Dream Machine

Military wheels help define lives of a window washer under 40 and a WWII doc over 80

"Even though attitudes are entirely different than they were that long ago. It seems to me if this country were seriously threatened, I think the American people would come together and put up just as big a fight as we did before."

Is his Jeep a sad reminder of tragic days?

"Yeah, it is," he says matter-of-factly. "To me that's a good thing. I wasn't overwhelmed with a sense of nostalgia when I found my Jeep."

Others see it a little differently.

"Jeeps," says Don Petrone, "are always in style. A lot of people coming to the show will come specifically to see the Jeeps. People are also attracted to the armor. A white, bulletproof WWII scout car will draw people. That thing'll deflect shrapnel. The Hummer is very in vogue now. There are a number of club members that have Hummers, and they'll have them on display at the show."

The Hummer is the civilian version of the all-purpose HMMWV, or "Humvee." Currently utilized by the U.S. Army, the Humvee was popularized during the Gulf War by coverage on CNN; today it is a modern Army symbol much like the Jeep was during WWII.

The Jeep, of course, is the prototype for the modern sport utility vehicle.

Just as we turn off Van Buren, the pinch-faced driver finally maneuvers his SUV around us. He's shaking his head from side to side in disgust.

"Rarely do you see these 'off-road' trucks around here with Arizona pinstriping," snorts Petrone.

"Arizona pinstriping" is a term used to describe the thin scratch marks that run in horizontal lines on sides of trucks whose owners spend time in the rough, as opposed to the drive-through at Burger King.

"It's just how it is," says Petrone, whose 1953 Dodge ambulance is veined with Arizona pinstriping. "I would never drive anything new."

A simple guess would be that the man has a bit of identity wrapped up in his vehicle.

"This truck has done a lot for me over the years," he says. "And probably for many years to come."

Contact the author at his online address:brian.smith@newtimes.com

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