When Joe Gennoe’s father sold his 1947 Willy’s Jeep in 1958, Joe never imagined he’d ever see it again.
He hardly thought of it again until someone he ran into at McDonald’s mentioned seeing “the Gennoe Jeep” at Harvey Treby’s scrap yard.
“What’s left of it?” he asked.
“It’s in pretty bad shape,” the man replied.
Gennoe thought it’d be nice to show to his son, so he took a trip out to see it with his family and immediately recognized the varnished wood body on the Jeep he hadn’t driven in half a century.
“Dad did an excellent job. It was oak frame and oak plywood and varnished just like a kitchen cupboard.”
At first Gennoe wasn’t interested in buying it, but Treby offered to sell it to him for $200.
It was an offer he couldn’t refuse. In 2011, he and his son Jim began stripping it down to the frame and rebuilt it from the bottom up.
Getting replacement parts for a vehicle that age isn’t always easy, but Gennoe said with the help of the Internet they were able to find everything they were looking for. Many of the parts are old ones that were still in good condition.
“We found some in the woods and friends had some. Some were given to us and some we had to buy,” he said. “It’s right back to the original.”
The seats were a bit tricky, but they managed to find replace them by using old bus seats that a friend from the island had.
After his father had sold it someone had modified it from six to 12 volts, put in a larger gas tank, added power steering and put in a radiator from another vehicle. The Gennoes made sure they switched it all back.
“We had a registered mechanic guiding us to make sure everything is up to code,” Joe said.
The only difference between what it is now and the way it was when his father owned it is the new body which replaced the wooden one that was too far gone to save.
If possible, Gennoe is hoping to have the vehicle on display at this year’s Homecoming events in Stellarton, where he is mayor. He’s in the process of seeing if he can get it registered. In the meantime, he and his family have taken in for test trips around property they own in Plymouth. It easily scales steep slopes and climbs out of holes a four-wheeler might struggle in.
To him the Jeep is special not only for personal reasons, but for the attachment it has to the family business.
“My father Bill Gennoe bought the Jeep around 1949/50 and built a plywood body on it to deliver bread in from our bakery.”
The bakery has grown and expanded since then and is now run by the fourth generation of Gennoes.
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1947 Willys Jeep
Manufacturer – Willys-Overland Motors
Designer – Brooks Stevens
Wheelbase –118 in
Length – 183.8 in
Width – 73.0 in
Height 74.4 in