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Dan Horenberger: The King of Jeep FC Collectors

Posted in Features on December 12, 2016 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Ashley HillCraig Brockhaus

Forward Controls (FCs) are hands down the one design of Jeep that all critics—and most readers—would refer to as “so ugly that they’re cute.” The cab-over body style is functional, maneuverable, and in found in commercial use even to this day. The Jeep FC is experiencing a remarkable revival among high-end collectors and custom-Jeep builders as modern/modified larger-than-life off-road playthings.

The Jeep FC community is spread across the United States, and there have been many gatherings to which FC owners have traveled with their collections. Most of these gatherings were in the Northwest and Southwest, but for the first time (in 2016), one was held in the Midwest. Although the tight-knit FC fan base banded together to assist in the organization of the first-ever M-Series FC Gathering, Dan Horenberger offered his sprawling golf course property, printed T-shirts, provided a family meal, and allowed on-site camping.

Love to hate, hate to love—regardless of feelings toward them, these particular Jeeps are important for essentially one reason (and worth becoming well versed on). The Jeep FC is rare. A military FC is even more rare. They are expensive to restore; require considerable amounts of fabrication know-how; you likely need more than one FC in your garage to swap parts from; and most of all, you need good friends with an ear to the ground. The Forward Control community is exclusive, and members have the best knowledge and catalogue of not only most of the FCs in the U.S. but worldwide. They are also some of the most creative Jeep peeps you may ever get to meet, if you’re lucky.

This past summer, the first event featuring Military Series FCs was held on FC aficionado and collector Dan Horenberger’s expansive property in Marengo, Illinois. As aforementioned, a Jeep FC is rare and the FC collector is a special breed. These people are more than just emotionally attached to their restorations. They are hardworking and visionaries at their core. Although most FC owners are extraordinary in all aspects of life, there was but one Dan Horenberger. Dan, who hosted the Military FC Roundup, was a leader in the FC community. He recently passed away, but during his life, he was an FC collector, restoration expert, and historian. As a memorial to Dan Horenberger, the staff of Jp would like to offer all Jeep fans this glimpse into the life of one of the greatest FC antiquarians.

Craig Brockhaus, who authors the FC Connection, an online community and resource for FC-component authentication, points out that, “unlike most of us in the hobby who never met a FC that they didn’t like, Dan had a keen eye for the unusual or rare truck. This led Dan to amass quite a collection of rare M-series trucks. Cargo pickup, four-door, carryall and ambulance—Dan had them all!” Gathering so many Forward Controls together to share knowledge helped create a vast resource of historical accuracy.
Aside from Dan’s impressive collection of trucks, was his collection of carousel animals in various states of completion. His team carved, painted, recreated, and restored to original form painted horses, tigers, giraffes, tortoises, and much more. Dan’s favorites were the large dogs, according to Jesse Ybarra.
Dan rescued this ’64 FC-170 motorhome-merged-with-a-Streamline-trailer from a storage lot. In addition to being a crowd favorite, the styling is indicative of Dan’s personality. He had become an expert in museum-quality restoration of carousels, yet was unassuming. Dan was constantly working and often slept among his projects.
The interior detail of the FC-170 motorhome was reminiscent of a return to the “Endless Summer” era in California. Dan was generous during his summer FC Roundup, and rumor had it that one of the guests slept in the bed of the motorhome for the duration of the event.
Jesse Ybarra, who plans to continue hosting his FC Roundups in Phoenix, Arizona, through the year 2020, knew Dan had dreams of compiling rare FCs with space to move like the M-678 Van in the foreground. Jesse acquired a unique M-679 from Dan in 2007, then spent approximately 3,000 hours performing the restoration, but also drove it from Phoenix to the Marengo, Illinois Roundup. (Photo courtesy Craig Brockhaus)

If Jeep Forward Controls Could Talk

Dan Horenberger owned one of the largest collections of Jeep FCs, as well as Crosleys, Triumphs, a unique Porsche, and a Brazilian A108 Willys Interlagos Berlineta. The list of his vehicles is too long to tally here. He was the owner of Brass Ring Entertainment Company, which, for more than 30 years, has been the premier source for antique carousel restoration.

Jesse Ybarra, FC collector and host of the Phoenix FC Roundup, told us, “When I first met Dan, I was in total awe because [Dan] showed me his collection. He was smiling and talking … [he] favored his Kaiser Military Jeep Forward Control Trucks, especially his rare M-676, M-677, M-678, and M-679. Dan owned the largest collection of civilian and military Jeep Forward Controls.”

Dan DeVries, FC preservationist, said “I got my M677 in 2004. [Dan] offered to send me copies of his manuals and any parts I needed for the Cerlist diesel engine. One of my glow plugs was bad so I emailed him to see if he knew where to buy a replacement. He said he couldn’t find any new replacements so he pulled one of his many spare engines and sent it to me for free. A few days after his Military FC show, we were talking about people ‘violating’ rare FCs. I began to rethink the repower plans for my Alaskan three-door FC-170. He told me to stick to my plans. It was fun to watch him at shows when a FC newbie would ask questions. He was a very good listener. He would listen intently and respond calmly. He was accurate and to the point with a smile.”

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