By MADDY VITALE
Jeep lovers displayed their wheels and personalities on the Ocean City Boardwalk on Saturday afternoon.
There was the 2016 Jeep Wrangler called the “Kerminator,” which featured Kermit the Frog stuffed animals, a bright lime green paint job and a mini-Jeep on the back for the famous Muppets amphibian.
Then there was the red, white and blue Wrangler “Zombie Tactical Unit.”
In all, about 500 Jeeps lined the Boardwalk from Fifth Street to 14th Street in the Ocean City NJ Jeep Invasion.
It seemed many of the owners liked to name their Jeeps, which were mostly newer Wranglers, several vintage models going back to the 1950s, a 1972 Commando and Cherokees.
What appealed most to Jeep lovers who own new wheels was the fact that the style has changed a bit – but not so far off from the ones from the 1950s.
Frank Wakefield, 83, of Marmora, pulled out an old, black-and-white photo that he keeps with him wherever he goes. The retired Marine sergeant and Korean War veteran, who served from 1953-56, joined the military right out of high school.
“It reminds me of this,” he said, his eyes welling up as he held the photo of him standing next to an old military Jeep.
He was looking at a Jeep from 1980 that was Army green and at one time was used in the military, according to the owner, Andrew Randazzo, 24, of Rosenhayn, N.J.
“I am still researching it,” Randazzo said. “I love old cars. My grandfather had an old car and my uncle did. There is a lot more to find out about this Jeep.”
For Wakefield, looking at the Jeep was a somber reminder of his nights on a convoy driving without headlights, guided by one light at the front of the line of military vehicles.
The 1980 Jeep was so similar to the one made decades earlier, it choked up the veteran.
“It’s nostalgic for me,” Wakefield said. “It brings back lots of memories.”
For others, the Jeeps were painted or themed for humor.
John Dagostino, of Millville, owner of the “Kerminator,” summed up what makes Jeeps so popular.
“It is fun to drive, and it makes getting from Point A to Point B fun. You don’t mind driving because you are in a Jeep,” he said, leaning on his “Kerminator.”
The event raised money for local charities, and trophies are awarded to the best Jeeps in various categories.
Some had thick tread and huge tires, others had some serious camouflage paint jobs and then there were plenty with patriotic themes.
All were cool to many of the spectators.
“This is so neat to see,” said Jules Tarsi, of Sea Isle City.
He and his wife, Debbie, drove to Ocean City for breakfast and saw the Jeeps flooding the town.
“We decided to see what was going on,” Debbie said.
Ken and Wanda Allen, of Edgewater, N.J., and their son, Ryan, 25, enjoyed checking out the many Jeeps positioned along the Boardwalk.
“I always wanted a Jeep since I was younger,” Ken Allen said.
“We waited until the kids got older,” Wanda added.
Then the couple bought a 2016 Jeep Wrangler.
“We love our Jeep,” Wanda said with a grin.
Larry Schiavo, of Sicklerville, N.J., said hello to the Boardwalk strollers. Some stopped to check out his 2001 Jeep Wrangler, which has 150,000 miles on the odometer.
He is the original owner. But what made his Jeep stand out were some added fixtures.
Children ogled the Wrangler and stopped to check out the carved wooden parrot on one side.
“Someone asked me if it was real and I said no way. It would fly away,” Schiavo said.
He displayed a “treasure chest” in the back and used a faux ship wheel for steering. He even had a sidekick, his beloved dog, Fawn, who got a lot of pats from strollers.
“I’ve always had a Jeep. It is a passion of mine. The engines are solid,” Schiavo said with a smile. “I have other cars, but this is my special weekend car.”
For more information visit www.njjeepinvasion.com.