Mervyn Kennedy restores old World War II vehicles in his spare time, as well as being a keen collector of Militaria, also mainly from WWII. He is very passionate about this hobby and often ends up taking part in the annual ANZAC Day parade with his incredible cars.
You have quite the vintage car collection when it comes to WWII vehicles. Tell us more about these – and why did you specifically choose the WWII era?
Whilst growing up at Fernmount, I always wore an old WWII slouch hat. As I got older, Mum would purchase military Matchbox vehicles and I played over on the river bank, where I had roads etc, but once real vehicles could be played with – the toys were packed away.
What inspired you to restore and build the vehicles you have?
We were out at Warren visiting my wife’s parents in 1982, and whilst there we attended an ANZAC parade, where I spotted the best toys ever being driven in the parade … Two Jeeps! I asked the owner of the Jeep if he would sell me one: “NO” was the answer, “but I do know where there is one for restoration if you want to drive to Lightning Ridge”. So, off we went for an afternoon drive to Lightning Ridge, to see this Jeep.
This Jeep had been used for chasing wild pigs, and they ended up sinking it in a creek that actually had water in it. Three months later, they pulled it out of the water, and then two years later we purchased it. The Jeep had been left sitting on a mullock hill beside an unused opal mine in the town centre. We purchased it, but in hindsight should have left it there, as I ended up bashing the pistons out with an axe and a block of rosewood.
After much restoration [in Bellingen] and a few years later, we finally had our little 1943 green Jeep up and running, a WWII trailer and uniforms to go with it. The green Jeep has the insignia of the 5th Division, 84 Headquarters [5/84] with the Boars Head; this Division was used in New Guinea during WWII.
A few years later, my wife was looking at the original photos of the Jeep, when she realised it had actually been an ambulance Jeep, but the little green Jeep can stay the way she is now.
During the 1990s we purchased another Jeep that actually ran if you had a tube running from a petrol drum into the carbie and a piece of string was the accelerator – we were very excited by this purchase. This 1942 Jeep [at Fernmount] has been restored as a LRDG Jeep, which they used in North Africa during the 1940s to do hit and run missions behind the German lines.
There are 19 jerry cans [17 were for fuel and two for water] and four “Vickers K Machine Guns” made out of Rosewood, Camphor Laurel, Red Cedar, two inch nails [the sights] and the shelving out of a deep freeze, but WITHOUT working parts. The irony of the “Machine Guns” is that I am required to have a Commissioner’s Permit [that I pay for] to display this wood. These “guns” spent time in the Bellingen Police Cells, until Coffs Harbour RSL offered to store the “guns” until I received this permit. With the assistance of the RSL and our local member of State Government, I received the permit, but these “guns” have to be in a much more secure cabinet than actual working firearms, and I must go to the range at least once a year to fire these “guns” [haven’t worked the logic out on that yet].
After moving to Urunga, we purchased a 1942 Chev. C15A Blitz truck. I restored the Blitz as it would have been used during WWII in North Africa with the 9th Division. This vehicle has been sold to a friend in Brisbane.
How long did the restorations take?
Each vehicle took approximately twelve months to restore and each vehicle has been restored to resemble what they would have looked like where they were based in North Africa or New Guinea during WWII; this includes the vehicle colour, ropes, blankets etc. If a piece of equipment wasn’t used on these vehicles, it didn’t get fitted.
You also have a great collection of militaria from the same era. What are some of your favourite pieces?
As part of our display we have a WWII Heliograph, WWII Sun Compass [which would have to be my favourite]. I have two dummies dressed in WWII military clothing. We also have badges, butterflies from New Guinea, matches, tobacco tins still sealed with the original tobacco and many other items. And yes, I would do up another Jeep if I could get it at the right price, because I have a serious disease called “Jeep mania”. So if any of your readers have an old Jeep in the bananas or know where there is one, no matter how bad the condition (couldn’t be any worse than the green jeep), please let me know!
You must get some great responses from the public. How have the responses from the Coffs Coast public been when they see you driving down the street?
There is always a great reaction to the Jeeps. People always give a wave and it sure does turn some heads!