An Enlightened Peek into Life in Pre-Jeep America

It’s hard for me to imagine life before Jeeps were actually a thing. The fact that the Jeep has been around, in one form or another, for some 75+ years means that very few people were actually alive before the Jeep existed and those that were are likely occupied with recounting their numerous three mile treks to school uphill both ways.

To find a glimpse into such a Jeep-less society, I drew upon an age-old periodical called The Automobile that was published in the early 20th century and served as a newsletter, of sorts, for those in the automotive trade, whether at the manufacturer, dealer or aftermarket level. Most of these excerpts were taken from issues from 1916 to 1917; a time one hundred years in our past but seemingly separated by eons from where we are today.

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2.0It is interesting to note how much vehicles were considered to be more of a luxury in those days than in comparison to the usual perspective today, where most cannot imagine functioning without at least one car at our disposal. One article seemed to boast that the automotive population of Oregon had grown substantially to the pinnacle of 1 car for every 25 residents.

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This small editorial effectively details the truth that there is not a plausible future to speak of for automotive accessories. The writer goes on to describe what is presumed to be a power windows option, but his description has a dark undertone as though he was describing the onset of the apocalypse. To believe at such an early stage that we had truly already reached the outer limits of what a vehicle should be equipped with from the factory is laughable. What about seat warmers, cassette tape players with auto reverse, map lights…heck, we hadn’t even developed a means for turn signals on any widespread basis yet! I feel that maybe the author of this beauty must have had a large stake in the horse drawn carriage industry and saw the possibility of further niceties as a direct attack on his waning livelihood.

 

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You can rest assured that, when the time had come to introduce such a concept as turn signals to the masses, you had better make it relatable. Preferably, it needs to be just like hanging your hand out the window, regardless of the cost. I can’t imagine why the “closed car” version would cost 50 cents more. Wouldn’t the open car Handy Signal come with a glove?

 

 

The early 1900’s were undoubtedly a simpler time. Despite being smack-dab in the middle of the First World War, consumers had the time to write in to the editor and voice their concerns over such atrocities as rattling car fenders and to shed some much needed light on such social injustices as the Ford Motor Company’s practice of only hiring those who don’t have jobs.

6It seems as though, with Jeep not being in the publics scope of consciousness as of yet, many struggled with the notion of what exactly to do with their spare tires. It would be a span of some 25 years until the appearance of a small wheelbase four wheel drive vehicle would set the record straight and answer defiantly the eternal question of where to stick those spares tires. It is now entirely acceptable to leave your spare out for everyone to see. There is no shame in such nor is there any discernible “disfigurement to the fine body lines”, as is suggested.

 

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The early nineteen hundreds were a time of monumental innovation in the auto industry. While the task of finding a nestling place for the spare seemed overwhelming to many, manufacturers diverted their creative energies towards developing mechanical marvels unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Fan Fire Spark Plugs featured tiny fan blades attached that spin to help cool the electrode. I was unable to locate any advertisements for a fan blades extraction tool that inserts into the spark plug hole but certainly one must have existed around this same time period.

 

Who can possibly refuse the undeniable charm of a road car that can be greased and lubricated from one central location conveniently accessed from the driver’s seat? Well, get your funds together because the Monitor Lubricating Co. of Philadelphia is making this dream a reality with the ingenious new Monitor Lubricator. I struggle to find ample reasons why this never took off…

Of all the gadgets and gizmos that promised to revolutionize motoring as we know it, a few genuine advances in thinking were realized during this period. Although they seem somewhat humorous in their honesty, it’s really incredible to see that our society has a keen knack for recognizing when things are not as they could be and work tirelessly towards that end. It seems fitting that a guy who is banished to the “oil pit” of that day would be fundamentally dedicated to finding a better way to service cars. On a side note, the fact that ‘two cranes’ are referenced in passing leads me to believe that hoisting cars up and on to the precarious stands may have been the reason behind customers never being allowed in the shop, a rule that often stands even to this day.

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Even the art of routine maintenance on cars was in its infancy. It took no time for someone to clue in that pouring dirt into your engine is a no-no. If only we had means of filtering air…like in a vacuum cleaner.

 

 

 

Of all the fascinating and curious things that history has to show us, there is always that one thing that defies reasonable explanation. Case in point, you decide that, after much scrutiny, your motor car is much better being stored in a state where the tires are not in contact with the ground as the oil is sure to degrade the rubber tires and thus, make their designed speed rating somewhat questionable. What do you do, you ask? Why, you devise a simple jack contraption to hoist the tire off the ground using simple leverage and you call it… Trump Jack. OlllllllO

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Seeking Treatment for Horrible Misconception Syndrome

1If I were to tell you that one of the most prolific characters to ever grace Beverly Hills own Rodeo Drive (pronounced Ro-day-o) is a dyed-in-the-wool Jeep guy, you’d have to admit that a pretty shameful picture would most likely pop into your head. No different than if I said a bunch of preppies were piling into a Jeep for a cruise down the beach….POP!!! Same picture, Right? Fret not for you are not alone. Personally, I instantly conjured images of madras plaid shirts in uncomfortable hues of pink and blue, flipped collars and pastel sweaters tired about the necks of docksider-wearing pretty boys. It’s worse than you thought and it’s called Horrible Misconception Syndrome, or HMS. Being diagnosed with HMS will not qualify you for any special parking spots or even a classy license plate for your car, mostly because this particular syndrome is largely just in your head. While we can tell you very assuredly that no cure for HMS is on the horizon, there is a treatment available and we can initiate your first dose immediately without an office visit or any sizeable insurance copay.

