WESTBROOK — Richard Willard has restored more than a thousand vehicles over the last 30 years, but none as rich in history as the original 1928 White Truck now in his garage.
“It’s pretty neat, it’s bringing history back to life,” says Richard Willard, owner of Vintage Motorcars, LLC. “It’s really neat.”
Fred J. Hermann, alongside his wife Myrtle, launched the Hermann Forwarding Company in North Brunswick, N.J. in 1927. With the 1928 White Truck, the couple began hauling watermelons for The Great A&P Supermarket.
The White Motor Company was an American auto, truck, bus and agricultural tractor manufacturer from 1900 until 1980.
Restoring the antique truck is both extensive and expensive, requiring hundreds of hours of research, labor and parts procurement. It is expected to take a year to complete the work at a cost of over $100,000.
“Some of these vehicles can take 2,000 to 7,000 manhours to restore,” explains Willard.
“There’s just so much involved when you take all those pieces -they’re rusted, they’re worn, they’re rotten away,” he adds. “You have to fabricate them; you’ve got to make them like new. It’s very laborious.”
Willard explains that over the years the rare White Truck underwent many changes, including a new engine and cosmetic alternations. Many hours of research are required to determine its original state.
“You have to look at the truck like a forensic scientist; who did what and when,” he says. “A lot of greasy hands have been into that truck over the last 92 years.”
“You can learn a lot about the history of a vehicle while it’s being dismantled,” he adds. “On the other hand, some things can be obscured and make it very difficult to determine what was done from the manufacturer.”
Willard’s 87-year-old father, Sam Willard, is assisting his son with researching and locating original parts for the job.
“He was able to locate an old chassis sitting in a field in Washington State that we had Hermann Trucking pick up and deliver across country to us in Connecticut,” Willard says.
Plans are to have the fully restored White Truck on display in the lobby of Hermann Services’ new corporate headquarters.
Willard says he is honored to have been chosen to do this restoration job.
“Between them coming here and looking at other shops and picking me, that’s a pretty good feather in your cap,” he says.
Vintage Motorcars, 2000 Boston Post Road, Westbrook, 860-399-2311; vintagemotorcardsllc.com; Facebook Vintage Motorcards LLC; Instagram vintagemotorcarsllc