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The Old Man & The Jeep Part 1

Posted in Project Vehicles on August 1, 2012
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Not too many people can claim they were there when Jeep took its first steps. Don Prine can. In 1940, Prine was a 22-year-old Admiral’s assistant. And as it happened, one of Prine’s duties placed him behind the wheel of the Bantam, Willys, and Ford pilot models submitted to the military for testing in the fall and winter of 1940. The young sailor was front and center for some exciting times and Prine isn’t shy about sharing the photo of him driving a Willys Quad up the steps of the Capitol Building as President Roosevelt, members of Congress, and high-ranking military officials looked on. An avid hunter and outdoorsman, Prine had never driven a 4x4 prior to his military service and was so impressed by the capability of the little mules that he told himself, “By God, when I get out of the service I’m gonna get me one of these.” Turns out, he kept his promise to himself, and then some.

Although its outward appearance would make you think its doors have been shut for some time, Prine’s Jeep Service is still in business and most days you’ll find Prine himself manning the counter. We don’t think of it as dilapidated…rather, the shop’s exterior has the same, sweet weathered patina we’d expect to find on any vintage Jeep survivor. And the sign is just too cool for words—bird’s nest and all.

After the Navy, he opened up Prine’s Jeep Service in Lakewood, Washington. In addition to operating the full-service shop, Prine would load up in his monstrous ex-US Navy ’60 Ford F-600 and with trailer in tow, scour the country from coast-to-coast retrieving military surplus Jeep vehicles and parts. Nowadays, as he has for the past 52 years, Prine spends nearly every weekday working at Prine’s Jeep Service and weekends tinkering on his impressive private collection of rare Jeeps at his home near Spanaway, Washington.

Don Prine sits in his kitchen and holds a photo of himself taken 72 years ago as he drove a Willys Quad pilot vehicle up the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building for President Roosevelt and other high-ranking officials. Go to our website at to hear audio of Prine talking about that day.

During a visit to ATV Manufacturing last fall, owner Herm Tillford surprised us with a visit to meet Prine. After viewing Prine’s private collection, including one of each pre-standardized Jeep model: the Bantam BRC-40, Willys MA, and Ford GP, we swung by the unassuming-looking Prine’s Jeep Service to ogle and drool at 52 years worth of parts, projects, and knowledge. The shop is open most weekdays, so if you’re in need of something, swing by and say hi or place an order. Chances are, Prine has what you need for your old Jeep or knows where to find it. And be sure to check back next issue when we’ll share some photos of Prine’s private collection. Trust us, if you’re into vintage Jeeps and their history, you won’t want to miss it.

Inside, we found a CJ-3A in the middle of a stainless steel body kit conversion. Prine has done several for family, friends, and customers over the years. The walls, shelves, and racks are laden with good used and NOS axleshafts, differential parts, drivetrain components, and a motley assortment of old Jeep paraphernalia. The hunting trophies were all taken by Prine himself, mostly during trips with one of his trusty M-38 hunting rigs.
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ATV Manufacturing
Prine’s Jeep Service

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