We’ll start by assessing that troublesome picture in your head. Sure, those are “preppies” and are certainly the visual fare that you might see scurrying in and out of boutiques in a flashy Southern California locale but that does not make the image right, nor is it necessarily accurate. Because the preppy icon that I am referencing is none other than fashion designer Ralph Lauren, and his long-standing affection for the Jeep. Lauren, known in large part for his trademark pullover sport shirts known simply as the Polo, has built a considerable fashion empire, first focusing on neckties before broadening his specialty to the now classic sport shirt. A shirt that, since its inception in the early 70’s, has grown into a mainstay of preppy wardrobes across our great land; one that has accomplished what very few products ever have by reaching the uncommon status of becoming a proprietary eponym.

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In case you are now asking yourself, “The shirt became a what?” A proprietary eponym is when a name brand product becomes so widely acknowledged that the name brand becomes the generic title for the product. Like XEROX once had become the accepted term for making a photocopy, back in the olden days when people knew what a photocopy was and had need to make one. Or any soft drink might be referred to as a Coke, even when it is actually the cheap fizzless store brand your mom would buy just to save a nickel and see if you were paying attention. We all clean our ears with Q-Tips and we doctor our painful Xerox paper cuts with Band-Aids just so we can show everyone our new Polos and Dockers on business casual Fridays. We are a society that lacks for very little- a truth that causes me to ponder why a man of considerable wealth and means would choose to drive a Jeep.

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And let’s be honest- we’re not talking about brand new fancy Jeeps either. We’re talking older Jeeps with piles of miles on them. Imperfect ones that creak and grind, ones that have weathered paint jobs and are far short of comfortable, by most reports. Lauren is, afterall, a professing car guy. His own personal car collection exceeds 70 cars and has everything from classic Bugattis and Bentleys to vintage Ferraris and Porsches; cars that cost more to have appraised than most Jeeps costs to purchase. I think the reasoning behind Ralph Laurens love for the Jeep became clear to me when I viewed a video of Lauren, from a few years back, at his ranch outside of Telluride, Colorado.

He had invited long-time admirer Oprah Winfrey out to his estate to do an interview, a practice that was notably uncommon for Lauren. As Oprah climbed awkwardly into the passenger side of Ralphs decrepit old 1948 Willys, it seemed almost comical that such a wealthy individual would be caught tooling around in such a “heap”. Winfrey, who is most likely not used to riding in the front seat of any cars these days or in close proximity to the hired help, seemed to be brimming with glee to be able to ride around in such a jalopy. It then occurred to me that Ralph Lauren has a long list of ultra-expensive and rare collector cars only because he truly loves them. He has his old Jeeps and chooses to keep them close by and drive them because they represent who he really is. Hard-working, dependable, imperfect, adventurous, versatile, fun-loving and gravely consistent – all character traits that, although seldom instilled at birth, can only be perfected over time.

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One of Ralph’s other Jeeps, a’76 CJ-5 that he purchased new, was so much a part of the Lauren family that his three children tie many of their childhood memories to times spent in that old Jeep. From cruising the beaches with the windshield folded down, riding to drive-in movies and even pulling the kids around on their snow sleds on the family’s property were all cherished recollections of time spent together as a family that centered strongly around that old CJ-5.

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When time and age caught up to the old CJ, the paint was faded and the interior tattered, Ralph was not one to put the old dog out to pasture, as is common practice today; rather choosing to have the old Jeep restored. Rusty panels were removed and new sheet metal was welded in place. Mechanical parts that had been worn over time were meticulously replaced with new ones; breathing a whole new breath of life into this sixth member of the Lauren family. Ralph even requested that the Jeeps paint be purposely applied to result in a less-than-showroom appearance. Ralph didn’t long for another shiny, glossy show car. He already had plenty of those and he knew well the purpose that would serve. This Jeep meant far more to him than just something to simply look at. This Jeep was going to be lived in, driven hard, exposed to unexpected rainstorms, sandy feet and ice cream cones. This Jeep was more a member of the family than just a simple mode of transport.6

Anyone that already has a Jeep knows exactly what elements exist in his old Jeeps that Ralph Lauren is so endeared to and anyone who doesn’t own a Jeep owes it to themselves to experience it firsthand. You simply don’t have to be a millionaire to have the finer things in life. You only have to be able to recognize them when you see them, cherish them as though they hold great value and take care of them like they’re yours alone. In doing so, you can avoid the misconception that a Jeep is only a vehicle and come to experience and appreciate the Jeep way of life. OlllllllO

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Dispelling the Rumors Around Headlight Euro Guards

1If you have been blessed with the gift of sight and, like me, you spend any amount of time checking out Jeeps, you have probably seen more than your fair share of headlight euro guards. While not an officially registered name for the accessory, it seems as though it is the label most often given for the metal bars that go over a Jeeps iconic round headlights. With a name like “Euro Guard”, safe money would wager that these things were inspired by some feeble attempt at establishing a styling trend, in hopes that the appearance of light guard-equipped Jeeps would spread over mall parking lots around the greater upper Midwest like a wildfire; much like adorable nose rings and alcohol-induced lower back tattoos.

The truth is, headlight euro guards have roots that extend well beyond the origins of the phrase “mall crawler”. The first time a headlight guard was featured on a production Jeep dates all the way back to 1950; making them older than reality TV and even rock music. The Willys M38 was a ¼-ton purpose-built military workhorse that was based on the popular civilian CJ-3A, however was fortified with a reinforced frame & suspension, a stout 24 volt electrical system and, yes, headlight guards. While only a single diagonal bar on each headlight, it is still quite clear that these light protecting guards were behind the looks of today’s euro guards all along.

