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Don't worry if you see a Jeep with a mounted machine gun

By STEPHEN T. WATSON | The Buffalo News, N.Y. | Published: September 14, 2018

KENMORE, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — Kenmore police typically respond to reports of trespassing, burglary, neighbor disputes and other routine crimes.

Then came Aug. 31, when officers fielded a call about someone driving a World War II-era Jeep with a machine gun on its roof, according to the Ken-Ton Bee police blotter.

The Jeep belongs to Felix Coniglio Jr. It was made by Willys in 1953, and used by the Marines and the Army before it passed into civilian hands. Coniglio bought it off eBay in 2007 from a guy in New Jersey for $7,000. The olive drab, open-air Jeep would look familiar to anyone who's seen the TV show "M*A*S*H."

Coniglio said he had wanted a military Jeep from that era ever since riding on one as a kid at the Erie County Fair. His father, "Chef Felix," famously operated a pizzeria on wheels there for decades.

(Coniglio asked the owner why he was selling his Jeep after putting so much effort into restoring it. The answer? "My daughter's going to an expensive college.")

Coniglio parks the Jeep in his Stillwell Avenue garage and takes it out for parades and festivals.

On Aug. 31, he was testing out new brakes in his neighborhood and that likely drew attention. Kenmore Police Chief Peter Breitnauer said his department knows all about Coniglio's Jeep, but they still had to investigate.

Coniglio said the officers asked if the machine gun was operable. "I said, 'No, it's a Hollywood prop.' "

The barrel and breech are real, but there's no mechanism inside. The bullets are real, but there's no powder or primer in them, Coniglio said.

"I said, 'You know what officer? If you can fire this gun right now, I'll give you a thousand dollars,' " he said.

In the end, Coniglio agreed to keep the gun covered, when he's not showing off the Jeep, to prevent future misunderstandings.

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