Newly restored 1943 sheriff’s Jeep to debut in Fourth of July parade 

The WW2-era Jeep revealed the L.A County Sheriff's Department logos under 80 years of paint before the ground-up restoration and the unveiling at the 2024 4th of July Parade. Dan Watson/The Signal

This particular 1943 Jeep was a former World War II logistics vehicle. It even worked during the land war in Japan. It returned to America after the war, and in 1946, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department purchased it and used it as a logistics vehicle until 1955, when the LASD sold it off at auction.  

The Jeep next went to private buyers, was used in movies and TV shows, receiving many different coats of paint over the years, and was undergoing a restoration when the owner at the time was stripping off layers of color and uncovered L.A. County Sheriff’s decals underneath. 

This man notified LASD officials and asked if they’d be interested in buying their Jeep back. According to Mike Fratantoni, curator of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Museum at the Hall of Justice downtown, who shared the Jeep’s colorful backstory with The Signal, the department was absolutely interested.  

The LASD bought it and has been restoring it to look like it did when it was a sheriff’s vehicle in the 1940s and ’50s. Those working on the Jeep could even match up the majority of the holes that the department had previously made when installing radios and sirens. 

Mike Fratantoni examines the WW2-era Jeep before the ground-up restoration and the unveiling at the 2024 4th of July Parade. Dan Watson/The Signal

“It’s been a several-year restoration, raising-money-and-restoring-it project with this Jeep, and now it’s complete,” Fratantoni said. “The last thing we’re doing is just the wiring on it. It’ll actually be premiered at an internal event on the 29th, which is a (Sheriffs’ Relief Association) 100th anniversary event, but it will premiere to the public on the Fourth of July for the parade.” 

The Santa Clarita Fourth of July Parade will begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday, July 4, at the roundabout near Hart Park on Main Street in Newhall. Floats and vehicles will move down Main Street, make a left on Lyons Avenue, then a right on Orchard Village Road, another right on Dalbey Drive, and they’ll finish at Placerita Junior High School.  

According to Susan Shapiro, who’s on the parade committee, the community always offers a fun mix of floats and vehicles for the parade. 

“The great thing about the Santa Clarita Parade, which has been happening since 1932,” Shapiro said, “is that it’s a collection of what people in the community want to show each other. It’s always fun, and it’s always a little different, and it’s always great to see who joins up.” 

The 1943 Jeep — a Ford GPW, as Ford provided the engines for these vehicles during the war — is just one of the surprises that the Sheriff’s Department will be showcasing in the parade. According to Fratantoni, they’ll also be showing off a 1949 Ford, which the department calls “the gray ghost.” 

The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department’s 1949 Ford, which they dubbed “the gray ghost,” that once served in Newhall will be in the 2024 4th of July Parade. Dan Watson/The Signal

“In 1949, we started painting our cars gray,” he said. “I never could figure out why. Then I interviewed a guy who worked our vehicle department back in that era, and I said, ‘Why were the cars gray? You know, most other cars — L.A.P.D. — were black and white.’ And he said, ‘Well, we used to get them from the dealerships, and we were responsible for painting them, and there was all this leftover battleship gray from the war that the military had — just gallons that they used to paint the battleships with — they were giving it away. So, being the Sheriff’s Department and the county of Los Angeles, and as cheap as we’ve always been, we just decided to paint the cars gray.’ So, no great story there. It was just about saving money.” 

Another vehicle the Sheriff’s Department will be rolling out for the parade is its 1976 Chevy Nova, which the department, Fratantoni said, has had in its collection since 1990, and also a 1966 Plymouth Fury. The Nova, for example, is always a good parade vehicle because it has air conditioning to combat that scorching hot July sun. The gray ghost and the Jeep, unfortunately for their occupants, do not. 

The 1966 Plymouth Fury in preparation for the 2024 4th of July Parade. Dan Watson/The Signal

Fratantoni had many other interesting facts and history about the vehicles and the department, and he’ll often get caught up with parade guests in conversation. With a reputation for his extensive passion for history, the LASD website praises Fratantoni for his “extraordinary knowledge of the Sheriff’s Department,” coupled with his experience and “tremendous photographic memory.” 

“You can’t really discuss L.A. County history unless you discuss L.A. County sheriff’s history,” Fratantoni said. “Because we’re here since day one. When the county’s formed — April 1, 1850 — we’re here. So, we’re the first. The sheriff is the first elected official. Before we really have a government set up, the sheriff’s here operating.” 

The Sheriff’s Museum at the Hall of Justice, which is to be called the Interactive Center and offer the kind of history Fratantoni likes to share, along with photographs, old badges, uniforms and other assorted Sheriff’s Department artifacts, is in various stages of assembly and without an opening date as of yet, according to the website. Asked if the department’s parade vehicles would ultimately make their way to the museum when it finally opens, Fratantoni said the building is too small to house them. The vehicles are typically kept in storage, he added, some of them at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic. 

“The whole point is these cars go out there for the public to enjoy,” Fratantoni said. “We love to interact with the public. We’re probably going to have two of our deputies (at the parade) dressing up in vintage deputy attire. We’ll interact with the public, have a good time, and talk about historical cars and Sheriff’s Department history.” 

For more information about the Sheriff’s Museum, go to For more about the Santa Clarita Valley Fourth of July Parade, go to 

Vintage Los Angeles County Sheriff’s vehicles roll down Orchard Village Road in Newhall during the 2023 4th of July Parade. Dan Watson/The Signal

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