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A new military exhibit is coming to the San Diego Automotive Museum

The San Diego Automotive Museum likes to tell stories through the 75 cars and motorcycles in its collection. Stories about history, about culture, about technology.

One story was missing: the army. That changed on Saturday.

With Military Appreciation Month as the backdrop, the Balboa Park Museum has launched a new exhibit, “Salute to the San Diego Troops.” It includes two legendary workhorses, a 1942 Jeep Willys MB and a 1985 Humvee.

“We always wanted to do an exhibit that would pay homage to the military, but we didn’t have the right vehicles,” museum CEO Lenny Leszczynski said after a private dedication ceremony that drew dozens of visitors. people, including active duty and retired members of the armed forces.

What was just an idea took shape after the museum was contacted by Rob Luddy, a Navy veteran, WWII enthusiast, and retired software executive. He lives in Santaluz, a community just east of Del Mar, and wanted to donate the Willys.

This particular Jeep had no combat pedigree — it was in the United States during World War II, in an armory in Buffalo, NY — but its family tree appealed to the museum, Leszczynski said.

And there was also an interactive feature that the officials loved.

Over the years, servicemen and veterans have signed their names under the hood. “How about we keep doing this? museum staff wondered, thinking it would be a great way to celebrate museum visitors with military ties.

A hood to be signed is now part of the exhibition. On Saturday, several service members added their names, thankfully.

“I think that’s great,” Navy Col. Mike Ogden said after putting down the Sharpie. “I’m an infantry guy, and we’re familiar with climbing into vehicles. They are part of who we are. So an exhibit like this is nice to see.

Luddy did not sign on Saturday. His name was already on the hood of the Willys. So did his father and stepfather, all veterans.

He acquired the Jeep in 2015, “thanks to the internet, an iPad, a glass of scotch and a very supportive wife.” They all came together one night as he scrolled through his computer, thinking of acquiring a Willys as a nod to his fascination with World War II. This appeared on his screen.

The previous owners told him that it was in the armory and had been used for a time as a snowplow. In San Diego, he sprung up on Halloween, ferrying neighborhood kids for a ride or a treat.

“We had fun for several years, but we didn’t really have a place at home,” Luddy said. He put it away, “but it didn’t look right.” So he contacted the museum.

“We are really happy that he has found such a good home,” he said.

The other attraction featured in the exhibit, the 1985 Humvee, is on loan from Camp Pendleton.

Both vehicles are near the entrance to the museum. A wall behind them explains some of San Diego’s longstanding ties to the military, beginning with the Spanish construction of the Presidio in 1770.

Leszczynski said the museum hopes to add more military vehicles that can be used in other exhibits and tell other stories.

California Daily Newspapers

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