Janesville man's truck provides a rolling history lesson
IF YOU GO
Who: Rock County Historical Society
What: World War II Encampment
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, June 18.
Where: Grounds of historic Lincoln-Tallman House, 440 N. Jackson St., Janesville.
Also featured: Tours of the Lincoln-Tallman House will be available
JANESVILLE The drab, olive-green military vehicle parked outside Larry Splinter’s Janesville home resembles one you might have seen if you watched M*A*S*H back in the 70s.
But this one looks like it’s never even seen a war zone.
Splinter, 54, took his time restoring the 1942 Chevrolet Troop Carrier, and he finished the job just last spring. Now he plans to display it Saturday, June 18, during the Rock County Historical Society’s World War II encampment.
Along with the standard updates, Splinter has added a twist or two. For instance, the vehicle’s serial number is his dad, Ken Splinter’s, service number from the 1950s.
“I put it on as a surprise,” Larry Splinter said.
Trucks like Splinter’s troop carrier were produced at the Janesville General Motors plant, he said. But that’s not why the GM retiree built a carport in his backyard and spent two years restoring the truck as he acquired the needed parts.
“I did it to honor the veterans—past, present and future—plus as a commemorative to the GM plant,” he said.
The idea for the truck, which was re-created mostly from pictures, originated when Splinter determined he needed something to haul his Army living history exhibit memorabilia. The truck also provides sleeping space when he travels overnight to events.
Splinter bought the truck’s frame from one guy, then added the hood and fenders from a junkyard in Tomah. The grill came from a guy in Pardeeville.
Finding the side panels with the word “Chevrolet” on them, plus six louvers, took some effort. Splinter eventually learned a friend living outside of Stoughton had them on the front end of an Army truck stored in the rafters of his garage.
Splinter designed the truck’s box and created it by hand. He worked with a local sheet metal shop to assemble and paint it.
The truck’s dashboard features a blister lamp and four simple gauges, plus knobs that operate the heat, windshield wipers, choke and the on/off switch of the foot-operated starter. Additional interior cab features include driving instructions, a shifting diagram, a basic headlight switch, and tiny wipers on a windshield that opens straight up and allowed soldiers to shoot through it or bail out from it.
In all, Splinter spent from spring of 2008 until spring of 2010 working on the project. He says he’s spent more time than money on the restoration, and he captured the process step-by-step with photographs he has stored in albums.
Splinter says the investment he’s made is worth it every time he sees smiles on the faces of those with ties to World War II.