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While my heart rests a little easier knowing that euro guards are not just another goofy styling accessory, like louvered triple blade wipers or neon purple ground effects; it’s still hard to piece together how a rugged design feature borrowed from such a legendary combat-proven vehicle can be given a name like “euro guard”. Shouldn’t it have been granted a less fanciful name? Maybe headlight armor…sealed beam shield or even headlamp barriers. It seems to me that tacking ‘euro’ in front of the name incinuates that the vehicles owner is likely be clad in a beret, leather driving gloves with a satiny scarf flowing gently in the breeze as he sports about.

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Originally, the M38’s headlight guards were implemented as a means of protecting the fragile glass headlamps from hazards that might be encountered on the dirt roads and jungle trails it would certainly be exposed to as they hung precariously out from the steel grille, unlike the recessed lights on prior MB/GPW models. While many of the geographic locations earlier military Jeeps like the MB and GPW, were exposed to were located all across Europe, the M38 was primarily assigned duties in the Korean War during the early fifties. Maybe the responsible marketing people should have named the headlight guards “East Asia Guards”? Best I can tell, that doesn’t have even the slightest ring to it. Nevertheless, I still can’t get behind the name ‘euro guard’.

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As it turns out, the use of ‘euro’ in the name was really nothing more than a marketing scheme after all; a ploy by some people in white shirts and pressed khakis to relay an inherent sense of exclusiveness, possessing qualities that only the most descriminitaing Frenchman could even identify. You see, since the end of World War II, the Europeans had pretty much lead the way in terms of innovative automotive design. While U.S. manufacturers like Studebaker and Packard were largley using carry-over styling until the mid 50’s, auto crafters in Europe, especially the United Kingdom, were forging new territory with what was widely recognized as exhaustive engineering practices, higher quality materials, noteworthy build standards and styling that was was remarkably more refined than what was being practiced stateside. For those reasons, referring to any mundane gizmo with a ‘euro’ prefix could possibly be all that was needed to skyrocket said gizmo to vast popular appeal, but only in regions far removed from the actual continent of Europe- a practice that is both wide-spread and blessed with long life. Yeah…even Grandmas walker was fair game for the “Euro” treatment. The addition of the ‘Euro’ in the title and suddenly this thing needs not one but TWO hand brakes?

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In spite of their name, Euro Guards never really pretended to make your Jeep go faster or win you bonus points at the Concours d’Elegance. They are, however, a pretty attractive way to protect your aftermarket headlights from an unexpected run-in with a tree limb while you’re out on the trail. Certainly if headlight guards were cool enough for an inclusion on an old Willys M38, they’re not deserving of even a portion of the negative scrutiny they’ve been exposed to over the years.

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In the end, we can all agree Euro Guards make a pretty cool accessory to add to your Jeep. They look tough and are simply a breeze to install; in fact, they are the perfect project for those young Jeepers in your family in that they won’t break the bank or leave the family transportation straddling a puddle of costly fluid in the driveway. There are even more modern variations available today that truly do live up to the ‘euro’ name; achieving standards in terms of styling, unique designs and choice materials that make the original headlight guards look their age. You can always find your perfect Euro Guards and a ton of other Jeep stuff at www.ruggedridge.com (beret & scarf not required).

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Necessity is Still the Mother of Invention- Improvisation is the Mother-in-Law

1Word on the street is that Jeep is going to offer us a brand new Wrangler-based pickup truck in 2019, fulfilling an urgent longing that I can’t say I was even aware of. The new Jeep Wrangler JT will all but cease a long-standing ritual of Jeep owners; believing that the only thing keeping their beloved Jeeps from being a full-fledged pickup truck is a bundle of ratchet straps and some creativity.

Obviously the fine folks at Fiat/Chrysler have invested significant energy into determining the marketplace to be properly aligned with the prospect of a four wheel drive, go-anywhere utility vehicle that also enables the driver to haul a mound of camping gear to the mountains or masses of shopping bags home from the mall, depending on their personal inclination. I can only assume that, in the divine blissful haze of my own Jeep ownership, I hadn’t realized that we weren’t doing better than alright with our current Jeeps, minus a truck bed.

Many a times I have taken off to the local home improvement store in the old Jeep with no concern as to where the 2 x 4’s, bags of quikrete and sacks of red cedar mulch will ride. Jeeps have been hauling incredible payloads since the early 1940’s. I’m pretty sure that some gardening supplies aren’t going to derail the train. Sure, sheets of plywood or panelling tend to push the envelope of what is possible or shrewd; but that’s when you have to raise your cargo loading game to the next level. I tend to think of a gutsy WWII medic who was presented with the probability of carrying a wounded soldier strapped to an eight foot stretcher on his runt of a Willys/Jeep. He didn’t bother looking for reasons he couldn’t do it… He found ways he could. In minutes, that Jeep was catching air with the gurney strapped to whatever flat area was not already occupied. With said soldier grateful to be alive, although not necessarily happy at the time.

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In the grand scheme of things, hauling a flat of petunias or a weekend’s supply of camping gear to the nearest woods pales in comparison to the notion of carting an injured soldier off of the battlefield. However, regardless of how the Jeeps utilitarian abilities are displayed, they are certainly worthy of being celebrated, or maybe even exploited – within the confines of local laws and ordinances, of course.

