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It had been almost 25 years since I owned a Jeep. My first Jeep was a Willys CJ-2A. I bought it in 1978
from a private individual. it had 39,000 miles on it. It came with a Meyer
plow, heavy-duty suspension, a Sears Deluxe Full
Aluminum Top and T-Bird Hub caps. It came from the factory with a power take-off
(PTO), hand-throttle, and a governor for controlling engine speed when the PTO was in use.
It also had a small heater on the passenger side that provided moral support more
than anything else.
I loved it, despite it's very agricultural nature. Top speed was about 50 m.p.h.
if you really pushed it, but the low-range gears were very low. The suspension was
nearly rigid and so did not have any sway, or flex. It was small, light, narrow, and
had loads of character. It took me places that I had no business going to with a
vehicle. After several years of daily driving and two engine rebuilds, I retired it
and later sold it to someone who had been admiring it for several years.
So fast forward some twenty years and I find myself selling a nicely restored
Jaguar E-Type and
Volvo 1800E, along with several parts cars
because new neighbors got the county to serve me with papers for having so many
unregistered cars on my property... What to do with the money? Well, I am
tired of the intermittent and persistent problems that keep plaguing my
1984 Jaguar Vanden Plas and want something that
is new, or close to it. I want something that will start on the key, first try, and
not be on overnight terms with a mechanic. And I can't spend more money than what my
county-forced car sale has net. So I decide that I would go in search of a Jeep that
was purchased by someone who didn't know what they were getting into, only to be sold very
quickly, with time remaining on the warrantee.
I wanted several factory options to be included:
- Six cylinder
- hard and soft tops
- Limited Slip Rear
- Factory mags
I was fortunate to find a dealer on the web that had a 1999 Wrangler Sport with
everything I wanted, 20,000 miles on the clock and almost two years left to the
manufacturer warrantee. Of the 10 dealers who listed similar vehicles, this was the
only dealer that responded in a timely fashion (phone call in 10 minutes from when I sent
the query) and a deal was made. It was delivered in a couple days.
I was clearly never seriously taken off-road. The underside was like that of a
new car. I even have my doubts that it was ever put into 4WD. I was surely
going to change that. But first, I wanted to take some steps to prevent excessive
damage to the vehicle during the off-road activities to come. So I spent some
serious time shopping around to see what parts were available, and then surfing the web to
see how people who bought various brands liked what they had. I was able to avoid a
number of things that sounded good on paper but didn't deliver in real life.
I decided that the first step would not be lifts, tires, wheels and differential mods,
simply because of the cost and work involved. These are all things that I can do.
In fact, during the course of restoring the Jags and Volvo's I have done all of the
things required to rebuild suspensions and differentials. I just didn't feel like
doing it right away. I opted instead to put
skid plates everywhere that it made sense
and a few places that it didn't. I also decided that I needed cargo capacity, so
shopped and bought the best overhead rack I could find for
my needs. The result of all this is the Jeep described
I ordered and installed all the parts myself. Once I was satisfied that
everything I needed to go off-road without damaging the undercarriage was installed, I
went looking for places to go that were walking distance from home. Since I did not
yet know anyone to come along, I wanted to be sure that I could at least "walk
out" if all else failed.
After not going off-road for twenty-odd years, I was sure that I needed a refresher
course. On top of that my cynicism about what this new-fangled Jeep would be able to
do, as compared to my "real" Jeep made me feel that it was possible that I would
be disappointed, or worse, stuck in the mud at every turn. I wanted to go out and
play around without an audience first and get my off-road legs back, and see what this
thing could do.
So after work I made plans to go out to a local field that was reported to be a good place to go play. As
it turned out, it was little more than a field with a couple of mud holes, some running
water in a couple places, and some rocky road. Actually it suited my purpose very
well as there was nothing there that appeared to be much trouble.
I brought Teddy and Tomi with me for the ride and we cruised around the
fields, crossed the little streams, went on the little rocks, and got a feel for the Jeep.
It behaved as well as I had hoped. There were no surprises. Even with
the limited challenges it faced on this outing, it was clear that perhaps it was every bit
as capable as my good old CJ-2A, and maybe even had some tricks up its sleeve... I
was ready to take on more challenging terrain. Later that week, I took the whole
family out on a ride and promptly sunk it into a creek and spent the next two hours
experimenting with different techniques to winch a Jeep using a Hi-Lift jack. A very nice tool to have along!