Parade features restored military vehicle
By day, Andrew Knapp runs his tree business, Knapp Tree Service, which has been up-to-its-neck busy these past couple of weeks because of the severe storm including tornadoes that ripped through Connecticut on May 15.
But during the military holidays, like Memorial Day, he’s known for his avocation: collecting and restoring military vehicles.
Knapp is the collector who has provided a military vehicle for the Wilton Memorial Day parade for two decades.
“For 20 years, it’s been the same thing, a World War II half-track,” Knapp said, referring to a troop carrier vehicle that has tires in front and a tank-type track in the back, which is why it is called a half-track.
“My father bought it off Civil Defense in the 1960s, and it’s been in the family over 55 years,” he said of the vehicle, which was built by the White Motor Co.
His father was in the tree business, too. He said his father attempted to use the half-track in the tree business, in the woods, but it proved to be too heavy a vehicle for that job. So it sat in a garage in Ridgefield for years. Then, when Andrew graduated from high school in 1980, the owner of the garage was developing the property so his father invited him to take over ownership of the half-track, which he did.
It became a hobby. He restored it and brought it back to its original condition. He soon began to acquire and restore other military vehicles as well. Today he has a collection of 20 military vehicles, most of which he lends to various parades around Connecticut, and he has one project in the works in the barn of his home on Ridgefield Road.
“I’m restoring an armored car right now, made by White,” he said.
Knapp will lend his vehicles to about 15 parades in the next couple of weeks, including parades in Stamford, Darien, Ridgefield, Norwalk, and Redding.
“I’m a World War II buff,” he said. “We enjoy doing it.”
He didn’t play soldiers when he was a kid, but he did love trucks, and that is the connection.
“I joined a club here in the state, the Connecticut Military Vehicle Club,” he said. “We have an annual show in Hebron every year.”
Just last week the Wilton Memorial Day Parade Committee gave a certificate of appreciation to Knapp for his yearly loan of one of his military vehicles to the parade.