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The residents of Quindio, Columbia have initiated an annual celebration of Jeeps enduring ability to defy the bounds of what is possible by holding a giant colorful parade featuring “Yipaos”, which literally means ‘loaded Jeep’. These basically stock Jeeps and Willys vehicles are decorated, adorned and otherwise encumbered with every sort of object one can imagine. Religious trinkets, misplaced home appliances and pieces of societal refuse are piled precariously high atop each eighty-inch wheelbase for a rolling spectacle that is just as long as it is tall. Folks, that is a full-scale acoustic guitar at Jesus’ right hand. Not a ukele…a real guitar. It has not been properly tuned but is a spectacle nonetheless.

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One doesn’t have to travel half-way around the world or skirt the equator to find Jeeps being put to a daily test of practicality. Jeeps are often witnessed across the country pulling boats & jetskis, landscaping trailers or loaded to the rollbars with everything from musicians gear to firewood . A reporter during World War II once wrote that his Jeep “did everything. It went everywhere. Was faithful as a dog, as strong as a mule, and as agile as a goat. It constantly carried twice what it was designed for and still kept going”. That is a pretty sparkling description of a Jeep and one inline with my past experiences. I can only imagine if the Jeep had a truck bed what more could he have said?

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So, if our esteemed off-road mainstay is truly about to be gifted from Jeep’s Toledo factory with a legitimate truck bed, we may have to alter our perceptions of what is possible. We have always done truck-like things without a truck. Imagine the possibilites with a diesel engine, 8-speed automatic and lockers front & rear! I may just start building my own yipao now so I can just load it in the back. OlllllllO

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Photo Credit: JLWranglerForums.com

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Who the Heck is this Jerry Guy and Why’s He Hoarding All the Gas??

You’ve probably seen them scabbed to the side panels, strapped across the hood or bolted to the rear bumper of just about every military Jeep you’ve ever seen. You might even have seen them and didn’t know any better what to call them- they are Jerry Cans. From their origin and by definition, large pressed-steel containers designed specifically for the containment and transport of fuel; they’ve been an essential fixture on any serious off-road and overlanding vehicles the world over for decades. But who is this Jerry guy??11863475_1658272171085439_223709668073064816_n

My first suspicion was that this name must be somehow tied to the age old phrase “jerry rig”, which has always meant that something was haphazardly made to function without any regard to endurance or even safety. Not exactly the kind of disregard I would recommend when it comes to toting around gallons of flammable and highly combustible fluids, at least not in the western hemisphere. Fortunately, the ‘Jerry Can’ predates the slang terminology of “jerry rigged” by quite a few years and only shares the same given name and cleverly avoids all of the negative traits.

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This fuel can, or Wehrmacht-Einheitskanister as it was affectionately known by, was developed originally by the Germans in the late 1930’s and was granted the nick name ‘Jerry Can’ a few years later by the Americans during the Second World War as the Allied troops began using an adapted design based on the German model. ‘Jerry’ was a common slang wartime term used to refer to Germans, who during wartime, were obviously not deemed worthy of a second syllable when referenced in casual conversation. The design of the early Jerry Cans, in retrospect, was really quite remarkable.

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The cans dimensions were established so that a capacity of 20 liters of any given liquid would not make the can too heavy for a single man to carry. The canister was fitted with three parallel top-mounted handles so that the cans could be carried by the center handle easily with one hand when full or in pairs, when empty, by grasping the outer handles of two adjacent cans. Each face of the Jerry Can was stamped with an X-shaped indention that served to give the flat steel some level of structural reinforcement while also providing some ability to allow for thermal expansion of the metal and its contents.

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The fact that each cans rectangular shape was uniform allowed them to be easily and evenly stacked for transport; while the cans filler spout was recessed into a flattened corner, keeping it out of harm’s way and insuring that the cans contents would not likely be compromised if the can were accidentally dropped. Slight modifications to the design were gradually implemented as the working prototypes were exposed to and battle-tested by U.S. and British armed forces around the globe. I can only imagine the lawnmowers and bonfires they have helped to fuel in the years since.

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With such a nifty and efficient design, it was common for the Jerry Cans to be treated to a signifying paint job that would help specify what contents hid inside. Diesel fuel, gasoline, kerosene and even drinking water could be toted with a special can fitted with an enamel interior coating. It kinda makes me wonder if there was ever any unauthorized initiation hazing rituals which involved telling fresh recruits to refill their canteens with the green jerry cans and watching hilarity ensue.

Marines replenish their water supplies as they participate in Operation URGENT FURY.

To this day, the original German designed Jerry Can is still considered the standard container for armies of all NATO countries and is still used commonly to this day. That doesn’t mean that the times have stood still for the esteemed Jerry Can. The past decades have seen the advancement of plastics develop into a whole new era of cans that often bear little resemblance to their forefathers, but surely pay homage to the original Jerry Cans of the past. New space-saving designs, innovative securing systems and size options make it possible for today’s off-road vehicle to equip itself with fuel reserves, coolant and enough clean water to drink and shower for days without having to dress your Jeep up like a jerry-rigged pontoon boat. Wisdom still would advise sniffing the Jerry Can before filling your canteen though. You can’t be too safe these days. OlllllllO

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Hey! You!! What’s Your Favorite Car???

1Ask your average 30-something guy at the neighborhood cookout what his favorite car is and the answer you receive in return is likely to change like the weather. There’s always the diehard Porsche and Ferrari faithful, not to mention the fellas whose dreams have no credit limit who will chide in with the latest Bugatti or McLaren model. If your subject has seen Gone in 60 Seconds within the past weeks, he may likely declare a 1967 Ford Shelby GT500 as his clear & uncontested choice. I really dug ‘Eleanor’ too in that movie and I don’t even like Mustangs! After spending a weekend with the ‘ol feet up watching Lemans coverage, I got myself a case of the gimmies for a C7 Corvette-hold the Racing Yellow paint, please.

