I don’t think anyone ever forgets their very first car. That first set of wheels is something that most people are able to look back on fondly. Not that the car was anything to admire, but because of the fact that, despite its usual cosmetic and mechanical fallacies, your first car represented a newfound sense of personal freedom; the ability to go where you want and do the things you want to do. Of course, hidden in the fine print of this new mobility is all of the responsibility that comes along with this privilege. Your first time making a car payment and fretting over the seemingly wasteful expense of insuring the car are things that stick with you and prepare you for what life has in store for you.
My first car was not a Jeep, nor was the second, the third or fourth. In fact, I am relatively new to the realm of being a Jeep owner. My first Jeep was purchased a mere 11 years ago- a bone stock 1993 Wrangler YJ complete with de-arched leaf springs and a spice-colored factory soft top that was so advanced in age that just the thought of trying to lower or remove the top caused every stitched seam to disintegrate into handfuls of powdery residue. It was cheap and perfectly fit my primary criteria in that, by unwritten law, I am not able to own any car that I don’t have to repair on a more-than-regular basis. It’s in my DNA, I guess.
Underneath my Jeeps crappy exterior lurked a beast of similar unfulfilled potential. A pint-sized 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine capable of generating a staggering 119 hp in ideal conditions had grown weary of its daily duties. In comparison, the AX-5 five-speed transmission proved to be so efficient at its job that it was able to reach top speed of 57 mph while still in fourth gear, making fifth gear utterly useless unless hauling a load of Quik-rete down a really long grade.
My youngest son Owen was only a four-year old tike when I brought the old Jeep home- a fact that proves wonderful in that a child of such an age only sees the good in things. He was not at all phased by the lack of performance or by the fact that every single mechanical component on the Jeep was reaching the end of its trouble-free lifespan. He simply loved the vehicle for how it made him feel when he rode in it. Honestly, I was the same way. How could such a troublesome vehicle be so darn endearing?
Weekend camping trips and chilly early-morning drives with the top down to soccer games served as appetizers for Owen to develop a taste for what it’s like to own a Jeep. As time has passed, the list of upgrades and revisions the YJ has undergone has grown and grown. Bigger engine, larger tires and a transmission fitted with ample gearing ratios to make the old YJ more of a pleasure to own were each added in their own due time. Many of which Owen witnessed firsthand, or engaged in directly by lending a hand turning a wrench or holding a work light. All the while quietly growing his vested interest and developing a passion for something, even if he was unaware of it. So when he secured his learners permit last year, I was not surprised to learn of his desire to make his first set of wheels a Jeep. But not just A Jeep…but MY Jeep.
I can’t think of anyone that I would rather assume the driving duties of my beloved YJ than my own son. Sure, I’ll have to farm out several of my internal organs to pay for insurance and I’ll have to go out and find an adequate replacement in which to shuttle myself to and from work. Not to mention a subject to occupy my abundance of free time. I’ll probably even upgrade my standing in the Jeep community a little bit in the process. Maybe a Rubicon and certainly something with coil springs. But nothing too perfect…I don’t think I would have as deep a love for my YJ if it weren’t for willingly accepting all her faults. OlllllllO