Man rebuilds military vehicles to honor those who served
Kerrville Daily Times/ MCT
Norm Duggleby climbs into the 1970 M561 Gama Goat, a Vietnam-era 1-1/4 ton 6 x 6 truck, before cranking the three-cylinder, two-stroke diesel engine and driving around his shop as the exhaust steams out behind him.
With a wide grin on his face, he stops the truck back where he started, having made one loop around the building.
"Is that fun or not?" Duggleby said with a chuckle.
The Gama Goat is Duggleby's latest acquisition. The yard around his shop north of Kerrville is filled with vehicles in various states. Some have been stripped of doors, others have had truck beds removed and some have no wheels or engines.
Inside the shop, Duggleby and a friend are taking parts stripped from more than five vehicles to rebuild and restore a 1962 Dodge M37 three-quarter ton Korean War-era four-wheel drive truck. The M37 is his second major restoration project, and the Gama Goat will be his third.
"I keep saying, 'I'm done,' but they keep following me home," Duggleby said.
Duggleby, 72, served seven years in the Army Reserve and moved to Kerrville from Dallas after retiring from his own marketing, sales and advertising consulting business. His interest in old military vehicles didn't begin until 1995, when visiting with a client whose father had recently died.
While visiting the client on a Sulphur Springs ranch, he saw something he couldn't quite identify but piqued his interest.
"It was a pile of a Jeep just sitting under a tarp," Duggleby said.
The client told Doggleby that his father had bought the old Jeep and planned to restore it but died before he got started. With the Jeep just sitting there, Duggleby traded $300 worth of consulting services and took it off the man's hands.
According to Duggleby, the Jeep sat for another couple of years at a friend's home before he moved it to his shop and began work. There he discovered that what he had bought was a Willys M38 U.S. Army Jeep built in 1951.
There were 45,000 of the quarter-ton trucks built during the Korean War, and Duggleby spent two years, and an undisclosed amount of money, to restore his to its original condition.
"I'm good at taking things apart and putting them back together," Duggleby said.
He did get some help with the electrical work and the engine, but he said the best part was learning more about the vehicle and its history.
The Willys M38 replaced the World War II Jeep and was based on the civilian CJ-3A. Unlike its predecessor, the M38 had a waterproof electrical system and could be fitted with a snorkel to drive through water -- even over the engine.
Although Duggleby said he doesn't plan on taking his Jeep across the Guadalupe River, he does participate in parades and car shows, where he sometimes gives interested children a history lesson.
In addition to restoring the Jeep, he bought a M416 quarter-ton trailer and searches flea markets for authentic military gear that he takes with him to shows and parades, including a PRC-77 radio, a Korean War-era M51 Pile Cap and old Army boots. The most cherished piece of his collection is a helmet given to him by a World War II veteran.
"It's really something that he carried this for 60 some-odd years, and he gave it to me," Duggleby said.
He said finding and restoring old gear and vehicles is part of his way of honoring those who used the equipment in those wars.
"My whole goal is, I want to honor the veterans," Duggleby said. "Those guys sacrificed so much."
The Dodge M37 is just a frame on wheels with an engine and assorted rusted body parts sitting around the yard of the shop. He said he buys the whole truck when he can find it, because it is cheaper than shopping for parts, and he can sell what he doesn't use to someone else wanting to restore vehicles.
Duggleby said he doesn't know how long it will take to finish restoring the truck, but he knows what he plans to do with it when he is done.
"I'm going to drive it, and I'm going to have fun," he said.