By Steve Wilder dotCANTON.com
Hal Kolding says his World War II Dodge WC-56 “command car” runs “like a champ.”
“I hope,” he says, “to someday drive this in the (Memorial Day) parade.”
That won’t happen at least until Kolding, a tech-ed teacher at Granby High School, gets around to properly registering the former U.S. military vehicle for road use. In the meantime, he plans to continue his tradition of driving it onto the front lawn of his Cherry Brook Road home twice each year in commemoration of Memorial Day in May and Veterans Day in November.
On Sunday, May 29, an American flag was flying from the front of Kolding’s home, and two were attached to the WC-56. White tape on the vehicle’s front bumper spelled Kolding’s simple Memorial Day message to all of those who sacrificed their lives while serving in the U.S. military:
Kolding, who has long had an interest in World War II, says the WC-56 typically provided transportation for “higher-ranking officers.” There’s no knowing who might have ridden in this “command car,” which Kolding says was built in 1942 or ’43, but there’s good evidence to show that it likely participated in the invasion of Germany toward the end of World War II.
According to Kolding, the vehicle still sports a 1946 “repair tag from a German shop.”
“It probably entered the European Theater in France, probably at Normandy, and went all the way to Germany,” Kolding says, adding that it was left in the French occupation zone in Germany that was created at the end of the war.
“Data tags,” Kolding says, show that the French used the three-speed vehicle in Indochina in the 1950s. It was returned to the United States in 1972 and purchased by an East Coast collector who owned it for more than three decades before selling it to Kolding “five or six” years ago. “It has been around the world,” Kolding says.
There aren’t a whole lot of these vehicles in existence anymore. Kolding says Midwestern farmers used to buy them from the military and convert them into short, flatbed-type vehicles. It was cheaper to do that than to buy a pickup or cargo truck, Kolding says.
A fully restored WC-56 would be worth a lot of money, according to Kolding. His vehicle falls far short of that, but he says it “would be a good start for a restoration.”
The original leather bench seat in front is long gone, the victim of rot. And the back seat, though original, is in bad shape. Some minor alterations have been made, including the addition of two red brake lights to the rear of the vehicle.
Otherwise, the almost 70-year-old command car is remarkably rust-free, except for the area around the battery box on the right running board. Kolding thinks one of the tires might be original, and the WC-56 still contains a fold-down map table that could have been used by persons riding in the back seat. No, Kolding says, there’s no evidence of any bullet holes.
Kolding enjoys rehabilitating old engines in his spare time (not surprising for a tech ed teacher), and is often working on a project that he may or may not sell when he’s finished. Asked whether he would consider selling his WC-56, the smile on his face and the slight shake of his head said it all: No time soon.
Click here to check out a previous visit by dotCANTON.com to Hal Kolding’s home.