Some of Vikki Simon’s fondest memories were “jeep-ing” as a child with her family in Orange County.
When she discovered her uncle was forced to sell the family’s beloved Jeep, she thought those dreams were lost forever.
But what recently transpired is the surprise of a lifetime.
“Vikki wanted to keep the Jeep in the family. We did what we could to buy it earlier, but the cost was too high,” said Vikki’s other true love Tom Pearson. “So, when I found out that her uncle had to sell the vehicle, I bought it for her as a secret and my life’s been turmoil ever since.”
When Pearson and friend left at 4 a.m. to pick up the vehicle, he discovered it was in worse shape than anticipated.
“It’s a V-8, but had no brakes,” he said.
Together, and in a harrowing journey, they pushed the brake-less military Jeep up a ramp, then drove it across the desert.
“We even stopped at the Baghdad Cafe for a bite to eat,” Pearson said, with a laugh.
Their goal initially was to get it ready by September, but that proved more difficult.
“My next thought was to get it ready for Rod Run, and they’ve been wonderful with getting us in the show and ready for the big reveal,” Pearson said.
Pearson has the Jeep running now and ready for its new, true owner.
“This is so important to her and her family. Her kids and grandkids are like my own. She’s special, and I wanted to do something special for her — for all that she does,” Pearson said.
Keeping the souped-up 1943 “Willys” Jeep under wraps has proved more difficult than Pearson anticipated.
The Willys MB US Army Jeep was manufactured from 1941 to 1945. The small four-wheel drive utility vehicles are considered the iconic World War II Jeep and inspired many similar light utility vehicles.
“I’ve had to make up stories, cover my tracks and go over to her place instead of having her over here. Truthfully? Having an affair would have been easier,” Pearson said. “The hardest part has been keeping her away from the house and out of the garage.”
Vikki’s father Ron Johnston was one of the original OC Jeep Club members out of Newport, Orange County in the 1970s.
“There’s a plaque on the side that says, “4-Wheelers of OC” which Vikki was most upset about. She wanted the jeep, but she really wanted that sign.”
While the kids and their families were told about the project over Superbowl weekend, only Vikki remained unaware of all the work done in her honor.
“We’re thrilled to have this entry in our Rod Run and excited to see the reveal,” said Rod Run event coordinator Ronda Henne.
Pearson can finally rest easy, getting the bright red Jeep parked into place, covered from the rain and waiting to show off for its new owner Saturday morning.
“It’s been a long haul getting to today and this is the only kind of jewelry I do. She’s done so much for so many. Now it’s her turn,” Pearson said.
Ashley Ludwig is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.