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M29C Weasel #5092 Restoration Adventure


RAS1
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My weasel adventure started 35 years ago.  My dad owned an army surplus store, and was interested in getting a tracked vehicle.  The weasel was the smallest track you could get, so that was picked.  He located the blue weasel you see in the picture below, that is me in the driver's seat and my brother in back on the weasel the day we bought it.  My dad actually bought 2 at the same place, same time, the blue one ended up being ours, the other weasel was traded to a mechanic friend of ours to help restore the blue weasel, as my dad also had a full time police job at the time, and he did not have a garage or time to restore himself.
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Right after this picture was taken, we tried to load it up on our trailer.  The track snapped the second we attempted to load it. The first lesson on weasels was learned. I worked with my dad and the mechanic restoring the weasel, many many months of drilling track rivets, sandblasting lights and hardware, much more, but this was a long time ago..

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I have no pictures of the actual restoration of the weasel, just a few we took after it was done.  This is one of our first test runs after paint and track rebuilding.

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This is my dad running the weasel at Union, IL at the reenactment they used to hold on memorial day.
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We had the weasel finished for about 5 years, I was around 12 years old.  I had great times restoring it, driving it, I even wanted to take it to school for show and tell. (Dad said no to that one, school was not very military friendly (10 years after vietnam)).

My Dad needed to stock up his surplus store, and had very little money to do it, so he traded the weasel to a surplus store owner in Woodstock, IL that closed down for the remainder of the store's inventory.

That wasn't a fun memory.

So, I kept an eye on Weasel.  It went through a few owners, and I heard about it from a friend around 2010.  I was told the engine blew, and it had been parked. I asked many times over the years to have the owner contact me, but never heard back.  In 2015 I started my own surplus store in Rockford, IL.  Over the next 5 years, I transformed it into more than a surplus store, more like a museum and a store with many interesting displays and collectibles on the walls...

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Posted (edited)

Out of the blue, about a month ago (june 2021), the owner of the weasel came into my store in rockford.  He came in to see me with the specific goal of selling his weasel.  The owner was a guy I knew from when I was a kid, and he said he was available pretty much anytime to see it.  It probably didn't help me on the price negotiation when I asked to see it that afternoon....But he was very fair, and a very nice guy, and knew it was going to a good home.  The first thing I did when I saw it was touch the taillight I remember sandblasting and restoring when I was 10 years old. The weasel looked decent, but panels were off, parts jammed in the back of it, and more rust than I remember.  Also that great smelling canvas top was long gone, rotted away, only a box of hardware left to taunt me. I tried sniffing the hardware, but no luck, it did not smell like the canvas top 🙂 The tracks look a bit more tired as well, some grousers need welding, some are bent, and many road pads have since decided to detach themselves from the grousers. The previous owner included 2 spare engines, and some other great parts. After we struck a deal, I paid for it, and the following week I put it on my trailer.  The weasel had not been run since 2003.  And it was living 10 miles from my house all those years!

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This is weasel when I arrived home!  My little boy now gets to experience the weasel!

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My dad gets to visit with his old weasel again after 30 years, I dont think he was as excited to see it as I was!

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Edited by RAS1
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For the next three weeks, I spent my nights working on the weasel (I called "operation Jingle Bells"). The wife was not pleased, but understood my new love!  With the help of some really good guys here on the forum, I was able to get her back up and running.  Laundry list of failures... head bolt snapped off, burned points, wrong coil, bad fuel system, no oil in final drive, etc....

This satisfied my need to have the weasel back, however, back in the 80's my Dad bought a set of float tanks to mount to our weasel.  We never mounted them, and I always wanted to have a floater!  The forum was right, the only way to do it was buy a floater that is mostly complete.  

I searched and found a great candidate only 2 hours from my house.  Old rusty (someone left it outside with the drain plugs installed. Not a good idea).  A member on here mentioned it, Jesse.  He helped me tremendously, and even gave me a pile of free weasel parts.  What a great guy!

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Posted (edited)

Old rusty was great, as it had almost all of the parts on it for a floater, and was almost 100% original.  The tracks are awesome! 

When I bought it from the museum, they told me their sherman tank was going in a WWII film in rockford, being shot the next day...

I had an idea.  Get my floater finished and "weasel" my way in the movie.  I had 2 days.  So, basically a non-stop work-a-thon, I transferred over the floater parts, did a quick paint job, some basic repairs, and got it ready to go on the trailer at 2am on the second night. It is done, buttoned up, I start it up and pull out of the garage.  CLANK CLANK CLANK.  Then, the engine sputters and dies. Not a great start.  The track was banging into these spring-loaded metal pieces inside the water diverters. Not sure if it was due to loose tracks, or the design, but off they came. 3 bolts each, I broke 2.  Next, on to the engine.  The fuel was not getting to the filter, so I checked the tank (I was using an old boat tank). the pickup tube fell off in the tank.  Re-install a new pickup tube and I'm back in action!  Loaded successfully on the trailer, ready to film!

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Edited by RAS1
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Posted (edited)

I'm up early the next morning (maybe 4 hours of sleep) and got to the movie set.  We sat and waited for 3 hours until the director saw the weasel and loved it (he has a weasel) and it was in!  The WWII film is called "Come Out Fighting" and is about the first Black tanker division.  I am still on set currently, film should be wrapping up this week.  

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Edited by RAS1
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Now I'm in a jam.  I have 2 weasels to restore!  I need to take my original weasel back apart, and do a real restoration on it.  But I have to decide if old rusty will become another floater, or turn him into a snow weasel.  So I'm now on the hunt for more floater parts.  The weasel disease has taken hold, and I'm feeling green (and a bit white and black depending on my mood) 🙂

Dave

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@RAS1Dave, great story. Thanks for taking the time to post it. I have seen photos of 'Old Rusty' many many years ago. So much so I kept the photos for reference. Good to see it has found a new home. Would Old Rusty be a Letterkenny Rebuilt Weasel? I am not quite sure about the fitment of a machine gun in the back of a floater???? I guess anything goes in the movies. The only wartime photo I have of a Weasel fitted with a Machine gun is of a British Weasel fitted with what I am told is a Vickers MG. Having said that I am sure that user trials were conducted with MG's. The condition of Old Rusty's hull will determine what you do with it.

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Yes, Old Rusty is a letterkenny rebuild.  I saw a tag somewhere on it that mentioned the rebuild, and it has been "skinned", which I assume they did to all of the letterkenny rebuilds? or maybe just on rust buckets?  Here is my picture I used for machine gun reference (note the nice front seat, the surf shield), and yes, the more guns, the more likely it makes the film! 🙂

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1 hour ago, Patrick Tipton said:

I think the soldier sitting on a soon to be unobtanium surf shield and very expensive windshield should probably move and/or the gunner needs to work on his muzzle awareness 🤣

Omg! I didn't even see the barrel direction! Hey sarge, ah, not a big issue but johnson just got fragged...

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