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Restoring military vehicles as a hobby

Artist Andy Nichols makes art out of glass for a living

Luke McCann, 6, sits in his grandfather’s 1943 GTB Burma jeep cargo truck pulling an M5 bomb trailer with a 1933 experimental bathysphere during a 2016 Veterans Day parade. Photo credit: Andy Nichols

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Artist Andy Nichols makes fish out of glass, but not just any fish. The glass salmon and trout appear ready to leap into the Columbia River with their striking colors and dramatic shapes. The fish are a few of the many items created by artist Nichols at his studio in The Dalles, Oregon.

Founded by Nichols in 1998, Nichols Art Glass had humble beginnings in a garage. After trying his hand at other art media, Nichols discovered glass blowing and set about honing his skills and building his own equipment. His distinctive pieces and creative vision have led to success, and his work is displayed in galleries across the Northwest.  Locally, his larger installations can be seen in lodges and hotels around the area.

Glass is not his only talent, however. Nichols now restores old military vehicles as well.

"Glass blowing used to be my hobby, but once it became my business, it was time for a new hobby," he said.  

Currently, he is working on a 1944 M29 Weasel, a World War II tracked vehicle built by Studebaker.

Nichols started collecting military vehicles about 15 years ago when he bought two 1941 half-ton trucks from a local rancher.  

"I quickly realized it would take the two trucks to make one," he said. "Four years later, once I finished that truck, I began finding lots of old vehicles, and that gave me the bug. I realized it took lots of parts from many trucks to complete a restoration."

His most recent vehicle restoration is a 1943 GTB Burma jeep cargo truck pulling an M5 bomb trailer with a 1933 experimental bathysphere. It took seven GTB Burma jeeps to complete the restoration.

"I had to learn about patents when restoring old military vehicles. Sometimes, it takes lots of searching to get all the details, " Nichols said. "I like the fact they are restored to original. I think there is greater satisfaction in knowing you did most of the work and figured out how it all goes together. When I finish a vehicle, I enjoy driving them (and) showing them off in parades, but I have sold some to help support the next restoration."

One of the resources he uses is the Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA).  It is a nonprofit with more than 8,000 members all over the world. The MVPA's mission is to provide an international organization for military vehicle enthusiasts, historians, preservationists and collectors interested in the acquisition, restoration, preservation, safe operation and public education of historic military transport. One of the most useful features for those that restore vehicles is its collection of thousands of original vehicle blueprints and hundreds of books and manuals.

During the week, you can find Nichols at his studio in The Dalles. He encourages people to stop in to see him work and enjoy some of his latest pieces in his small gallery.

Nichols Art Glass, drop-in or by appointment, 912 W. 6th St., The Dalles, 541.296.2143, nicholsartglass@gorge.net

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