When it comes to a Jeep guy/gal, their favorite car is likely going to be whatever Jeep model they are driving, or possibly one they aspire to buy. We can still dream of owning that random supercar or even a classic muscle car that spends the better part of its existence holding up a micro-fiber dust cover in the garage. The Jeep still has to be our favorite as it’s the one we love to drive around in, get dirty in and cherish so deeply that most owners even try to give theirs a name, like it’s a member of the family.

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You will soon find out that a Jeep is not even considered a car by most people, so answering with ‘Jeep’ when asked what is your favorite car is almost like dodging the actual question. Like when asked your favorite breed of dog. If you reply ‘Hot Dog’, you might get a soft chuckle but secretly your surveyor is pondering the possibility that you may have been dropped at some point and are more than likely ill-equipped to answer the question.

So what if there was a car out there for those who are content with having a Jeep as their favorite car; for those who despite having no qualms about the fact that a Jeep is not really a car, would love to have an answer for those times when the question may arise? May I present to you the 1959 Desoto Firesweep – your NEW favorite car… It’s a classic car so cool that it has a Jeep on the dash!

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While the Desoto has little or nothing to do with the Willy’s/ Jeep, it seems undeniable that the molded plastic housing mounted in the dash to store the speaker and windshield defroster bits possesses the same iconic characteristics as the beloved Jeep CJ grille. From the seven vertical slats to the round headlight openings that impede onto the outboard slats; this is clearly more than coincidental. Someone in Chrysler design studios must have had a secret fondness for the venerable Jeep.

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If I am going to compromise my core principles and engage in the practice of driving a car that ISN’T a Jeep, it might as well have the face of a Jeep across the dash reminding me with a faithful ever presence of where I would rather be. Outside of the stylized tail light fins and the push-button transmission, it’s positively the strongest selling point that Desoto had to offer.

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Desoto used the subtle visual ode to the Willys/Jeep in both the Firesweep and the Adventurer model, but never chose to market it to it’s stylish consumers. This, a decision I could find single-handedly to blame for the companies eventual demise in 1961. Had they only opted to advertise with a catchy little slogan like “ Desoto Firesweep- The Car for Those Times You Can’t Drive Your Jeep”.,.things could have been som much different. So, what’s your favorite car now?? OlllllllO

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Long Before our Beloved All-Terrains, there was the Martin Tire

It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. While it is true that some absolutely remarkable discoveries have been spawned in man’s quest to create his own personal nirvana, it seems as though humans, as a race in large, are more likely to strike oil while digging a well or installing our own sprinklers than when we are searching for crude. Case in point, one of the greatest inventions in the history of this planet, or any other, is the wheel; round, well-centered, perfect. Man’s pursuit to take the work out of forming simple clay pottery inadvertently developed into the single most important advancement in transportation to date.

Photo Credit: EarlyAviators.com

Photo Credit: EarlyAviators.com

In the prosperity-deprived days of the 1930’s, James V. Martin, an avid aviator, inventor and general enthusiast of everything on wheels was hard at work trying to revolutionize the future of transportation in any way he could, especially the automobile industry; with notable advancements to his credit in both 3 and 4-wheel automobiles. Martin, a highly intelligent Harvard graduate who held numerous patents in the development and manufacturing of small aircraft, had already caused quite a stir in the aeronautical community a decade before.

In the mid 1920’s, he filed suit against the US government and the Association of Aeronautical Manufacturers claiming a vast conspiracy to monopolize the entire industry. Since Martin possessed crucial technology patents and controlled valuable intellectual property, he saw such an internal conspiracy as a direct attack on his own profitability and personal success. In support of these claims, evidence was presented that Martin had submitted a prototype for a large bomber to the U.S. Air Service for testing, named the ‘Barling Bomber’. When the craft failed to perform up to the governments standards, the aircraft was promptly destroyed by means of blasting it to pieces with an all-out machine gun assault rather than returning it to Martin with documented testing results- a misfortune that infuriated the inventor and further concreted his suspicions of favoritism.

2By the late 1920’s, James Martin had begun to explore ways that the technologies and concepts he had applied in the field of airplanes might translate to a simple and commonplace road car. One of the first applications was the use of rubber para-cords as a means of providing spring tension and shock absorption to a vehicles suspension. The patent declared clearly that the purpose of this invention was to simplify the task of absorbing road vibration using a new and novel combination- one that was far removed from the normal hydraulic shock absorbers of the day. The ‘rubber bands’ could be routinely replaced at normal intervals and at an extremely low cost. This notion was exercised and applied in a micro-car called the 1928 Martin Dart that, by many accounts, was poised to shift the public’s perspective on what new cart ownership would entail. The tiny Dart was projected to be sold largely via mail order, shipped in a crate that would be repurposed as a parking shelter and sold to the American consumer for a measly $200; well below the average selling price of the day. Unfortunately, the Dart never found widespread acceptance as a production car. Despite his revolutionary shock absorber technology not finding much traction in the market, Martin was not about to quit. He just needed to get back to the drawing board and reinvent the wheel.

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Martin began using the elasticity, cushioning and compression characteristics of rubber and implementing it into a wheel and tire assembly that would make the conventional pneumatic tire virtually obsolete. An early evolution of this design was found in his “Elastic Tire” in 1931- a name that clearly conveys that Martin was primarily focused on his craft and not so much on the marketing aspects; after all, great ideas usually sell themselves.

