Former World War II Veteran Robert Roland Lamp wanted to leave the American Legion Post #58 in Dublin a legacy, but what he left was far greater than a mere object made of metal on rubber tires.
Lamp had hoped to restore a 1942 WW II Army Jeep that could be driven in parades and used as a tribute to WW II veterans.
The Jeep restoration project manager, Navy veteran Emil Moldovan, explained.
“A friend of Lamp was buying and restoring old Volkswagens. The friend’s father was a Colonel during WW I and a member of the VFW post in Radford. The Colonel had an old 1942 Jeep that he used on his farm in Galax. Robert wanted to buy and restore the Jeep and keep it at the Dublin American Legion Post #58 to drive in parades as tribute to WW II veterans.”
Lamp purchased the Jeep for $2,000 and approached the veterans of Post #58 for help in restoring it. He was buying parts on-line, but before the restoration could actually begin, Lamp passed away on February 16, 2020.
According to Moldovan, the Jeep was brought to his house and stored in his barn until September 2020, while they decided how to proceed. Moldovan put an ad in The Patriot newspaper asking for people with experience in restoring old cars to look at the Jeep and estimate what the restoration costs would be.
“Several people looked at it and said the condition of the Jeep made it not worth restoring. It was too much work, would take too many hard-to-find parts; and they suggested buying another Jeep. All except for Gabor Egyed, who restores old tractors and had restored a 1947 Jeep. Egyed moved the Jeep to his farm in Pulaski and started working on it. He worked on it every day for three or four months,” recalls Moldovan.
Amazingly, the engine still worked.
“It took a few cranks to get it going with a rigged gas flow. But it ran without any mechanical replacements and compression was really good in all four cylinders. We have not modified the engine or carburetor except minor adjustments in the carburetor. So far, it’s running as good as a 70-year-old Jeep can run,” added Moldovan.
Many people volunteered to help with the restoration project. Among them retired Army Special Forces Colonel Dallas Cox, who helped the Post raise the needed $15,000 to complete the Jeep restoration. Moldovan noted that Col. Cox is a man with a vision who gets things done.
Gabor Egyed brought several people to help with the restoration including friends Shane Miller, Jim Rowe, Kermit Woodyard and brother William Egyed. Craig Shay, Post #58 member and also VFW Post #1184 member; Woodrow Minick who removed the top from the Caisson; and welder Kenny Sutherland were instrumental in the restoration project.
As the project progressed, local businesses contributed their talents to the project. Moldovan said, “Giles Sewell, owner of Economy Body Shop in Radford, Jamie Brown, owner of B&B Powder, Inc. who sandblasted the Jeep, and Timothy Bishop of Bishop Auto Upholstry who restored the seats and made the top to cover the Caisson, all deserve thanks for their part in the restoration project.”
Almost all the parts were found by Gabor Egyed and Moldovan using catalogs and the internet. Moldovan jokes, “I am the project manager, but Gabor is the braun and the brains.”
Moldovan was well-qualified to serve as the project manager, coordinating acquisition of parts, labor and cost. While on active duty with the Navy, he worked in Communications / Technical Division and in Personnel, transferring troops all over the world.
The orginial vision was to use the Jeep in parades, but during discussions, it was decided it was a large investment for a show vehicle to sit in a garage and be used only a couple of times a year. A chance encounter created an additional use for the Jeep.
While transporting the Jeep to be sandblasted, Moldovan, Egyed and Rowe came across a 16-foot-long Army communications trailer that just happened to be parked in front of a building with a “for sale” sign on it.
“We had to stop and look at it. After discovering it had been used to lift up communication equipment high in the air so troops in the field could have better radio reception, we asked to buy it. Owner Eric Whorr originally listed the trailer at $1,000, but reduced the price to $550 when no one bought it. When he learned that it would be used by Post #58 as a Caisson for veterans’ funerals, he dropped the price to $350.
It was a beautiful piece of equipment and just what we needed to modify into a Caisson to carry veterans’ caskets from the Committal Shelter at the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery where the salute to the veteran will take place,” stated Moldovan.
“The modification process entailed a welder cutting down the trailer to 10 feet long. Gabor moved the axel himself to balance the ride. An oak floor was installed for the casket to rest on, and curtains which were designed and made by Joan Moldovan, were added on all sides of the Caisson.”
An amazing esprit de corps evolved where both veterans and civilians came together to help restore the WW II 1942 Jeep and fulfill Lamp’s legacy. A bronze plaque rests on the dashboard of the Jeep, honoring Lamp’s vision. Now, because of Lamp’s legacy, local veterans and their families will be able to honor their loved ones with an enhanced military ceremony at their final resting place.
The restored 1942 Army Jeep and Caisson were presented by American Legion Post #58, Dublin for use by veterans and their families burying loved ones at the Veterans Cemetery during a ceremony on March 4 at 1:30 pm.
Veterans and families wishing to use the Jeep and Caisson for veteran funerals held at the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery may contact American Legion Post #58 by calling Emil Moldovan at 540-674-0684.
By DANIELLE REID, The Patriot