Restoring jeep becomes a family affair for Evans City man
Bill Ringeisen spotted an old jeep in a Squirrel Hill chicken coop nearly 20 years ago, bought it and spent the next two years rebuilding it with his father, George Sr.; brother, George Jr.; and son, Bradley.
The jeep, a 1942 Ford GPW, led convoys during World War II, which George Sr. served in while in Italy.
“He helped me restore it,” Bill, 58, of Evans City said. “I put his service number on the hood. All vehicles had a registration number, and I took those off and put his dog tag numbers on it. He had tears when he saw it.”
Ringeisen, whose jeep will be on display at the fourth annual Bantam Jeep Festival at Cooper's Lake Campground from June 13 to 15, is one of many local jeep owners who help coordinate the event.
The event, which drew more than 1,500 jeeps and their owners last year, celebrates The American Bantam Car Company's invention of the jeep in 1940 for the military. The company, which was based in Butler, was sold in 1956 to what is now the AK Steel Holding Corporation.
“Butler is the birthplace of the jeep, and mine is like the sister or brother of the original jeep,” said Ringeisen, who helps coordinate the History Exhibit.
“It's fantastic having the birthplace here and bringing in people from so many states and different countries, such as Canada and Australia, to our little town.”
Other local jeep owners, such as Ringeisen's friend Wayne Kovac, have gotten in on the action in recent years as the event grows and needs more organizers.
Kovac, 64, of Evans City helps coordinate logistics such as setting up and tearing down parts of the event and helps direct security. He will also use his wife's white 2001 Jeep TJ Wrangler Sahara for the festival's first ever Bantam Jeep Muddy 5K race.
They bought the jeep two years ago after his wife, Sharon, traded in her original white 2000 Jeep Wrangler for a Chevrolet TrailBlazer.
“I'd been searching the Internet, and I found one in Erie that belonged to a military guy,” Kovac said. “We went up there, and I knew we wouldn't pass on it.”
Mark Lebda, co-chairperson of the vendor committee, said he'll spend the entire weekend at Coopers Lake Campground to stay on top of coordinating dozens of vendors.
While Lebda said he will be busy throughout the weekend, he plans on taking his 2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4 x 4 off-roading on a beginner trail at Cooper's Lake. His wife, Nancy, owns a 2011 Jeep Liberty.
“We're a two jeep family,” Mark said.
There are intermediate trails and advanced trails that jeeps can be driven on, as well as, competitions that drivers can register for.
Patti Jo Lambert, the festival director, said she expects between 1,700 and 1,800 jeeps at this year event. Adult spectators can pay $7 to attend the festival, and children cost $3 each.
Jeep owners who have not pre-registered their vehicles for activities can complete an $85 on-site registration. Some activities might not be available due to capacity restrictions.
For more information, go to www.bantamjeepfestival.com.
Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.