Harry Buschert served the off-road community as an advocate and as an inventor. Buschert played an instrumental role in the founding of the California Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs and the Hemet Jeep Club. He also ran his own machine shop where he developed items such as wide wheels, the positive action clutch linkage and conversions for Jeeps including rear axels and auxiliary gas tanks.
Buschert was born in 1912. By the age of sixteen he had become an apprentice machinist. In 1931 he began working for the Burlington Rail Road. During World War II his machinist skills were put to use in the Los Angeles Shipyard. After the war he married Pauline, a young lady from Hemet, California, where they settled down. In Hemet, Buschert played the saxophone in local clubs and ran a machine shop at the corner of Palm and Menlo Avenue. The machine shop, known as Buschert’s, occupied half of the business the other half a garage operated by Earl Powers.
In 1948 Buschert joined the first Hemet Jeep Cavalcade and jumped in a jeep with Harvey Gibel at the Hemet Farmer’s Fairgrounds. The first Cavalcade, sponsored by the Anza- Borrego Trails Association and the Hemet Valley Chamber of Commerce, began as a way to show the public the need to pave the road between Hemet and Berrego Springs. Over 400 Jeeps and 800 passengers came out for the first event. They took two days to travel down Coyote Canyon. Buschert would participate and assist in running the events for years to come. The event ran continuously until 1973. By 1973 the movement pave the road had become obsolete, the high prices of gasoline made the event too costly, and the perceived impact of the event affecting public perception all led to the its ending. The event took a fifteen year hiatus and began again in 1988, Buschert took part in the anniversary run.
Buschert worked actively over the years to help off-road users maintain access to areas throughout California. Buschert is credited with being a founding and active member of both the Hemet Jeep Club founded in 1948 and the California Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs (CA4WDC) founded in 1959. The CA4WDC elected him their president in the early 1960s and again in 1972. In the 1970s he served as an advisor to the National Safety Council representing the interest of four-wheelers and playing a key role in the development of the Off Highway Vehicle safety guidelines. Taking safety seriously he also worked as the Chief Technical Inspector for the United States Auto Club and did inspections at events throughout California as well as the Indy 500 and Pikes Peak Hill Climb in Colorado. He worked to develop programs such as “Adopt- a- Trail”, “Adopt- a – Highway” and the Imperial Dunes Clean-Up Project. He believed in the mantra of “leaving no trace” and used his position at the clubs he worked with to teach other users to respect the trail. By respecting the trail he saw the opportunity to maintain continual use.
Through his practical experience as an avid jeeper, his technical expertise as a machinist and through brain storming sessions with his friends Howard Miller and Bud Jackson, Buschert developed a long list of inventions which moved technology forward for off-road users. He made modifications to Jeeps which would be reflected in years to come in production vehicles. He modified a CJ5 with an elongated wheelbase creating a vehicle similar to the first CJ7. He widened tires to twice the size that was available at the time, with the reasoning that a wider tire would not cut into the land allowing the user to travel with less impact and over more varied terrain including deep sand. He modified springs on the Jeep utilizing springs intended for larger vehicles providing better articulation for the Jeep than the military spring which came stock with the vehicle. In all he made a number of innovations which made traveling by Jeep safer and capable of traveling over more challenging terrain than ever before.
Sources: Author Interview with Ray Moon, June 2006.Brian Fusiler Notes on Harry Buschert Jennings, Bill. “Original Jeep Cavalcade put Hemet on the Map.” Desert Magazine. July 1979.
Straely, Dana. “Jeep History Recalled by Buschert.” Hemet News, 18 February 1990.
Archival materials provided courtesy of Yolanda Binndels of the Hemet Jeep Club.