About a dozen restored Jeepsters will be stopping off in Natchitoches today. They are driven by a group of antique car owners who are making a coast-to-coast journey, 2,600 miles on country roads.
The Jeepster was built in Toledo, Ohio, by Willys-Overland Motors from 1948 to 1950. It was the last open-style car produced by a major automaker.
Jim Vacarro has restored 44 of them. He’s leading this 17-day tour that he hopes to scratch off his bucket list. Vacarro says these vehicles were marketed toward soldiers returning from World War II.
“They thought that if they built these classy, little convertibles that the boys coming back from the war would have a Jeep to take their family out in. But unfortunately, they were a little bit too expensive for the boys. So, they didn’t make a whole lot of them,” Vaccaro said. “They made about 19,000 over the three years, and we think there are only about 2,000 to 3,000 left in the world.”
Thomas Walker of Marked Tree, Arkansas, is making the trip. His Jeepster has been in his family since he was 10 years old. Walker says part of his transmission shorted out yesterday, but Vacarro fixed it, and 30 minutes later the caravan continued toward Natchitoches.
Walker says he learned to drive behind the wheel of the Jeepster that his father restored.
“It sat in the shed behind our house for about four years until my sister and I got old enough to start learning how to drive,” Walker said. “He fixed it up until it would run. We drove it around a 40-acre field next to our house, and that’s how we learned how to drive.”
The Jeepsters will be on display at the Best Western in Natchitoches beginning Wednesday, April 9, at 6 p.m., and continuing through Thursday, April 10. The trip is slated to end in San Diego on April 22.