FEATURE: Restoring classic cars, military jeeps requires skill, more

(Contributed photo)

By Rebecca Jones, special to the News-Times

BEAUFORT — Whatever your motivation for restoring classic cars or old military jeeps, it is the ultimate labor of love, requiring time, patience, skill, and of course, a good garage or workshop with the right tools for the job.

Bringing a car back to life is a rewarding experience. Leeman Daw of Beaufort became interested in old cars and engines in high school. He worked on a 1955 Ford Station Wagon that he used to carry his surfboard around. It was called the ‘crowd pleaser’ after a cigar commercial that was popular then.  His parents owned many cars from the 1950s. He fondly remembers the 1951 Pontiac, a 1954 Ford, a 1959 Impala and a real cool 1964 Chevy Impala with a racing stripe around the rear trunk.

Leeman’s father was an air conditioning/refrigeration mechanic, so he followed him around on many service calls as his father taught him how to use basic tools, brazing and some electrical.

Leeman has been a mechanic from a very young age where he and some of his neighborhood buddies made several buggies out of old VW parts they collected, go-carts, and the coolest thing they collectively purchased was a 1951 Chevy pickup truck that was cut in half, the body removed, and the rims split and rewelded to make wider rims that ballooned out the tires. It had an inline 6-cylinder engine, and they had a good time with that.

Over the years, Leeman had collected a lot of old cars, parts and pieces. They were left behind when he joined the Navy. His skills were finetuned in the Navy by graduating “Basic Propulsion and Engineering School” Engineman Class A School and Engineman Class C School (large engines).  

Leeman graduated from the four-year, Naval Apprenticeship School at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, where he worked on jet aircraft components.  From there, he transferred to the U.S. Army Maintenance Shop in Morehead City, where he worked on U.S. Army vessels.

He later graduated from the Cummins Diesel Engines School in Florida and was eventually transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard Station at Fort Macon. He retired in 2011.

Leeman had always wanted to restore a WWII Willys Jeep, but they are hard to come by. Before he retired from the Coast Guard at Fort Macon, there was a young Coastguardsman who was selling a very used 1951 Willys CJ3A Jeep. Leeman was in the right place at the right time. It took about a year and a half to complete the restoration.  He had to do a lot of research, and most of it was in a box, so he had to figure out where all the parts went. He was reading the manuals from front to back.

His next and current project is a 1951 M38 Military Jeep.

Leeman says, “I enjoy repurposing and restoring old vehicles. I have currently a 1950 Super C International Tractor in the barn that belonged to my father.”

He loves projects, because clean fingernails, free weekends and intact knuckles are overrated.

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