“Restoring our heroes’ lives, one hot rod at a time.”
For all the positive things hot rodding does, can any of them be more significant than helping returning veterans get back into civilian life through their love of cars?
A really sharp Chevy C10 pickup caught my eye at this month’s Caffeine and Octane show, and it turned out to be an American Warrior Garage (AWG) project. I spoke with Chris Graham who filled me in on this fantastic organization.
“We’re a 501(c)(3) non-profit veterans organization, run for veterans, by veterans,” he said. “Our primary purpose is to provide job training for veterans coming back from service that want to get into the automotive industry.”
But there’s so much more to it than that. “Veterans have a brotherhood,” Chris explained. “They’re a family. They go through all these different things. They deal with PTSD. Simply getting these guys together in the garage – to mess around, to play with cars – is therapeutic for them.”
Chris told me that some veterans who have no interest in cars at all come by the AWG garage just to share the bonds they have with their military family. It can be difficult for them to talk with civilians about what they’ve been through, because they don’t have the same experiences. AWG gives them the opportunity to talk with others who have.
American Warrior Garage started in 2014. Vince Gibson had just finished restoring a 1969 El Camino. It attracted some attention, as hot rods are prone to do, and he started talking with a young man in a wheelchair about the Elco. The young man said he wished he could have a hot rod like that. Gibson and best friend Scott Jones immediately started thinking about how they could get that young man in a classic car. AWG was born, and soon set up shop in a 1200 square foot garage.
Vets who come to AWG for training get the learn on state-of-the-art equipment in a beautifully overhauled garage in Bremen, Georgia – which was updated in large part with help from Richard Rawlings and his Garage Rehab crew. “He completely renovated the garage,” Chris told me. “He had sponsors donate the equipment.”
It’s not just training that goes on at the AWG. Vets have come in to use the facilities to get their own projects going, and they’ve done work for other vets, such as installing hand controls in vehicles for amputees.
And they’ll work on your car too. They provide complete automotive service to the public, including everything from oil changes and alignments, to engine work and body work, all the way to complete frame-off restoration.
Oh, and by the way… they build hot rods.
That 1971 C10 that Chris had at C&O has been lowered and has a 350 small block under the hood.
Vince Gibson’s pro touring El Camino, a numbers matching ‘69 Road Runner, a ‘69 C10 and a ‘68 Ford F-150 Ranger are some of their other project cars. Check out the AWG website for more details on these beauties.
One new project they recently started is very special. AWG is restoring a 1978 MGB that was donated by a Vietnam veteran who is battling stage 4 cancer. The classic British sports car features downdraft Weber carbs and performance exhaust system. Once completed, the MGB will be sold with all proceeds going to support AWG.
The best news is that there are lots of ways you can help out American Warrior Garage. Your support will go directly towards funding the training for veterans.
To support AWG, you can:
- Bring you car to the AWG garage in Bremen, GA to be worked on
- Donate vehicles to AWG. (Vehicles will be fixed up and sold.)
- Donate money directly to AWG via their website
- Purchase AWG merchandise from their website
You can get more information about AWG, their mission, history, and projects, along with details on how to support them at their web site – www.AmericanWarriorGarage.org.
Photos by GHR and courtesy of AWG.
Click here to see the AWG photos.