The original intent for the civilian Jeep was for it to be a workhorse. Recreational four-wheeling did not really exist in the early days of the ’40s and ’50s. When a Jeep was found in recreational pursuits, it was as the means to an end, not the end itself. Most Jeeps were used for a job, and there was a huge OE and aftermarket industry to supply tools and implements.
A Jeep “show” is usually a line of Jeeps parked in rows—a passive display. And, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s fun to stare and compare. When it comes to vintage, restored Jeeps, you often find the owners are less than motivated to beat them on the trail, so that too leads to a more passive display but not always. The Midwest Willys Jeep Rally, held annually at Hueston Woods near College Corners, Ohio, is an exception.
The Willys Jeep Rally combines the more passive show with an active one. The active part is less than ordinary because it puts old working Jeeps to work. Have you ever wondered was it was like to plow with a Jeep? You will leave the Rally no longer wondering. Same goes for a backhoe Jeep, a trencher Jeep, a post-hole digging Jeep, a water pumping Jeep and many other tasks to which Jeeps were put back in the days when steel Jeeps were operated by men of iron. The implements and converted Jeeps are very rare and owners willing to work them as designed even rarer.
The Rally is multifaceted. It offers a static show with all Jeeps welcome. Vendors are on hand to sell the usual array of goodies. Beyond the Jeeps, there are plenty of recreational opportunities at Hueston Woods State Park, as well as great accommodations and a top-notch restaurant and bar. You can combine the rally with a short vacation and bring the whole family, even if they aren’t rabid Jeep fans. Some of the most popular aspects of the event are the demonstrations and the scenic trip itself to get to farm where everything is held.
Most of the active parts come in the form of demonstrations, but you can arrange to participate. If your Jeep had the proper equipment, you could hitch it up to something, and a knowledgeable person will show you how to work it. Or, if you wanted to try your hand at operating a Jeep-powered implement, that could be arranged. For most Jeep fans, just watching a Jeep do any of these things is likely the thrill of a lifetime, because it is something we hardly ever get to see.
The demonstration part of the event largely revolves around John Ittel. John is a farmer in southwestern Ohio, whose farm borders the Hueston Woods State Park. He has gathered a collection of Jeep implements that are legendary and the envy of all. He also has a collection of vintage Jeeps to work them. Likewise, Rick Riley, one of the event hosts, also has a collection of work Jeeps. You’ll see them all in the accompanying photos, but seeing them in person will knock the socks right off your feet.
By the time you read this, videos of the event will also be on the Jpwebsite. Thrilling as all that will be, if you find yourself in the Dayton/Cincinnati area May 29-30, 2015, or any other year at the end of May, it’s well worth the time to attend. You can show your Jeep (all are welcome), work your Jeep if it’s got the right equipment, or just watch old Jeeps get sweaty.