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Ron the Jeep Man in Sterling, Michigan

• CATEGORIES: Builds, Features, Reader Stories

Brian wrote me tonight to share this story about himself and Ron the Jeep Man. In a follow up email he included a picture of his CJ-5 called the “Mudd shark” (shown below:  Brian is in the driver’s seat). It included a couch in back that was popular with the college ladies, popular at least until it started smelling a bit too much from being outside.

I understand that not everything is for sale, including the FCs, but there is plenty there that is.

Dear Dave,

After reading you site for the better part of two years, I thought I’d send this along for you to post and to give you a bit of a break . My little ‘thank you’ for all your hard work. [editor’s note:  the break is appreciated!]

About a year and a half ago I purchased a 1960 CJ5 out of Champaign, IL. It was an eBay drop-out that no one bid on and I made a private offer that was accepted. I had a buddy at the University of Illinois take a look at it for me and give me a good report back. My CJ had led a pretty charmed life as a farm Jeep that had been well maintained and stored in the barn. A Koenig top and 33,000 miles, it was in very good condition but got parked some time ago when the throw-out bearing froze and started to burn the fingers off the pressure plate. I had, had a 1956 CJ5 all through college 33 years ago and I always thought it would be fun to have another one but not try to kill myself in this one.

Similar to your book, my father and I worked an entire summer to get my first CJ on the road and it was only fitting that he, at age 89 rode shotgun with me from mid-Michigan to Champaign to tow the second one home. I cherish all the time I have spent working with my Dad over the years on various projects, the first CJ being one of the best.

Like many of your readers, I own several other vehicles and have a good group of car buddies who travel from garage to garage in search of free beer and on occasion actually lend not just their mouth but a hand with a project. When I got the CJ home, one of them gave me a piece of paper with a phone number on in and said, ‘If you need anything, this guy’s got it, Ron-The-Jeep-Man 989-654-2922.

I put the piece of paper in my wallet and called him a few months later when I had my list of things I was looking for, the main item being a 15 inch stock steel wheel so I’d have a spare. Ron said he had lots of wheels and that I should come on up and see him. Sterling, Michigan is about 110 miles north of my home and I thought, one of these days I need to run up there and see what this guy has.

Well, today was that day. I had the day off, Momma had gone to visit her mother and Dad and I needed a ride. We were not disappointed.

Ron said he had 60 jeeps on the property, by my count he had more. Missing was anything MB, the only thing close was a tired and rusted out Bantam trailer. What he doesn’t also have is internet. He even asked if I’d spread the word that he was looking to scale back. We’re talking a 40 year collection.

We’ve all met the guy with either sky high prices or the guy that had everything but nothing was for sale or where met on the porch with a 12 gauge. Ron is none of these. He (by my best guess) has come to the recent decision that he will never get to everything and he needs to start selling and use the funds to finish a couple of projects and actually drive one of them. From what I could see, nothing had been seriously touched in about 8 years based on the dirt and dust and abandoned projects here and there.

Organization and cleanliness are not his strong suit. Most of the time we had to climb over stuff in the buildings and walk sideways to get between vehicles but he was happy to show and share everything he had and he talked my ear off. I don’t think he gets many visitors where he is out in the sticks.

His main focus seems to be on 1940/50/60’s wagons, panels and pick-ups. By my guess, 40 total, most complete, about 3 or 4 running, mostly 4×4 wagons. At this point I kicked myself for not bringing a camera. Heck I was there for a wheel.

His next niche is the Tornado engine. Ron had at least 20, many of the above vehicles were so equipped. It became evident he really had a soft spot for that engine and knew all the fixes to correct the oil leak and oil consumption problems that plagued this engine when introduced.

Several CJ2As in pretty good shape. One an early job with column shift.

A CJ3B with a plow. This appears to be only one of a couple vehicles that actually gets out and gets used. Think he needs to keep this one to keep his long drive cleared.

A couple of CJ5s in rough shape.

Two fire trucks. One, a pick-up that looked like a Howe unit but was made by Valley Fire Truck of Bay City, Michigan. I found a picture of it on line if you search for a 1959 Valley Fire Jeep. The second, an FC dually with and aerial extension ladder used by the City of New York to get down narrow alleys. This was the only FC.

A 1950 Trench-a-Jeep. Missing the trencher but otherwise complete including the agri-weight on the front bumper and all the hard to find controls and PTO stuff.

1960’s Power Wagons. The styled modern square ones, not the WWII style. One with a factory special ordered 440 big block.

Wheels. By my guess, 100+. 15 and 16 inch. Most with petrified tires still on them. Didn’t see any MB take-aparts. My nice wheel ran me $20.

Parts. Piles of front and rear axles and related chassis parts that he had parted out years ago. I saw every brand of locking hubs including some of the rare early ones you don’t see.

A mine field of brake drums strewn across a wooded lot.
Snow plow hardware.

Stuff. Piles of it. Crammed in many of the vehicles. He knew what he had and where it all was. 40 years worth.

As I mentioned, Ron does not have internet but he does answer his phone. Tell him Brian sent you (I know he has a nice set of hubcaps for my CJ somewhere with my name on them!). Bring cash, tools and wear your hunting boots. I did, and when you find a brake drum with your toe under six inches of leaves you’ll be glad you did. Someone with a good digital camera needs to get there.

– Brian

Here is Ron’s contact information:  Ron Hattner 175 Bishop Rd, Sterling, Michigan 989-654-2922


3 Comments on “Ron the Jeep Man in Sterling, Michigan

  1. Brett

    Nice story and find.
    I tried to Google maps (is that a verb now?) Ron’s addy address but the resolution over that area is horrible.

  2. Brian

    I agree. Google is off a bit too with the location. The property is heavily wooded with Jeeps everywhere. You can’t see anything from the road and I doubt from the air either.

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