Brothers Rick and Rob Danzi possesses an amazing collection of vehicles, but the Army veterans’ assortment of military Jeeps hold particular significance
Story by Joe Willey | Photography by Grant L. Gursky
Iconic objects are more than the sum of their parts. They capture the birth of an era and the spirit of struggle, survival and adventure. For two brothers in Selbyville, Jeeps are among those objects. Their collection is proof of how the name has evoked passion for generations.
As boys, Rick and Rob Danzi were fascinated with Jeeps. But their excitement was fueled in their early teens, when their dad purchased a 1949 CJ-3A model. It was beautifully utilitarian and used to pull mowers over their property. (By the way, the Danzi brothers’ lawnmower was also a Jeep.)
In the 1970s, they began buying Jeeps to fix and sell, starting with 1952-1953 model years. It was fun. But 10 years ago, they narrowed their focus and began collecting military Jeeps. They were the simple, straightforward, olive-drab versions that populate grainy old photos from World War II and the Korean War era. These rough-and-tumble vehicles were as indispensable to the American military as M-1 carbines. These Jeeps saw it all.
The Danzi brothers are humble regarding the inspiration and purpose of their Jeep collection. They see the Jeeps’ history as a part of their family story. Their father served during World War II, as a lieutenant colonel in the Army 636 Tank Destroyer Battalion, and was wounded three times.
Photo by Rob Blasdel
Later, Rick and Rob both served in the Army; Rick was in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive in 1968. It seems Jeeps run in their blood.
The Jeep collection is a survey of the history of an icon and specifically focuses on the 1940s and 1950s military Jeeps. The earliest in the collection dates from February of 1942, just a few months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It features a slat grill, unique to Jeeps made during this early period of production. The Danzis have installed a machine gun and mount that is true to the period — a reminder of how useful Jeeps were in combat.
This collection does not sit idle. The Jeeps are driven and shared with the local community on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Veterans Day parades. These parades have always commemorated the American experience and honored the men and women who served. The Jeeps are a tangible, rolling, noisy reminder of that history.
Buying and restoring military Jeeps as a way to commemorate the past may not have been the impetus for this collection, but they have done that nonetheless. Their interest, expertise and desire to see others enjoy what they have worked hard to assemble has been their engine, and just like the iconic Jeep, the Danzi brothers just keep on rolling. CS