A Modern-Day Drivers Lament

1I’ve always heard that those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. While this is largely true from my experience, sometimes looking at the past in the appropriate light is the cure for better accepting what is in the present.

This bit of enlightenment came to me while I was sitting, somewhat impatiently, at a traffic light on my daily ride home. This is one of the lights that I have to “endure” daily; one whose entire existence seems to only suggest a proper course of action to those who travel under its authority at any given time. People just proceed out into the intersection regardless of the lights impending change. If the lights directions were to be observed and obeyed, order would ensue; however, the light and its luminous suggestions are largely ignored, resulting in utter and total chaos.

Imagine a place like New York City without so much as a traffic light to limit the lunacy. Back in 1901, this was the conditions of the day. Travel by motor car was relatively new and there was an entire dynamic between loud cars and frightened horses pulling carriages to deal with. That’s why there was The Automobile Blue Book – a written manual for navigating the city by car and surviving with life and limb intact.

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Before there were traffic lights, signs and electronic gizmos to guide us along, the government saw the need to give us guidelines by which to abide. In terms of the right-of-way, there was very little regard given to whether you were pulling out on to a major thoroughfare. Rather the direction in which you were travelling determined who had the upper hand. Obviously, those going north or south were actually going somewhere while those going, say, eastbound were not actually travelling anywhere deemed important, what with the rotation of the earth and all.

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With the fundamental basis of right-of-way now firmly established for us all, it’s time to move on to matters of safety. All vehicles, including the dreaded ‘velocipede’, are to be equipped with a bell, or a gong if you’d rather, but not too big of a bell as to encourage one upmanship. This 3-inch or smaller merry noisemaker is to be sounded whenever you pass another vehicle from behind and when you navigate a turn. Oddly, no mention is given in regards to the gaining or losing of right-of-way with a change in vehicle direction. I would think that gaining right-of-way by means of a turn would warrant the ringing of ones own bell, as sort of an audible celebration.

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The act of stopping the automobile is addressed to a lesser extent back in Article 4 Section 1, by advising that nobody is to stop the vehicle, unless it’s an emergency, or to let another vehicle cross in front of you. Use of an audible signal is advised but it doesn’t seem as though the bell is suggested to be the source of the signal. Maybe a “whoop” or a “holler” is in order, based on where you are from? Or you can just raise your whip. Wait…what??

When you see pedestrians treated as the same rank as the horses, it’s not surprising to see the City of New York come down hard on those who choose to ride a peddle-powered means of transport. Having to suddenly share the road with not only equine but now motorized contraptions driven by whip-wielding whackos is a whole new thing. Bottom line is- If you’re gonna bike it, you’ve gotta leave the tike at home to fend for himself. These streets are no place for young children

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And the bad news doesn’t end there for the bikers! Strict rules are enacted to make it illegal to coast your bike. Meaning you have to be under constant propulsion if you’re not parked on the curb. In fact, you have been directed to keep your hands on the handlebars and your feet on the peddles at ALL times!! Of course, it goes without saying that you can’t have a Chinese lantern on your bicycle either. Afterall, this ain’t Hong Kong. And Rule #13 restricting any and all “instruction” from the bike path is really surprising and is surely going to prove a serious hindrance to any of those who ever hope to learn how to ride a bike in this town.

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Just when you think the drivers of century ago had it pretty good, it turns out that said drivers were instructed to maintain a log of their driving. This was not just a tally of dates and mileage though. This is a full-fledged written report of data involving complex mathmatical formulas that rival todays college prep exams. How many miles did I traverse? What was my fuel consumption per brake horse power? How much waste am I storing?? The though of calculating water consumption per mile seems like a sizable task. Can’t I just go back to dealing with traffic lights and moronic drivers?

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Even if I was to become accustomed to the considerable load of paperwork that accompanied driving privileges back yesteryear, the accident preparation kit that accompanied the Official Automobile Blue Book would have me seriously rethinking my decision. Having to quickly peruse a laymens description of artificial recessitation and familiarizing myself with the acknowledged ways to “test for death” seems a tad intense when compared to exchanging insurance cards and texting your agent. Afterall, I’m pretty sure I don’t even carry linseed oil with me on most occasions.

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Now, riding in a Jeep can make you prone to getting a cinder in the eye. I just need to figure out what a “lamp lighter” is and pick up a couple of them from Amazon when I order my new velocipede. OlllllllO

Forget What You’ve Heard…Going Commando IS Cool!

