By Pierre Kosmidis
Internationally acclaimed photographer Akiss Paraskevopoulos is the happy owner of a historic WW2 vehicle, a legendary 1944 Willys MB Jeep, equipped with a 2.2 lt. engine (55 hp), which with great effort, commitment and above all love, managed to bring it again to perfect working condition.
Akiss Paraskevopoulos unfolds the thread of the myth that came true, in his own words.
“Usually, the desire to acquire a historical World War II Jeep begins gradually and many years, even decades pass, until the… dreamer manages to make his dream come true.
In my case, I remember myself since I was a kid, wanting to be behind the wheel of such a legendary WW2 Jeep.
It was the dream of a lifetime!
For a year and half, I looked for such a vehicle until sometime in the midst of my summer vacation, I decided to call someone who was selling his Jeep and offer him a bid.
To my surprise, after 24 hours he called me back and we reached to an agreement.
So, in September 2011, I got my own piece of WW2 history, a 1944 Willys MB Jeep.
Since I bought it, I entered a new world.
My aim was to properly restore it, with attention to the smallest detail and a focus on originality.
I wanted to restore the vehicle as it was on D-Day (06/06/1944), the day that the Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy. It was a great challenge, because I wanted to remain faithful to all the details.
The vehicle was in working condition, but very neglected and many parts where post war, such as the windshield, while many other parts were just missing.
It was a dangerous and unreliable vehicle to drive. I started an internet investigation around the world, which continues to this day, to learn what was exactly needed, but also where to find it.
It takes time before you end up with what parts you need exactly and from whom you will buy those necessary parts.
Networking helped a lot and I also became a member in various groups and forums specifically on the Willys MB Jeep.
Many members of these websites gladly transferred their knowledge and experience, whenever I needed assistance.
After thorough research, I started buying spare parts from England in order to restore the jeep in is original appearance.
Piece by piece the puzzle was completed. Aesthetically, the big change occurred after the installation of WW2 Combat Rims wheels, with NDT (non-directional tread) profile and the authentic WW2 split windscreen.
In 2012, I participated in the annual contest of FILPA, Concours d’ Elegance and my Jeep won the first prize.
My surprise was great, because the restoration of my Jeep had not yet reached the level I wanted, but undoubtedly, the recognition was an extra incentive to continue the restoration until I felt my Jeep was up to my standards.
Then, after I painted it with the appropriate Olive Drab Matt color of the era, the Jeep had now reached a satisfactory level of restoration, so the time was right to begin a full reconstruction of the mechanical parts.
Ideally, the right process is to first repair the mechanical parts of a vehicle and after continue with the aesthetic changes.
In my case, unfortunately, this was not possible, because I did not have the appropriate garage space or money needed for this process.
Over time and with the help of a friend I found a garage close to my place and started the mechanical restoration.
Everything mechanical was disassembled to the last bolt. Differentials, water pumps, gasoline pumps, oil pumps, the carburetor and everything else in between were thoroughly restored and reconditioned, using new old stock materials whenever necessary.
The process took about a year, as we could only work during weekends.
During the restoration process, I continued networking and in June 2014, I made it to Normandy for the 75th celebration of the Normandy landings, along with members of various Willys MB Jeep groups that I was a part of.
It was a memorable trip that gave me the opportunity to meet with people who have the same hobby as I do and learn more details on my project.
Since then, every year, I make at least one trip to participate in historical events.
All WW2 vehicle owners in Europe and all over the World are reenactors, revivalists of this historical period, with appropriate clothing and equipment.
The driver and his vehicle should be exact reenactors of History.
In Greece unfortunately, reenactment is still in its initial steps.
My Willys MB has now been restored as a “War Correspondent” Jeep.
This came as a natural consequence, being a professional photographer.
I participate in various events, with original equipment, such as WW2 typewriters, cameras, tripods, etc.
I also gladly provide my knowledge and experience I have gained so far to friends and other enthusiasts who plan to restore their own WW2 vehicle.