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Further development of the theory that rubber integrated into a rim assembly could prove to revolutionize the tire industry was displayed in generation after generation of models. The “Aero & Auto Tire” in 1933, followed by the “Safety Tire” in ’38, “Easy Riding Tire” and several other iterations in the years to follow. It was when the newfangled yet officially patented “Martin Tire” was bolted to a trusty WWII-era Willys Jeep that James Martin had his best opportunity to impress the world with his invention. Certainly if the Martin Tire could stand up to the rigors involved in off-road driving, Martins skeptics might become his greatest supporters. The Martin Tire featured a wheel assembly that was 6 pounds lighter than a comparable steel rim and tire assembly and delivering a graduated braking and torque action that proved to be beneficial in unstable terrain. And the way the Martin Tire smoothed out the rough stuff was truly something to behold. The Willys could finally be utilized in a manner closer to its potential. Check it out for yourself! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQ05RbGa0zM

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It is pretty clear when watching the video of testing of the Martin Tire that James Vernon Martin was likely onto something. For reasons unknown, the Martin Tire faded slowly into obscurity with the possible benefits it offered never fully realized. Certainly todays push to develop tires that can run despite losing air pressure lends heavily towards similar design concepts that Martin was pioneering. I can’t help but credit him, at least partially, for another current styling trend but I’ll let you be the judge. OlllllllO

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“Half Safe” but Completely Crazy

“Crazy” is, without a doubt, one of the most complex words in the English language. While its meaning is somewhat consistent, I find that its use as a compliment or as a condemnation is often only determined by whether or not there is a smile on the face of the person that is calling you crazy. So it is possible to be crazy but in a good way, right?

More often than not, a person who is described as crazy has set themselves apart from society by abstaining from normal accepted behavior. Meet Frederick ‘Ben’ Carlin- born in Western Australia in 1912 and who, on more than one occasion, has established himself as one of the craziest adventurers to have ever left the paved roads behind. The fact that he chose to pursue his preposterous dreams in a crazy contraption based on a WWII Ford GPA “Seep” makes him more of a hero, in my opinion, than a loon but you can be the judge.

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As an engineer in the Indian Army Corp of Engineers in World War II, Carlin observed an amphibious GPA vehicle while doing a routine inspection and commented to a fellow coworker that the vehicle would be a viable candidate to successfully circumnavigate the globe in. The intense laughter that erupted after his brash statement only reinforced his determination to prove that it could be done.

At the close of the Second World War, Carlin was able to acquire a surplus GPA for a measly $901 at auction and the process of adapting, modifying and equipping the chassis for such a monumental trek began. The body was extended by several feet to accommodate a larger fuel tank as well as an enclosed cabin scabbed on to the boat-like body. Much like Noah building the ark, Carlin was labelled as a buffoon- several sandwiches short of a picnic basket. Even his attempts to secure a sponsorship from Ford Motor Company, the manufacturer of the GPA, were met with skepticism and negativity. Ford seemed convinced that only a crazy person would take their amphibious vehicle into such treacherous waters.

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Actually, only two crazy people would. Carlin enlisted the help of his wife Elinore to accompany him on his ill-advised adventure. By the spring of 1948, the couple was seemingly ready to set sail in a vehicle that, by all appearances, was not fit to float, much less sail, across the ocean. It was aptly given the name Half Safe – a tongue-in-cheek reference taken from a deodorant advertisement that joked about the risks involved with wearing a lesser brand of under-arm protection. Somehow treading water in the middle of the shark-infested waters of the Atlantic Ocean seemed as comical a notion to Ben Carlin.

As with most innovators and pioneers, success was not found on the first attempt nor, for that matter, the second or third one. A handful of attempts in 1948 were plagued by mechanical failures of near-catastrophic proportions, including an exhaust system breakdown that had the confined cabin of the Half Safe vessel filling with lethal carbon monoxide gases, causing the trip to be quickly aborted and the boat returned to shore for repairs; each failure bringing more delays and exhausting more funds.

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Finally, on July 19th of 1950, Carlin and his trusting bride set out from Halifax, Nova Scotia with enough food, fuel and provisions on board to tide them over for a little over 30 days. While the Fords fuel tank had been modified to increase the capacity to 200 gallons, Carlin had to transport extra containers of fuel ; keeping them secured to a towline that was being drug behind the vehicle while at sea. Any time a refueling was needed, the anchor was dropped to interrupt forward progress and the floating reserve tanks would be reeled up next to the boat so that fuel could be siphoned into the primary tanks. This process proved to be challenging, exhausting and dangerous as the likelihood of the heavy tanks battering the thin metal hull of the vessel threatened to bring the entire trip to a sinking, gurgling halt. Nonetheless, Carlin persevered and eventually arrived at the choppy shores of the Azores Islands. From there, the trip carried them northward on wheels into Europe, where cabin temperatures often climbed above 150 degrees without the coolness of the seas waters to tame the heat. This forced the duo to perform most of their driving at night when conditions were considerably less harsh.

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Well into the second half of the journey, Elinore became convinced that this expedition might indeed be her last; overcome with exhaustion, sea sickness and oddly rational thoughts, she chose to abandon the mission as well as her husband while in Carlin’s homeland of Australia, while the pair was on a fund-raising tour in 1956.

Ben Carlin pressed onward, accompanied by anyone who could be convinced that this was a sane scheme. At first, a fellow Australian joined him for a period of 5 months before he was replaced by an American writer who worked for a Japanese newspaper. The journalist stayed with Carlin from early 1957 until Half Safe rolled into Anchorage, Alaska in late 1957. The writer profiled many of his Half Safe experiences in a book entitled, “Once a Fool: From Tokyo to Alaska by Amphibious Jeep”. If doing this for 6 months makes you a fool, what might 8 years make you? Certainly too tired to write a book with such a catchy title.

