When looking for a delivery truck for the MOXIE Cafe, we didn’t want something modern. Our restaurant looks lovingly at the past of the United States military and we want to show that in everything that we do. I was told a tank wouldn’t be allowed [Trust me I tried] so we kept looking. We wanted a delivery truck or van from the early 1940’s. Something tough and reliable, but still eye catching especially in today’s compact car traffic. We found it in the Dodge WC-52. To explain why we fell in love with this vehicle, I am going to have to take you back in time almost seventy five years.
It is 1941 and the world is engulfed in war.
Nazi Germany and National Fascist Italy are bitterly fighting in Egypt resulting in an ever shifting stalemate against the British. Germany unleashes the Desert Fox, Erwin Rommel, on the British desert forces with devastating results. Italy is fighting across the Balkans and Greece, while the more powerful Nazi German army rolls across western Europe like a hot knife through butter. France has been under Nazi control for a year. Belgrade falls to the German onslaught. Crete too falls to the Nazi war machine. Internal unrest in Iraq leads to an overthrow of the pro-British government with the new government aligning itself with the Axis powers. Hitler’s Germany has risen from the post World War I destitution of the 1920’s and 1930’s to crush Europe under the heel of its boot. Hitler even begins Operation Barbarossa, turning his sights on former ally, Soviet Russia. Britain endures the Blitzkrieg, meaning lightning war, of the Nazi’s for three long years. London is in tatters, and its military has stretched itself thin across Europe and Africa. Hitler is tightening his grip and his Japanese ally in the Pacific would soon wake a sleeping giant.
The United States had been preparing for war for some time. Shots had been fired at U-boats that had entered America’s security zone and manufacturing of military vehicles and aircraft were at their highest in the country’s history. However, none were prepared for the utter devastation that was to befall the country.
“To the Congress of the United States: Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” This sentence, spoken by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, marked a way point in the second World War. The United States, still reeling from the Japanese raid, declares war upon Japan. Alliances dictated that Germany and Italy would too declare war upon the United States. A new player in the global onslaught had officially arrived.
The official announcement of war meant that manufacturing in the United States skyrocketed. The country as a whole readied for war with the Axis powers. Some picked up rifles. Others grabbed wrenches. Dodge, already having made pickup trucks since 1914, made its contribution to the war effort with the WC series pickup. The series was named WC for its model correlation. W stood for the year it was developed (1941) while C denoted its half ton rating. However the C series also encompassed 3/4 ton rated trucks. The series included weapon carriers, telephone installation trucks, ambulances, reconnaissance vehicles, command cars, and troop transports. These 4×4’s were produced in astounding number with some 80,000 being produced over two years under government contract. The WC-52, primarily used as a weapons carrier, was a 3/4 ton version of the WC series. It came equipped with an open cab/canvas top design, front mounted winch, and a 92 horsepower engine (quite capable for the time) capable of transporting over 1700 lbs of cargo. It also came equipped with a Browning M2 machine gun mounted on a post behind the driver. Its simple design meant that it’s parts were interchangeable with other versions of the WC series and was easily repairable. All major benefits in a war time vehicle.
Or in a delivery truck.
When looking for a new delivery truck for the MOXIE, owner Jay Hardy insisted on something to denote the era for which the MOXIE celebrates. After looking at Studebakers, Willy’s Jeeps, and even classic Milk trucks, Jay still felt like he had not found the one. It wasn’t until two local patrons heard of our search that things really started to move towards fruition. Brian Anton, owner of a local firearms supply store, was well known to the MOXIE for his posting pictures on social media of his military grade Humvee in front of our restaurant every Thursday. When he found out that Jay was searching for something era appropriate, he introduced us to John Kinney of Central City Surplus. Unbeknownst to us, and seemingly the whole city, John has been refurbishing and restoring classic military trucks, tanks, helicopters, and equipment only a few miles away. He has worked on a number of big budget Hollywood productions and has a passion for historical accuracy. He introduced us to the WC-52 and a fond relationship between Central City Surplus and the MOXIE was born. After months of grease and gears, painting, and assembling, the MOXIE Cafe’s new delivery vehicle was finished. It isn’t very often that a restaurant can have a delivery vehicle as striking as an off-the-assembly-line restored Dodge military truck from 1941. Adding to the authenticity of the vehicle is it’s backstory. The MOXIE’s truck, nicknamed the Real McCoy, served in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Army Airborne Division which was activated in July of 1942. They spearheaded the D-Day invasion of Normandy alongside the 101st Division and were involved in the famous Operation Market Garden as well as the Battle of the Bulge. Perhaps the Real McCoy was present at these famous battles!
While the history of these battles and campaigns across Europe add an authentic awe factor to the vehicle, a story a tad closer to home gives the vehicle its soul. Jay Hardy, founder of MOXIE Cafe and the patron for the restoration, has a much more personal connection to the vehicle. Jay’s mother was one of the first Women Marines and was stationed at the Marine Base in Goleta, California. She drove trucks like the WC-52 and troop transports during WWII. To him, the truck not only celebrates those who fought in the World War II as the MOXIE Cafe does, but also provides a connection to his family’s history. As time rolls ever forward, we are losing these personal connections and first hand accounts to the second World War, however inanimate objects can still tell stories. They can instill knowledge and beg us to contemplate the past. They can invoke pride and patriotism. Their existence can pull an emotional response, hurdling your imagination through time into a period of uncertainty, war, and sacrifice by the Greatest Generation. It is for this reason that the MOXIE Cafe is proud to display and utilize this piece of our military history.
Lest we forget…
written by Daniel Ballew