ARTICLE 4

VOL 1 ISSUE 10
Old Autos
Monday, May 19, 2003

For the love of Jeeps
THE WILLYS ACRES STORY

By Jim Rolfe, Pembroke, Ontario

COULSON, ON - Nestled in the hills north of Barrie, Ontario, is a beautiful location, known to many skiers, called Horseshoe Valley. In the heart of this wonderful valley is the hamlet of Coulson. If you drive through Coulson don’t blink or you may miss it altogether, it is that small. It is here in this most unlikely location you will find a Jeep lover’s paradise known as Willys Acres. It is not on the main road, but just east of the intersection where the general store stands. Markus Schneider and his lovely wife, Sonja, are the co-owners of the business. Both are German by birth, Markus being born in Prien am Chiemsee in 1967 and Sonja in Dreihausen. Along with their children, Ralf age 8 and Sfefan age 6, they both work and live at Willys Acres. This is truly a family business with Sonja running the office and Markus operating the shop and parts side of the enterprise. Already the two boys seem quite interested in Jeeps as the property is home to over fifty Jeeps awaiting restoration or sale. They often can be found playing in and around them.

Markus fell in love with Jeeps at the age of 18 in Germany where had been collecting old military medals and equipment since he was 12. When he came to Canada in 1987 he brought that affection for Jeeps with him. What was at first a hobby, soon became an obsession and then a business. Sonja followed Markus to Canada in 1989 and together they worked at collecting and restoring these wonderful vehicles. At first Markus started restoring Jeeps during his free time as most hobbyist do, eventually doing restorations for others. That was the start. Markus is a qualified fabricator and sheet metal technician having learned his trade in Germany. This skill with sheet metal was evident in his restoration work and he soon gained a reputation for quality. In fact it was his craftsmanship that influenced me to bring my first Jeep, a M-38, to him for the restoration of the body. He used mostly NOS body panels and fabricated some minor sections. His welding was flawless and the end result was a body that was identical in all respects to the original factory product. That was five years ago.

As the requests for restoration jobs increased, Markus started working full time at completing work for others. Thus Willys Acres was born. He had acquired a sizable stock of spare parts along the way and was selling to other restorers. He set up a small metal working shop on his property complete with all the shears, breaks and other machines to do sheet metal work on the Jeeps. The spare parts that he was buying soon filled his basement and a barn. He needed more space for both the spare parts and the restoration work. With the help of his father and friends a 8000 + square foot building was constructed a short distance from his house. The facility is very high inside for the storage of a large stock of spare parts on shelving units about 15 feet high.. Markus searched in the USA and Europe for stocks of old Jeep parts. In France, Holland and Belgium he was able to acquire enough parts to fill two 40 foot sea containers. All NOS parts that at one time were in the war reserve stocks of NATO countries. Most were of WW II vintage.

It wasn’t long and the new warehouse and shop were filled. An excellent web site was constructed to advertise his restoration and spare parts. Mail order by phone and internet is a very large portion of his present business today. He can supply parts for all Jeeps built from 1941 to 1971, both military and civilian. A great deal of his restoration and parts involve the MB and GPW Jeeps from WWII. He can supply parts and other services for M-38, M-38A1, CJ2A, CJ3A and CJ3B models. He also has a machine shop in Barrie that he contracts out engine rebuilding.

Markus is an excellent mechanic with a vast knowledge of all aspects of Jeep restoration, gained from hands on experience. I have often consulted him during my own restorations to help me solve a problem. On his web site you will find a complete list of parts and restoration services, plus a photo archive of past restoration projects. Recently Willys Acres has expanded to include the Iltis family of vehicles currently being sold off by the Canadian Forces. He has quite a few Iltis vehicles and a good stock of trailers. He can supply 1/4 ton, 3/4 ton and 1 ½ ton military trailers. Willys Acres can supply you with a complete Jeep, from the frame up, if you wanted to build your own vehicle from scratch.



Another recent service that proved popular is the importation of reproduction Jeep bodies from the Philippines. I have one of these good quality bodies on my recently restored 1946 CJ2A and am very happy with it. Also available are NOS and reproduction body parts , windshield assemblies, panels and canvas tops. Markus is a regular vendor at the Ontario Military Vehicles Association open house and swap meet held at the Oshawa airport in early June. And more recently he has set up a booth at the Barrie Flea market and car show.

Willys Acres will also take your Jeep for sale on consignment and advertise it on their web site. Several years ago he sold my 1952 M-38 through his web site to a buyer in Chicago. You can also buy a Jeep that requires restoration, as he has a good selection to choose from, or you can have Willys Acres restore your own Jeep. Willys Acres is always on the lookout to buy stocks of Jeep parts, so if you have any that you wish to depose of, call them. A good time to visit his location is when he holds his annual open house in late August or September. At that time all his stock of unrestored vehicles is on display and the warehouse and shop are open to the public. Current and past customers often bring their Jeeps to display as well.

Markus and Sonja are quite happy with the current state of their operation and have no plans at this time to expand as they value the time available for family life. For a more complete list of services available visit the Willys Acres web site at www.willysacres.com .They also advertise in this publication. You reach them by email at willysacres@look.ca or phone (705) 835 5739, this is also their fax number. The mail address is; RR#2, 3224 Conc. 7, Oro Station, Ontario, L0L 2E0.

Willys Acres is successful Canadian enterprise serving both Canadian and USA customers with honesty and integrity. It is rare that one can take a hobby and build it into a business that you enjoy. Markus and Sonja have done just that, for the love of Jeeps.