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Restoring and Preserving a Legacy Vehicle

My brother James and I’s grandfather, Dr. Henry Bryant, ordered a CJ5 for his hunting property in 1969 without knowing it would become a legacy vehicle in our family. To Henry, the Jeep was just a tool necessary to get him and his friends around the difficult terrain of Immokalee, Florida. It became the foundation of wonderful memories for our entire family spanning four generations. Once it became necessary to restore or throw it away, my brother and I decided to restore it for generations to come. The restoration and preservation of this vehicle bore the need to store it in a safe and secure location to protect our investment and ensure its use for generations to come; thus, The Auto Den was born.

I feel most families and individuals have either a family heirloom that means something special to them or memories of a car or car rides they hold dear. Most customers who stop into The Auto Den have a great story of a legendary car from their childhood. For me, it was grandpa’s Jeep. This 1969 CJ5 referred to in our family as “Doc’s Jeep” or “Grandpa’s Jeep” has seen it all. Purchased as a hunting vehicle in 1969 and driven 9 miles outside of town to the hunting grounds, this Jeep left the asphalt to hardly ever return. Our grandfather used it for hunting for 35 years and my brother and I have used it for the same purpose since he passed it down to us. Our mother learned how to drive in it, our parents were engaged in it, my brother and I learned how to hunt, shoot, and drive in it, and our kids are doing the same. Jeep prides itself on creating off-road vehicles and this one has lived up to its name. I could go on and on about the memories we have in the Jeep as I feel most people can about their favorite childhood car.

Luckily for me, we still have the vehicle. I hear too many stories of vehicles sold or ruined over the years. However, the unlucky part for us was that it had been off-roading for 50 years in the swamps of the Everglades and paid the price for it! The decision to move forward with the restoration was easy given all of our family memories. How to preserve it for future generations was much more difficult. Leaving it in the woods year-round under a tarp after doing an extensive renovation with one of the country’s best builders was not on the table for us. We live in a part of town where real estate is very limited and you can’t just add another garage onto the house. In Florida, it is not ideal to store a vehicle outside or in a non-air-conditioned garage for many reasons. First, the heat in a garage can exceed 130 degrees in the summer which will break down the rubber components, tires, seals, hoses, etc. The second issue with storage in Florida is the inclement weather on nearly a daily basis in the summer followed by the occasional hurricane. If you are making a two-year investment into the restoration of a vehicle, leaving it in a hot garage, storage unit, or out in the woods isn’t an option. James and I researched for a place to properly store the Jeep in Tampa and came up empty. So, James and I looked to purchase a warehouse to store the Jeep and a few other toys. In talking to friends about our needs we discovered our buddy Chris was looking to do the same and The Auto Den was born.

For us the mission is the vehicle while preserving and protecting it. We were not going to just put the Jeep in in a hot storage unit at some box storage place. Yes, we needed to store the Jeep but we wanted to protect it. As I mentioned before, protection means climate control via air conditioning, dehumidification, power for battery tenders, security systems, sprinklers to protect against fire, and a well-built building in a highly elevated area to protect against hurricane force winds and flooding. The Auto Den was purpose built to execute our mission.

If you need a safe and secure place to store your family heirloom for continued use and future generations' enjoyment, please don’t hesitate to call. Your vehicle can sit right alongside “grandpa’s jeep” and we will take excellent care of it like we do our own.

By: Sterling McLamore

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