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This Museum Features Worn Trucks
Don’t look for like-new restored trucks at the Motor Transport Museum in Campo, Calif. As befits a museum of working equipment, trucks and other equipment look like they did at the end of their working lives. The museum itself looks a bit like a very orderly salvage yard.
“Rust is history,” says Bryan Butler, Motor Transport Museum. “We don’t want to remove the history. We’re purists in that way. We don’t try to improve on the technology of the day, but to put it back to what it was originally. If the engine misses when it’s driven, it’s because that’s the way they built it.”
They’ll do a paint job if artwork such as lettering needs to be restored, and they also apply a coating to keep rust from getting worse. After that, a clear coat is applied.
“We have more than 300 machines with around 30 of them operational,” says Butler. “Our goal is to get them up and running and make sure they don’t fall apart.”
The equipment that has been saved ranges from a 1917 Jeffrey Quad, the first all-terrain military vehicle, and even older trucks to a 1978 International crane. Other items include belt drives, chain drives, single or multi-cylinder engines, electric generators, quarry mining equipment, olive presses, and much more. All have been saved from actual salvage yards and curated at the museum.
Each piece of equipment on display has a story, notes Butler, and the museum is dedicated to telling it. He has a narrative for each piece of equipment, when it was made, how it was used, how the museum got it, and what technology it represented. In the case of the Quad, it was made for use in WW I. It has all-wheel drive, steering and brakes, and a unique hitch for its all-wheel steering trailer.
“When the Quad turns, the hitch rotates and causes the trailer wheels to turn with it,” says Butler.
Another unique quasi-military vehicle in the collection is a Kurtis Jeep, built specifically for use in movies during WW II. It was built on a Chrysler chassis with a Model A Ford engine and transmission. The body was fabricated from sheet metal.
At the time the U.S. military wouldn’t allow a regulation Jeep to be used in movies.
“The movie industry got custom race car builder Frank Kurtis to build several replica Jeeps for use in movies,” explains Butler. “Every movie made during the war used the same Kurtis Jeeps. Unlike most of our vehicles, it was restored and repainted.”
Trucks include the original Bulldog Mack dump truck used in the construction of the Hoover Dam, a 1926 dually chain drive Mack, and a 1954 Diamond T moving van. However, the museum consists of more than just vehicles, adds Butler. The buildings where it’s housed are part of a former U.S. Army base dating back to 1875. While most of the original buildings were demolished, some are being restored as workshops and equipment displays.
“We have a working restoration shop where visitors can see equipment being worked on,” says Butler. “In other museums, restoration is away from the public. We show what we’re doing and how, and it’s exciting for people to see.”
Perhaps the most unique portion of the museum collection is the manuals for every truck and most of the other equipment on display. Other materials include a full set of Motor manuals from 1910 on, as well as photos, advertisements and more.
Butler admits that the museum has a long way to go. Situated more than 70 miles east of San Diego, finding volunteers is difficult. The nine board members form the core group to maintain and restore equipment. Even with volunteers, restoration goes slowly.
“We prioritize restoration as we have quite a few that won’t take much to get them running,” says Butler. “For others, we’ll need to find grants to fund them.”
The all-volunteer museum is open every Saturday from 9 to 5 and the first Sunday of each month, as well as all of Labor Day weekend.
“Admission is free, but donations are accepted,” says Butler.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Motor Transport Museum, 31949 Hwy 94, Campo, Calif. 91906 (ph 619-478-2492; motortransportmuseum@gmail.com; www.motortransportmuseum.org).

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2022 - Volume #46, Issue #5