1Long before the days of social media and the illicit birth of situation comedies, Kaiser Jeep saw the potential in an abandoned automotive platform, the Jeepster, and took the vital steps to revive it. While the original Willys-Overland Jeepster had found less-than-splendid acceptance in the late 1940’s, much of its failures could be lent to the fact that it was, in all essence, a car. A two-wheel drive touring phaeton, or convertible, with little or no ties to an actual Jeep, bar its slotted grille and flattish fenders. While the initial Jeepsters were certainly a spectacle of class and charisma, they lacked the crass and crudeness of its elder Jeep namesake.

Kaiser however sought to change all of that, by offering a new Jeepster; one with the spirit of a true Jeep firmly intact. A four-wheel drive runabout that expands on the universal Jeeps utility by delivering off-road capability, street worthy styling and a variety of body configurations to please the masses. From a two-door convertible, to a compact pickup and then a station wagon- the Jeepster was rebirthed for the ’67 model year with a whole new look and an attitude its very own. And they called it, the Jeepster Commando.

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Built on the CJ6 chassis, the new Jeepster Commando’s 101-inch wheelbase was a whole 20-inches longer that the standard CJ5. Providing ample interior room for the wagon models or increased capacity for cargo when dressed as a truck. Standard engine power was provided by the tried-and-true 134 ci F-head engine creating 75-hp while an optional upgrade of a Dauntless V6 engine treated the Jeepster to a substantial increase of brawn, more than doubling the base engines power and torque. It was a new time for the Jeepster nameplate, indeed.

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The Jeepster Commando remained in production until 1972, when it gained another three inches of wheelbase and officially dropped the Jeepster prefix from its name. It was now known only as the Jeep Commando- a name it would maintain until its demise in 1973. With the Vietnam War in its waning years, how was AMC/Jeep ever to know that the name chosen for its symbolism of strength and bravery would soon become the slang moniker for the act of forsaking proper under-attire. The odds are about as good as getting oneself surrounded by a rafter of gobblers with a professional photographer close by; unlikely, but yet, more than plausible.4

In 1971, when sales of the Jeepster began to decline, AMC did the only thing they knew to do. Try to make the Jeepster Commando into a special muscle car offshoot of an off-road legend. By handing over design liberties of the Commando to the hot-rodding radicals at Hurst Performance in Westminster Township, PA, the Jeepster emerged with what is, still today, arguably the most collectable Jeep package ever offered- the 1971 Hurst Jeepster.

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With an exterior finished in Champagne White and accented by racy red and blue cowl stripes, the Hurst edition packed little actual punch. Since the special package added nothing in the way of performace upgrades, outside of wider Goodyear polyglass tires, the Hurst Jeepster made it’s mark with more visual flairs. Glitzy chrome bumpers, a fully-functional roof rack and exterior badging on par with any boulevard brawler all made lasting impressions on potential buyers. While many others were entanced by the speed shop goodies that, by all appearances, were built for speed. Automatic transmissions were shifted by means of a macho Dual-Gate shifter, while Hurst drivers peered over a giant scoop and a hood-mounted tachometer reminiscent of the Pontiac GTOs of the day. Hurst Commando owners must have felt a genuine sense that they owned the road.

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I think it’s fair to deem the 67-73 Jeepster Commando as an indirect hit in terms of overall automotive substance. Did it change the face of automotive styling or design in it’s day? I would have to say NO. However, it did serve as somewhat of a foray to the new Cherokee SJ platform that followed closely in 1974; a landmark of monumental proportions in terms of the evolution of the SUV in America. For that reason alone, I can’t imagine what could be cooler than wheeling the asphalt or ravaging the trails in a fully restored Commando? If you are able to find one, buy it. If you have opportunity to ride in one, take that opportunity and enjoy what it truly means to Go Commando. Of course, unless you’re wearing swimsuits, proper undergarments are strongly encouraged. OlllllllO

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An Introspective Look at the Jeep FC-150

1Ever since I was a little kid, I have loved cars. Sure, I had a cool Lionel electric train set and even fancied building some random model airplane kits from time to time; but, when it came right down to it, CARS was where it was at for me. I lived and breathed them. Tinker Toys always seemed to lack enough detail to hold my interest. Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars were my strongest vice. Each one was different and intriguing in its own way and special for its own reasons.

