Words and photos by Robby DeGraff
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to some of the wackiest, coolest and most bizarre vehicles I’ve ever seen. You can find everything from a lifted Chevy Silverado that proudly plays in mud while wearing Confederate flag livery to rusty Jeep CJs sitting in peoples’ front yards, combating the overgrown grass, just waiting to be sold.
I’ve always enjoyed searching for the four-wheeled hidden treasures that lurk behind used-car lots, inside old barns and off the beaten path. As a gearhead, you become excited when you discover something that once had a great past.
It’s a quest to find out everything you can, by looking through photos, wiping the dust off the VIN and talking with other enthusiasts. The UP — or “Da Yoop,” as spoken by the locals — was a perfect place for this.
I stopped at Lutey’s Heritage Motors to check out a 1929 Ford half-ton pickup with an aftermarket snowmobile conversion. After a few helpful emails with the dealership, I learned a bit more about this unique pickup.
Kits like the one seen on this pickup were popular among rural mail carriers, commercial fishermen, woodworkers and farmers who lived in the Northern snowy areas of the country. Although there were several styles of snowmobile conversions for the Model A and T, the one pictured here features the easy conversion kit with removable front skis, along with a second rear axle for the longer tracks. Some snow kits even had permanently mounted skis up front. Seems like a perfect vehicle for the stormy winters in the UP.
Toward the back of the lot was a tan 1967 Jeepster Commando wagon still wearing Michigan plates from 1979. Under a tree and fading away in the sun was a 1950s Willys Jeep pickup begging for restoration.
“Christine on Steroids,” as Da Yoopers would call it, caught my eye as I passed through Ishpeming. I pulled over to stop at Da Yoopers Tourist Trap, an outdoor collection of hilariously strange vehicles and figurines. (Who are Da Yoopers? Head over to YouTube and search for “Rusty Chevrolet.”)
Back to Christine, that’s a 1957 Buick Special mounted onto a 1974 Chevrolet three-quarter-ton truck frame. Who wouldn’t want to plow with that beast?
A small-block Chevy V-8 powers “Big Gus,” the world’s largest chainsaw. It’s a whopping 22 feet long and 6 feet tall. Then you’ll stumble across a big 1947-49 International KB-5 with the world’s largest firing gun mounted on the rear flatbed. That 35-foot gun is called “Big Ernie.”
Tell us: What’s been the craziest or most unique truck you’ve seen on your vacation?