By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN The army green Jeep at the rural Delano home of Jerry and Arlene Durst looks bright and shiny now, but it wasn’t always that way.
“Originally, it had been used at Camp McCoy in Wisconsin,” Jerry said. “It was built in August of 1951, and it’s called an M-38.”
After the war, the Jeep was sold to a nursing home in Jordan, where it was used for snowplowing.
Later on, it ended up in a nearby junkyard, but that wasn’t the end for this lucky Jeep.
In the late 1970s, Jon Mathisrud of American Durable in Inver Grove Heights pulled the vehicle out and stored it in Stillwater.
“I was over visiting him one day, and I saw it at his warehouse,” said Jerry, who used to do machine work for American Durable. “I asked him if he wanted to sell it, and at the time, he didn’t.”
A year or two later, in about 1999, Mathisrud reconsidered.
“Jon called and said he probably won’t have time to restore it,” Jerry said.
So, Jerry purchased the Jeep, and brought it back to his home.
In the past, Jerry had restored a 1650 Oliver tractor, but he hadn’t considered a Jeep until he saw it.
“It just kind of triggered something,” he said. “I decided maybe I should have one.”
When Jerry got the Jeep, it was in terrible shape.
“It was all in pieces,” he said. “It was a diamond in the rough.”
Jerry started working on the engine right away.
“I put in new pistons, rings, bearings, and redid the head,” he said. “Then, I was busy with other things, and it just got set by the wayside.”
In 2008, Jerry’s grandson, Travis Durst, began eyeing up the forlorn Jeep.
“I was like, ‘Grandpa, when are you going to start working on this?’” recalled Travis, who has his own restored 1983 Camaro.
Travis, the son of Jim and Naomi Durst, is probably best known as the older brother of identical quadruplet sisters, Calli, Kendra, Megan, and Sarah.
Travis’ enthusiasm gave Jerry renewed energy for the project, and Jerry ordered more parts from Midwest Military Supply in Prior Lake.
“They sell new and used parts,” Jerry said. “Mostly, we tried to get restored military parts.”
Travis’ friend, Jason Osmonson, and uncle, John Durst, helped with repainting, adding white numbers so that it would keep its original appearance.
Axel Marchnic, Travis’ high school friend and his roommate at Alexandria Technical College, got in on the excitement, as well.
“He helped with a lot of the wiring, and odds and ends,” said Travis, a 2009 graduate of Buffalo High School.
According to Jerry, many of the Jeep’s components are new, but the frame and running gear are original.
Each new part reflects what was originally on the vehicle, down to the last detail.
Non-directional tires, for instance, were used in the war so that the enemy couldn’t track the vehicle.
“They’re taught not to spin their wheels, because it would leave dirt behind,” Jerry said.
The Jeep is also equipped with blackout lights, which are used in stealth convoys because they aren’t visible from the air.
When asked how many hours it took to complete the restoration, Travis replied, “thousands.”
“You measure it in a couple of years,” Jerry added, explaining that at times, they’d work on it for a couple hours off and on, and other times they’d spend a whole day on it.
“It’s fun when you can see it coming together,” Travis said.
Because Jerry served in the Navy, one friend jokingly asked him what he was thinking, building an Army Jeep.
“Because my pond isn’t big enough for a battleship.”