Cold War era Jeep gets a reboot

Capt(N) Steve Waddell, Base Commander

Capt(N) Steve Waddell, Base Commander

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

A blue Cold-War-era Jeep languishing in storage in the CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum garage will be pressed into action as a ceremonial staff car for the Base Commander.

The 1967 Willys Jeep CJ5 has been refurbished by mechanics from the Royal Canadian Electrical Mechanical Engineers workshop.

“I’m happy it will have a future with the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN),” says Glendon Smith, who oversaw the work. “I’m an experienced mechanic but also a history buff. I even owned an old army jeep myself once, so I am really delighted to see things coming full circle for this Jeep. It’s good to know it will have an official capacity again and hopefully used at the base for many years.”

The CJ5 is a two-wheel drive, four cylinder with a three speed standard transmission and seating for four to five personnel.

Much of Jeep’s history is unknown, but it is thought to be one of a number of vehicles employed by commanders of RCN ships and used as a “Port Jeep” during the 1950s and 60s.

In 1985, when the navy celebrated its 75th Anniversary, the vehicle was totally rebuilt by the Base Maintenance Workshop, and presented to then-Base Commander Capt(N) Harry Hal Dzioba, says Smith. Prior to that it had sat idle for several years in a parking lot at Work Point, with its paint fading and rust creeping in.

After the 75th it was once again mothballed.

“Honestly I would love to hear from anyone in the military community who has information about this vehicle and where and when it might have been used,” says Smith.

While there are gaps in its history, Smith does know the CJ5 model was purchased specifically for the RCN by the Government of Canada, and is markedly different from other Jeeps used by the Canadian Army during the same time period.

The CJ5 model borrowed several design features from Jeep’s “more glamourous” Tuxedo Park edition of the same era. Features such as fold-out benches, a spare tire rack at the rear, and side steps, also known as running boards, were added to the vehicle.

Smith adds the 134-cubic-inch engine may seem “primitive” compared to today’s more advanced engines.

“It was a basic engine that runs on fuel and spark, and was designed that way so anyone with very little mechanical knowledge could repair it,” he explains.
Capt(N) Steve Waddell plans to use the Jeep at parades and other community events.

“The naval jeep will provide an opportunity to engage with the community and showcase the rich and vibrant history of the Royal Canadian Navy and CFB Esquimalt,” he says. “It will allow us to share our stories while also inspiring people around the region to reach out and share their stories with us.”

If all goes according to plan, the Base Commander will be driving down Esquimalt Road in the May 13 Buccaneer Day parade.

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