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In all, Carlin’s incredible journey took a total of 7 years and 10 months to complete, arriving in Montreal in May 1958, unbelievably having covered 38,987 miles over land and another 11,000 at sea. While Carlin had dreamed that this impossible venture crossing 38 countries would bring him untold riches and unrivaled popularity, the truth is that his accomplishment did more to ruin him both financially and romantically than it did to improve his position. The fact that his tale is rarely even told only adds to the misfortune. Fortunately, the Half Safe was acquired by Carlin’s childhood grammar school where it is displayed proudly for anyone who can forego their perceptions of what is truly attainable long enough to believe what you can do when you set your mind to it. To this day, no one else has managed to circumnavigate the world in one single vehicle. I can’t imagine anyone even trying…you’d have to be crazy.   OlllllllO2106b4ca367891a36776fcdb10f2edd9

First a Jeep, Then a Truck

It seems like forever and a day that we have been waiting for the new Jeep Wrangler JL to rid itself of the character- disguising camo and expose the Jeep faithful to what has been hiding beneath. Honestly, it’s like trying to pick out your prom date when all the girls are wrapped in tarps. We’ve been baited along with the promise of the new Wrangler JL model and then diabolically teased of a truck to be built on the same platform and delivered to us in the year to follow. It’s hard to digest that this wait may finally be winding up.  

Photo Credit: JL Wrangler Forums

Photo Credit: JL Wrangler Forums

  You may ask “Why all the fuss?”. It’s not like we haven’t been treated to a Jeep truck before and you would have a valid point. I believe the upcoming Wrangler JT pickup will be different though. In the past, Jeep has offered quite a few trucks in their lineup, each one special in their own distinct ways but, for the most part, they were always trucks first and Jeeps secondly.

What I mean by that is, with the exception of the 81-86 CJ-8 Scramblers, Jeep trucks have always segregated themselves from the true Jeep four-wheel drive, short wheelbase off-roader that embodies all of the elements that define the Jeep name. The CJ-8 was essentially a CJ-7 lengthened with a small truck bed in the back; a feature that more than made up for in looks what it might have lacked in practicality.

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The very first origins in the evolution of the Jeep truck would date all the way back to 1946, when Willys-Overland offered a Jeep pickup that shared its exterior countenance with the Willys Station wagons of the day. The high hood, flat-topped fenders and buglike headlights gave indication that the two were loosely related but yet independent at the core.

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One progression of the Jeep truck is the ultra-unique FCs, or Forward Control trucks. Introduced in the mid-50’s, the FC-150 defied easy explanation. With it’s odd cab-over-engine design and “big rig”styling, the FC models are usually presumed to be anything but a Jeep. The forward control models are highly sought by collectors due to their bizarre appearance and a distinctly wonderful driving experience . With a monstrous steering wheel that sits horizontal in front of you and no hood in front of the windshield, it’s hard to not feel like you’re wheeling a semi down the interstate trying to get a load up to Dubuque by sundown. It’s even harder to hide the smile the FC puts on your face.

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One of the most underated and least seen of the Jeep trucks are the Gladiator and J-Series models that were manufactured for an astounding quarter century, beginning in 1963. While other truck manufacturers toyed with rather swank styling cues that felt need to change every few years, Kaiser-Jeep found a solid and simple design that stood the test of time; making the J-Series truck almost instantly identifiable regardless of it’s vintage.

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I think what I like most about the Gladiator and J-Series trucks is that, in all their simplicity, they just look tough. I would go so far as to say that if Chuck Norris was going into battle in a new big screen blockbuster, maybe Missing In Action 9, he could very easily drive one of these. The Kaiser M715 is, in fact, the military version of the Gladiator and it literally looks like it’s coming to save the world and lay under tread anyone who tries to stop it. It’s so excessively packed with unbridled masculinity, it might even cause Chuck Norris to second-guess his level of adequate manliness to man the controls. No vanity mirrors on the back of sunvisors, if even so equipped; just brawn under the hood and bulges on the bedsides. A seriously hard act to follow.

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But follow Jeep did…with the CJ-8 Scrambler in 1981. For the first time, traditional Jeep owners were given their beloved Jeep fitted with the added utility of a short truck bed on a wheelbase 10-inches longer than the CJ-7, to boot. While such an offering did not evolve the new CJ into a formidable cargo hauler, it did undoubtedly help solidy the Jeep CJ’s overall position as America’s favorite off-road vehicle and tested the waters for what interest might exist for another Jeep truck.

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In 1986, Jeep delivered to market a brand new pickup based on the wildly succesful Cherokee XJ utility wagon. The Jeep Comance (MJ) was built using the same mechanical componenets, drivetrain and exterior styling as the Cherokee but with the choice of either a 6 or 7 foot truck bed. The truck was failry well accepted in the marketplace but always had a clearly defined persona separate from it’s close kin, the CJ/ Wrangler. After seven years of production, Chrysler determined that the truck building was best left to its Dodge division, so the Comanche slowly faded into the background; making way for its reinvention under the name Dodge Dakota, with no considerable fanfaire.

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The world would have to wait an antagonizing long 25 years and counting for a new pickup from Jeep. And from all visually-hindered appearances it might be one that’s really worth waiting for. Besides, we do actually get a brand new Wrangler to tide us over, in the meantime. But really, who are we kidding? OlllllllO

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Tips for Tackling that ‘Road Less-Travelled’

1Over the past decade of daily-driving a Jeep as my primary means of transportation, a few simple truths have become evident to me. First of all and simply put, Jeeps are cars for people who truly cherish driving. Even in stock form, Jeeps are fairly crude, utilitarian vehicles that are made to go just about anywhere you desire; therefore, their mannerisms when they are on the paved roadways are always a little less-than-perfect. This attribute, although unforgivable to some, suits me perfectly.

