Casey Dimmitt and Kevin Mereness met online.
But this story isn’t going where you think.
Their relationship was based solely on their love for the vehicles known as Willys.
Made by Willys-Overland Motors in the 20th century, Willys include Jeeps, sedans, pick-ups, trucks and sleek cars known as “Aero-Willys.”
But when Dimmitt, of Long Beach, Calif., and Mereness, of Kuna, Idaho, first connected, they were seemingly two of only a handful of Willys fans in the world.
That has since changed.
This weekend, more than 40 Willys owners from across the country will gather in Moab for the third annual Willys-Overland Moab Rally.
“We said, ‘We need some kind of real deadline so we can finish our trucks and make them drivable.’ Moab happens to be in the middle of where we are, so we said, ‘Hey, let’s meet there and bring some people with us.’”
The first year, nine or 10 vehicles made up the rally. Last year, 12 vehicles came to Moab. This year, at least 43 will make the trip.
Registration is only $15.
“The first two years, it was just me putting it together in my spare time,” Dimmitt said. “This year, five of us got together and said, ‘Let’s run this thing like a real event.’”
Participants will meet Friday afternoon at Zax Restaurant to have dinner and talk about the following day’s plan.
Saturday, the group will meet at Old City Park in Spanish Valley for coffee and donuts in the morning before setting out to ride a couple trails.
At the end of the day, they’ll come back to the park for a barbecue dinner and raffle.
Raffle prizes include a camping oven, griddle and stove, as well as t-shirts, hats and gift certificates.
Everyone is welcome, even if you haven’t yet registered. Dimmitt said an event organizer will be at Old City Park all day on Saturday to point those interested in the right direction.
In the last couple years, Dimmitt said he’s noticed a lot more people working on restoring a Willys-Overland vehicle.
At least 2,000 people across the U.S. are working on a Willys now, he said.
“There’s a ton of them out there,” Dimmitt said, “but a lot of them aren’t on the road anymore. A lot of people think they’re rare, but if you start asking around, everyone and their mother or their grandfather has a story about one.”
The vehicles top out at 40 miles per hour without an overdrive, which is how they were made, Dimmitt said. But a lot of owners have put one in or changed out the entire engine or transmission.
Dimmitt has changed everything under the body of his 1957 Willys wagon. In fact, his wagon now sits on a 2003 Jeep Rubicon frame.
He bought his vehicle five or six years ago, so he and his dad could work on it together. His father got sick shortly after that and wasn’t able to help (he’s fine now), so Dimmitt did much of the work on his own.
It’s worth celebrating and having a little fun.
“The first year it was more about getting together with the people with the vehicle,” Dimmitt said. “Last year, it started centering on the people. It’s the same this year – the people.”