As a result, Janquitto’s business is most
remarkable for the immense number of parts that line the walls. He says he
has over 3,500 items in his inventory, including early- and late-model
dipsticks, voltage regulators and seat cushions, either filled with foam
rubber, as was used early in the war, or animal hair, as was used later
when rubber became scarce. The parts that he cannot buy, he and his crew
of 8 to 10 workers make or sub-contract out.
"We want to be the L.L. Bean of jeep parts."
Janquitto started down this road as a child,
watching television shows such as "Combat" and movies such as
The war fascinated him, as did things mechanical.
So when he attended the General Motors Institute in Flint, Mich., for five
years, he also started looking for an old jeep to work with.
Eventually he found a 1948 civilian version and
spent so much time working on it he almost flunked a couple of classes. He
eventually sold that car to a dean and starting looking for a military
jeep actually made during World War II.
World War II jeeps were built by three
manufacturers – Ford, Willys and American Bantam. The three fought over
who had the rights to the design, and the courts eventually decided the
design was created by all three in response to government specifications,
Janquitto said. However, Willys trademarked the name and produced Jeeps
for Civilian use. Willys has since been bought out, and now the Chrysler
Corp. owns the Jeep trademark.
Janquitto’s search ended in 1973 in a New
Brunswick field, where he found a 1942 Willys Overland MB rusting away. He
bought it for $200.
Over the next two or three years, he scrounged
around for parts, and those he could not buy he made himself. When he
finished restoring it, he took it to car shows, where it stood out among
the usual droves of Duesenbergs and Model T Fords.
At the time he was working as an engineer for
General Motors Corp., but his reputation as a master of jeeps was growing
in the classic car world. He even got a security clearance to study jeep
photography in the National Archives.
Using his skills as a mechanical engineer,
Janquitto started making some parts that he could not buy. In the 1970’s
the hobby started to turn into a business when Janquitto and his wife,
Barbara, made canvas roofs for jeeps in their apartment for fellow jeep
In 1977, Janquitto left GM. He and his wife bought
a house in a commercially zoned section of Beachwood and started making
canvas there full time.
Initially, they used most of the canvas they made
for boats sails, but some went for jeep roofs. His wife did most of the
work for some years, while Janquitto worked at a second job for a defunct
solar energy business in Wall Township. When that business shutdown in
1984, Janquitto starting spending all his time at the family
Gradually the jeep side of the business took over
and the Janquittos switched its focus to supplying jeep parts, both for
military and civilian versions built from 1941 through 1971. In 1987, they
moved to the present Island Heights location, keeping the Beachwood name,
which then had become well known in collecting
And those collectors can be fussy. For
example, Ford owners often insist on bolts with a small "F" imprinted on
them, as all Ford jeeps had.
But since jeep parts were
designed to be interchangeable, regardless of the manufacturer, many jeeps
have become hodgepodges of parts over the years, making identification
difficult. Some customers insist on getting certain parts, even though
Janquitto knows those parts are not historically
Janquitto has expanded his
knowledge and inventory of military devices over the years. A Stuart tank
sits inside the garage, and a DUKW, a large amphibious car knows as a
"duck," squats in the driveway outside. He even owns a pigeon cage used by
the Army Signal Corps when its winged messengers were not in
But it is the jeep that clutches
Janquitto’s heart. About a dozen full-size jeeps, in various states of
repair, line reinforced shelves and are eventually restored or used for
"A jeep is form follows
function," Janquitto said. "There’s real appeal to that. "On our recent
convoy across America, I had breakdowns every day, but it was never
anything a little chewing gum or wire couldn’t fix," Janquitto continued.
"They’re ugly, but they’re beautifully ugly".
The convoy Janquitto referred to
was part of the other great passion in Janquitto’s life –
Finding-a-cure for the
rare form of Muscular Dystrophy that afflicts his 8-year son,
Janquitto and several other
collectors zip-zagged across the nation, raising awareness and money for
the fight against Duchenne, a disease which causes muscle cells in boys
exclusively to disintegrate. About on in ever 3,500 boys gets the disease,
which often kills them before they are out of him
Janquitto’s convoy raised about
$125,000 in cash, destined to go to a research center at the University of
Pittsburgh that is studying the disease.
His son’s disease also has given
Janquitto a better perspective on life, he said. His business is
profitable, but not by much. He realizes he could make more money
elsewhere, but he can survive well enough off the current shop and gets
satisfaction from keeping history alive.
"This is better than working at
GM for eight years designing one bolt," Janquitto said. "Here I get the
raw materials in the front door, and I know I’m going to have to make a
product to sell out the back door."