Fast forward a handful of decades and a couple hundred car shows later; it’s seemingly impossible to see something automotive that really ignites any excitement anymore. My enjoyment of all things automotive has become more sensory, certainly when automotive design overall has become, in my opinion, somewhat mundane. It takes something visually fantastic, mechanically profound or some sensational sound to attract my gaze and steal my attention.

I think that’s why I like Jeeps so much. They all have similar visual appeal, so much that the Jeep community embraces a two-letter abbreviation to reference their particular model from a vast seventy-seven year span. From a JK to a TJ or CJ, it takes a species specialist to tell the difference between them at times. It’s truly evolved to the point where it’s all about the driving experience for me. Like the feel of the breezes that surround you as you drive an open-air Jeep or maybe the convention involved with driving something that resists being driven half-heartedly. It commands input and rewards such with a thrill for all of your senses.

But then one Jeep turns that premise on its ear. The Jeep FC-150 is so irregular in its appearance, many who have never witnessed one before are quick to ask “Is that really a Jeep?”. Gratefully, the answer is yes and what a Jeep it is.

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Built off a CJ5 chassis and manufactured for a decade, from the middle fifties through the mid-sixties, the FC models (short for Forward Control) are as refreshing to the eye of the typical car enthusiast as ride on a wooden roller coaster. Seasoned journalists survey its peculiar exterior with newfound enthusiasm and never fail to don a smile with the prospect of driving such a vehicle.

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4And what’s not to love? Driving an old FC can be compared to piloting a cross between a lunar rover from a dated science fiction movie bred with a 1950’s-era semi- truck. It’s somewhat awkward due to your body positioning over the front wheels but mostly just outlandishly fun. Heck, your inner child might even believe that you have somehow shrunken yourself and taken the wheel of a classic Tonka truck. That could happen, right? The similarities between them make one ponder the possibility that the two are actually the same. Fact is, toymakers only make cars that replicate ones that people would truly love to drive; hence, the Jeep FC. I’ve never seen kids playing in a backyard sandbox with a toy Moped or a 3-wheeled Cushman. It makes total sense…

My first time driving an FC was just a short little jaunt around a parking lot but it was indeed something special. The large-diameter steering wheel positioned relatively level in front of you and the fact that you can see the ground right in front of your feet makes your automotive sensibilities do an about-face. The controls are simplistic and antiquated, the seating crude and the subtle reminder that you are essentially riding atop the engine is always at elbows length away. Still, the experience is crude yet wondrous.

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I would argue that the term “Super Car” being reserved for those that possess absurd speed or racecar-like handling is unfounded, if not completely unfair. While the early FC’s were powered by the puny 134 cubic inch four cylinder engine, it clearly wasn’t their speed that made them so outstanding. Throw in a hydraulic dump bed and a total absence of a hood and you end up with a vehicle capable of totally collapsing conformity while cruising comfortably below the posted limits? It’s hard to deny that Jeep FC indeed ranks as “Super” car and puts it high on my list of the coolest cars around. OlllllllO

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“Two Great Tastes That Go Great Together…”

1One of the easiest tasks in the world of marketing is to take two separate components that are equally endearing on their own merits and put them together to create something new that everyone is sure to adore. Case in point is an old commercial from a time gone by when colors were a lot less vivid and collars had a wingspan; in a place where two hip cats are walking along the sidewalks of Anytown, USA, each with their own special eating disorder. Our male specimen is indulging himself in the luscious goodness of a milk chocolate candy bar; and who can blame him. While the attractive but slightly more perturbing female is gorging herself on the gooey contents of an entire jar of peanut butter. While I, myself, do actually enjoy a healthy dose of peanut butter from time to time, I can’t even comprehend what mental instabilities might cause someone to feel that consuming an entire jar of Skippy while in public view is even remotely acceptable. Whether due to their obvious personal afflictions or their headphones masking their surroundings, the cute couple collide in a calamity that had us all licking our collective chops. Clearly, the folks at Reese have had little trouble convincing viewers that combining two such goodies into one delightful consumable cup is a no-brainer and guaranteed to please anyone who finds themselves a fan of either part of the tasty equation.

Winning combinations don’t even have to be the product of calculated marketing. Take, for example, ham & cheese sandwiches or turkey & dressing. Sometimes the chemistry between two individual things is so undeniable that they virtually become paired more predominantly than they appear separately.

