History roars to life with restorer's help
June 29, 2011 - When the Clarkston Fourth of July Parade marches down Main Street, Monday, Terry and Muriel Shelswell of Independence Township, and their sons Michael and Ben, will be there in Terry's collection of historic military vehicles.
"I'm honored to be there – it'll be great," said Terry, who has been collecting military trucks since 1988, when he bought a 1952 Dodge M37CDN cargo and troop transport truck.
He will also display the M37 and his 1952 Willys M38A1 quarter-ton Jeep, along with trailers and other items, at the Independence Township Festival of Fun at Clintonwood Park. Military displays will be set up in and around Carriage House in the park.
He bought his first vehicle in 1988 in Ontario, Canada, which is where he and Muriel are from.
"I was doing a lot of off road driving and wanted something a little stronger," he said. "Then I was bit by the green bug."
He bought the Jeep in 1997 in Clarkston, a few years after he and the family moved here.
Both vehicles required restoration, more for the Jeep.
"I had to take it right down to the frame," he said. "I took every single piece off, sandblasted, repaired, repainted them, and put back it all back together."
He used his experience fixing farm tractors growing up and in his job as a mechanical engineer – he's director of Mobile Business Processes for Inergy Automatic Systems – to figure it out, as well as trial and error.
He bought a 1951 trailer for the Jeep two years ago, as well as a 1950's GMC deuce-and-a-half truck, a 6x6 utility transport.
"The trailer's in really quite nice shape," he said. "It's correct for the vehicle. It just needs some light sanding and paint to match the Jeep."
He's started restoration work on the deuce-and-a-half, a rare, gas-powered truck with an auto-matic transmission.
"I'm looking at a couple more, but I need more space," Terry said.
He's looking to buy a wrecker, which would be practical as well as historic.
"It would help with lifts," he said.
He participates in convoys and other events with Arsenal of Democracy Motor Pool and Ohio Motor Pool, both affiliates of Military Vehicle Preservation Association.
In 2009, they took part in a convoy from Washington D.C. to San Francisco, reenacting a 1919 convoy marking the end of World War I.
"It was like a 26-day-long Fourth of July parade – every little town was lined up, waiting for us," Terry said. "It was humbling."
"The veterans would salute us – it was such an honor," Muriel said.
Next year, they will join in a convoy from British Columbia to Alaska. The month-long trip commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Alaska Highway, which linked Canada and the lower 48 states to Alaska during World War II.
"They built it in a few short months," Terry said. "It was an awesome activity."
They also participate in local events such as downtown parades and Tons of Trucks.
"We do it, number one, to honor our veterans and the folks in service today," Terry said. "Also, present vehicles to the public so they can learn how they work. To see them in operation, hear the engines, smell the canvas adds depth to the experience."
"It's real history," Muriel said.
"At Motor Muster (in Detroit), an older gentleman said it was the first time he sat in one of these (the Jeep) in years and years, and started to tear up," Terry said. "I'm proud to do this."
Their sons are both graduates of Clarkston High School. Michael is also a decorated combat veteran, medically retired as a sergeant.
Serving with the U.S. Army Fourth Infantry Division in Iraq, his Bradley infantry fighting vehicle was hit by an RPG. He pulled the seriously wounded driver out of the burning vehicle, saving his life. He was awarded a Bronze Star with V-Device for Valor as well as a Purple Heart.
"We're very proud of him, of both our sons," Muriel said.
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.