Kent State Coordinator of Photography Shares Passion for Jeeps
Bob Christy, coordinator of photography at Kent State University, has a passion for restoring Jeeps from the 1940s and 1950s. He tears them apart, cleans each piece, locates new parts and rebuilds from the ground up.
“When I was a kid, my dad dragged me out of bed at 6 a.m. and took me to a jeep race,” Mr. Christy says. “Ever since then, I have been amazed by Jeeps and have loved them. Jeeps are the ultimate play car. They are such little cars, but there is so much they can do. It’s so cool.”
Rebuilding each Jeep can take up to four years, says Mr. Christy, who spent three weeks carefully working on a transmission. He is currently working on a 1949 Jeep and has already completely restored one from 1953.
“I can look at a pile of parts and know what it’s going to look like in the end,” he says. “I just keep my eyes on the end goal, what it’s going to look like.”
Part of the rebuilding process involves locating new parts for each Jeep. Friends in the community, old dealerships, other Jeep aficionados and swap-meet shows all provide the right parts.
“At some shows, there is also a swap meet going on where people who have parts bring them and sell them,” Mr. Christy says. “It’s people trading parts, that kind of thing.”
In addition to swap meets, Mr. Christy also tries to attend two to three shows per year and sets up a large national show in the spring and a smaller one at his house in the fall.
“The shows that I run and generally go to, people bring the Jeeps to a hotel or parking lot with about 60 or 70 Jeeps all restored, with models from 1942 into the ’60s,” he says. “Some people restore their Jeeps perfectly, while others modify them or they are works in progress.”
This year, he is hoping to also feature two big speakers at his show in the spring. One man, Hugo Vidal from Brazil, has completed a trip from Brazil to Alaska twice, once in 1955 and this past year, both in Jeeps that were brand new at the time. Another speaker is a man who operates a website for old Jeeps.
Mr. Christy also recently attended a show in September called Cheap Jeep’s Meet and Ride. Jeep lovers congregated in southeast Kentucky to ride around the countryside for 30-40 miles a day.
“It was amazing to see,” he says. “Sometimes you just take a drive at these shows. Last year, we took a drive and stopped at an old hotel and had a barbeque dinner waiting for us.”
Another type of show he attends is a working show.
“Back in the ’40s, Jeeps were marketed as an alternative to a tractor, like you could run farm equipment with them,” he says. “Anything a farmer could do with a tractor; you could do with a Jeep back then.”
The working shows have a farm demonstration with Jeeps working the equipment.
“So some shows are more ride driven, some shows are more show driven and some are working shows,” Mr. Christy says.
His favorite part of working with Jeeps, though, is the people. He meets the nicest people who share the same interests as him, he says.
“Jeeps are just so much fun,” Mr. Christy says.
His latest Jeep project will be on display at the upcoming “Summit Racing Equipment I-X Piston Powered Auto-Rama” being held at the I-X Center in Cleveland from March 16-18.