud in this picture it's because we're now about four hours into the process & I'm finally feeling like I'm getting some wheres.

Finally Done! Only took six hours start to finish- That thing was on there solid & would only come off one miserable piece at a time :(. But it was worth it, we're looking 100% better. The first time we drove it we couldn't believe how much quieter it was- that old top was a real echo chamber..

And the tear down begins-

Well that went remarkably quickly, lets put it back together again :)

First we did a little painting- Jeepers! It looked Bee-You-Tee-Full! We used Tremclad rust paint, in retrospect not a great idea. :(.

O.K, lets just pretend I'm not holding a girly umbrella in this picture & we'll just concentrate on the windshield. Since the jeep had been converted into a Zamboni a number of items such as the seats, gas tank, tail gate & windshield were missing. The PO had a windshield made up out of (Believe It Or Not!) an old bed frame :/. Actually it was well done but it wasn't going to work with the new soft top so it had to go. This was a bit of a challenge as it had been welded to the body but with some deft & delicate grinding it was off. The downside was the next day (after the night's dew) I had teensy-tiny brown spots all over the fresh white paint where the grindings had rusted away to nothing.
Had to paint the interior all over again:(.

Back together she goes-

Back on the road! Notice the license plate, it's now officially TONKA :). Had to change it, CAG is a terrible name for a jeep, sounds like the cat coughing up a hairball :(. Check out the difference between this picture & the interior shot above. Those are the same seats, we re-upholstered with cloth instead of the woven looking vinyl & spray painted the other vinyl on the sides & backs black. I moved the trio guages to the bottom of the dash & filled in all the holes. Yes, we put in carpeting. No, it wasn't shag :).

Of course, we weren't quite done, there was still the remains of that S*** brown paint brush special body job to be got rid off so it's off to the local back woods bodyshop-

Where they quickly & efficiently removed the brown paint with a razor blade.
Then sanded down the original paint to bare metal.
Then smeared body fill all over it.
Then sanded the body fill off again.
Then painted-

And the end result didn't look half bad :).

A few years or so later I had to pull the drive train out to repair something-or-other so I took the opportunity to freshen up some of the paint. I wish I could say it stayed looking like this but once again I used Tremclad. That's a mistake I will never make again :(.

And thats basically it. For the next ten years or so we shared a lot of fun with & many adventures with Tonka. Sadly nothing lasts for ever, you can read about that here-

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