When Turlock resident Russell Lanini goes out for a drive people stop and take notice. Of course, it would be hard to not notice the two-and-a-half ton truck bouncing down the road.
Lanini is the proud owner and restorer of a 1969 M35A2 6x6 cargo truck nicknamed by the military as "Deuce and a Half" and affectionately dubbed Miss Repair by Lanini.
“My father drove a half-track in World War II in Germany and that started an interest in military vehicles,” Lanini said. “For a long time I wanted to preserve the history of a military vehicle and then I found her.”
Lanini purchased the cargo truck for what he calls a “song and a dance” from a buyer that had used it in movies, but had let it sit untouched for about two years.
“I replaced the two batteries, checked the oil and the coolant, and then drove it home,” Lanini said.
The M35 family of vehicles was introduced into military use in 1950. It’s rated to carry 5,000 pounds off road and 10,000 pounds on road and was primarily used to ferry cargo and troops from various points, both abroad and at home. Lanini’s vehicle is multi-fuel and has all the original parts.
Purchased in May 2012, Miss Repair made her debut in the Turlock Independence Day parade that July, complete with a brand new paint job. Like really new, as in the night before the parade.
“You could still smell the paint fumes in the parade,” Lanini laughingly recalled. “When I got her it was German gray and it took forever to get all the paint off. There was about nine layers of paint.”
Now, decked out in Army green with insignia from his father’s Hell on Wheels unit, Miss Repair has become a fixture at the Turlock Fourth of July parade, typically closing it out as the final entry. But this year parade-goers can expect to see Lanini and Miss Repair far earlier and for the first time he’ll be hauling passengers.
“I’ll be driving some military recruits from all the branches,” Lanini said.
Even though he’ll be earlier in the line-up and will have passengers, Lanini plans to keep one tradition the same this year. He’ll be flying Old Glory from the truck with more pride than many people could muster.
“I get veterans coming up to me in the truck and they have tears in their eyes,” Lanini said. “They tell me these amazing stories and it gets pretty emotional for all of us. Like them, this old truck is a veteran too and has been there to serve.”