Secondly, Jeeps have made giant strides in proving that they may quite possibly be one of the worst commuter vehicles ever. While this seems somewhat harsh, the truth is that, while the shortest distance between two points is always a straight line, Jeeps don’t seem to be engineered using the same basic principles of geometry. Basically, if it should take 1 hour to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’, a Jeep will normally take anywhere from 10 to 50% longer to arrive than the calculated average. A Jeep driver tends to strictly abide by the age-old adage “Goin’ around your @$$ to get to your elbow”, accessing point ‘B’ via point ‘M’ or possibly even point lowercase ‘k’. While the science to support this principle has not been totally documented, it is true that fuel economy of the average Jeep owner is 10 to 50% lower than other vehicles on the road. Ironic? You decide.

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Thirdly, and this may surprise some of you like it did me- not ALL Jeep owners take their rugged rides off-road. While this was hard for me to digest at first, I came to realize that it makes total sense. For comparisons sake, everybody with a set of clubs in the trunk doesn’t necessarily know how to play golf well, if at all. I’m reminded of a lady who used to sing in the church choir when I was a young pre-teen. Despite the silky robe and the open songbook in her hands, she had no trace of any ability to sing. Unfortunately, this was a truth that was unknown to her and one that never kept her from engaging in blaring solos capable of frightening infants and startling the elderly. Unlike a tone-deaf soprano, a Jeep owner who has never experienced the joys of driving off-road is perfectly poised to make it happen. They already have all the capability they will need to make it happen at their disposal. The hard part is done.

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While the thought of venturing off-road in a brand-spanking new Wrangler JK is harrowing to many, the truth is that the Jeep was made to be taken off-road- they’re given that ‘Trail Rated’ badge on the fender for a reason. To keep it confined to pavement is depriving it of its purpose. Your inalienable right to take your Jeep out for a day filled with uncharted adventure is inherent with Jeep ownership and, with any luck, a thorough carwash will make it seem like it never even happened. I personally suggest you drive around with the mud decorations for at least a few days. It’s sort of a Jeepers badge of honor. Wear it proudly!

So, how do you get started with finding that road less travelled and making sure it’s one that suits your vehicle, your own individual skill and confidence level? I recommend anyone who drives a Jeep involve themselves in a local Jeepers club in their particular area. You can find many varieties of them on Facebook, as well as other social media venues, and they can prove to be a valuable source of information and support. The Jeep community is a strong network of people who share very similar interests although they come from a diverse range of backgrounds. I have gone “wheeling” with complete strangers on numerous occasions and have retained continuing friendships from each and every one of those interactions. You will more than likely find like-minded people near you that would love to coordinate a local trail ride or even a weekend road trip to a location close by.

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Another valuable source for locating prospective locations for you to pursue that less-travelled road would be the trusty internet. There are many sites dedicated to the off-roading hobby that can be a wealth of information and knowledge for you to access, some of which even have mobile apps that you can access while on the trail:

www.americantrails.org

www.offroadtrailguide.com

  www.where2wheel.com

5Once you have determined the “where”, “when” and “with who”, you will want to plan what things you will need to take with you. The first rule of thumb for a successful & enjoyable off-roading excursion is one shared with every teenage horror film you have ever seen. Don’t ever go alone!! (and maybe take a flashlight). Seriously, the essentials for your ultimate preparedness on the trail will vary greatly based on the types of off-roading you will be doing. For the beginner who is participating in a nice, easy trail ride, you want to make sure you have a properly inflated spare tire, a functioning jack and maybe a jug of water, just in case. A GPS can be a lifesaver although the uncomfortable total absence of roads on the display can seem alarming at times. Just remember, if it was an easy place to get to, everyone would already have been there and eliminated the reasons to go. It’s always a great idea to have a set of simple hand tools on-hand but the mechanical aptitude of the wheeler would be the determining factor between useful and useless. For that reason, a fully charged cellphone is to be considered crucial as well. Heck, it’s the Swiss army knife of this generation. There are apps to keep you from getting lost and games to entertain you when you do.

For those who drive modified Jeeps or have graduated to more challenging trails, ones that involve scaling rocks or maneuvering through mud, the list of crucial cargo grows accordingly. While the luxury of on-board compressed air is nice, it is certainly not a requirement. A hi-lift jack, a winch, a tire repair kit, a collection of basic recovery gear components comprised of straps, gloves, shackles and digging implements, a stockpile of damage-prone replacement parts like u-joints, axle shafts, drive shafts, ball joints, tie rod ends and the tools necessary to replace them on the trail as well as a hodgepodge of all the critical fluids needed to keep the engine running, the transmission shifting and the brakes stopping are all deemed as precious payload. While this seems like a nightmare checklist of necessary gear, the truth is that your trail kit can be developed and assembled over a long period of time as the experience level of your driving develops. Don’t be the guy who dresses like a big league catcher in the stands based on a slight chance of his fielding a foul ball. Take only what is practical in terms of making repairs on the trail. You may never need any of it but the one time you do, the overall expense will seem minimal in the grand scheme of things. To have it and not need it is the desired objective.

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So…Get out there, find that road less travelled and see where it takes you; always remembering to leave the trail just like you found it. After all, life is too short to just sit at home and Jeeps were meant to be taken off-road. You just might find out that those golf clubs look better in the garage anyway. OlllllllO

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