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KEP worker refurnishes Jeeps with his father, kids

Taylor Miller keeps the family tradition alive through three generations

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NEW LIFE — Taylor Miller (right) stands with his father, Keith Miller, after restoring a 1951 Willys Jeep pickup truck.

One Stellantis worker has specialized in one of the company’s biggest vehicle lines and made a tradition of fixing them up with his father, a retired Stellantis employee himself.

Taylor Miller and his father, Keith Miller, have restored 11 Jeeps from a variety of eras, from the 1940s to present-day models. It’s become a family tradition, and Miller has passed it down to his children, a 20- and 16-year old, who both know how to drive manual transmission Jeeps and share his enthusiasm about them.

“We don’t sell them. We keep everything we’ve got. Once we restore one, we just keep it and drive it around,” Miller said. “My dad bought his first Jeep in 1988, which we still have, and that’s kind of what started it all. I bought one soon after that in 1995, and it just kind of kept going. We started buying old Jeeps. We restored one, and then we bought more.”

He bought his children Jeeps as well, and his wife has the newest 2020 Jeep Gladiator. With 10 licensed and fully-restored Jeeps, on top of the 11th one still in progress, Miller said the hobby has become a wonderful family tradition.

Be it column shift or stick shift, everyone can fully operate each Jeep they have, he said.

“Creating those memories for me with my father – he’s getting older, and, you know, my son – those are the things that you won’t ever be able to take away from me,” Miller said.

The first Jeep restoration with his dad took almost 10 years, he said, as they hit some bumps along the way. But since then, the Millers try to restore one Jeep per year, using the winter months to do most of the labor.

Everyone at Stellantis knows Miller, who drives a different Jeep to work every day, he said. The oldest model he and his father own is from 1946, and the history can be seen in the others progressively through the years all the way up to 2020.

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Kokomo winters aren’t easy, but Miller said he enjoys the challenge, and it gives him and his family something to do other than stay inside throughout the cold months. Having no shortage of four-wheel drive vehicles doesn’t hurt either.

truck restoration

RESTORATION — Taylor and Keith Miller work on a 1967 M715 military Jeep truck.

“I mean, it’s kind of a challenge. About every Saturday I spend over at my dad’s throughout the winter months, and then in the summertime I spend that time driving him around town and, you know, having a good time,” he said.

Miller’s dad retired from Stellantis, then-Chrysler, in 2002 after 30 years as a pipe fitter. He’s enjoying his retirement, showing his grandkids the inner workings of Jeeps, and Miller said his daughter still loves going to car shows, driving the Jeeps, and working on them with grandpa.

“My dad had a heart attack, and that kind of throws it into perspective with you. So I made it a priority to spend time with him and my kids and family at the same time, so that’s why every year we started doing it. Like I said, even when I die and pass on, my kids will have them and hopefully can talk to their kids about them and enjoy them as much as we have,” he said.

Miller said his dad’s favorite in their collection was the 1951 Willys Jeep pickup truck because that was the first antique vehicle they started restoring. Miller’s favorite was the 1967 M715, a military Jeep the family got and restored around a year-and-a-half ago.

The family has a couple of older CJ2As, which were the original small military Jeeps. The build was different than, say, the bigger Willys model, and so the level of difficulty can vary depending on the model.

When balancing preserving a newly-completed project versus playing with the shiny new toy, Miller leans on the side of playing. Cars are meant to be driven, and that’s exactly what the family will do, he said, whether it’s off-roading or just cruising.

“My whole point is we want to drive it and enjoy it. We never let them sit. I don’t see any reason to leaving them to sit in a garage. That’s why I let my son and my daughter drive them. If something were to happen, all I want them to be is safe, but at the end of the day, it’s a car, right? So I want them to create those memories,” Miller said.