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In 1970, while American Motors was looking to assume the Jeep product line from Kaiser-Jeep, designers made such a calculated conglomeration in hopes that America would be dazzled by the possibility of blending the vastly-popular muscle car with the off-road sensibilities of the prized short wheelbase CJ5. A medley that may have proved to be more a potential inspiration for the upcoming AMC Pacer than the newest automotive talk-of –the-town they had hoped for. While most concept cars aim to deliver something to the consumer that is highly desirable yet currently less than common, the Jeep XJ-001 seemed to strike a chord of confusion in the potential marketplace. Since there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these individual pieces, the sum of their parts must certainly be above reproach, or at least in this case, just beyond our scope of comprehension. Exactly what is it that we should do with this really fast, really short car with no roof or doors that has limited agility and handles pretty poorly? Nothing pleasurable seems to come to mind…

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The Jeep XJ001 was clearly by appearance built on the CJ’s tiny 81-inch wheelbase but that’s where the similarities seemed to cease. Even the swooping door openings look more akin to a carnival bumper car than any Jeep of memory. When the new Jeep prototype was revealed at the New York Auto Show in July of 1970, the crowds seemed to eat it up, albeit in very small portions. Maybe not as ravenous a reception as though they were treated to a luscious peanut butter cup, but response was certainly deemed better than unfavorable, certainly in comparison to the other show floor spectacles of the day. Like the new Ford/Mercury Capri or the all-enthralling “Seat Belts Save Lives” display held in the lobby.

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While the prospective Jeep never really shied away from the sudden media spotlight, this new look was, in all honesty, completely unfamiliar digs. The XJ-001 was, in essence, a compilation of gawdy pinstriping, glossy paint, chrome wheels, glistening adornements and go-fast goodies wed with a stubby car-like body that seemed oddly disproportionate to the wheelbase. In all fairness to the concept car, the only way I can find acceptance of it is to completely remove it, at least in my mind, from the name ‘Jeep’ altogether- an undertaking that I find nearly impossible to accomplish given the comical wheelbase and the telltale ‘Jeep’ badging that graces the B-pillar. On second thought, if that was a B-pillar it would match the windshields elevation, which it doesn’t. This odd rooflike section is barely higher than the dash, making it more of a sport bar. But it’s height being considerably shorter than the bucket seats, makes it’s existence an even bigger mystery than the Pinto-inspired sloped rear deck opening that trails it; a visual borrowing that predates the Ford Pinto by a year.

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The Jeep XJ-001 must have been a feast for the eyes as spectators stood in dazed bewilderment at the styling quirks of this strange prototype. The CJ that had just received side marker lights a year or so prior, had now bore offspring bearing large trapezoidal chrome-bezeled lights on the front corners to offset the gills placed conspicuously on the front fenders. The giant air intake scoop on the hood hinted at what power lurks beneath. While Jeep CJs were treated to the customary civility of a 134 cubic inch engine and the occasional 6 cylinder powerplant, the XJ-001 had a surgically-implanted 360 cid V8 right out of one of AMC’s fabled tire shredders which seemed almost inappropriate. With a uniquely contoured dash that cascaded downward into a custom console that housed the ignition switch, 4 speed shifter and even the radio, the XJ-001 found ways to distinguish itself from the pack of Detroit’s latest iron. Different? Sure, but not necessarily desirable.

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Although the 1970 Jeep XJ-001 was a staple of the auto show circuit throughout the year, it never rooted any significant interest, certainly not enough to encourage the powers-that-be at AMC to procede with production.7 Unfortunately, the solitary XJ-001 prototype was lost to a fire when the car carrier that transported it overturned after an appearance at the Texas State Fair. With it’s body made primarily of fiberglass and plastic, there was very little reminder left of the peculiar protoype that had once been. It seems as though, at least for the time, Jeep was set to continue being simply a Jeep and the role of being a car would be left up to those better suited at pulling it off. The XJ-001 was in many ways a precursor to the hybrid cars of today, or cross-overs, as they are commonly referred to. Designs where multiple functions join to find one form. In the end, while the combination of two great things can be good, the greatness in the individuality of each is beyond compare. Jeep is undeniable proof of that. OlllllllO2106b4ca367891a36776fcdb10f2edd9

In Search of the Legendary Arctic Top

1Ever since I was a little kid, I have been fascinated with the unknown. If there was a TV show on about ghosts, the Loch Ness Monster or sasquatches, I was surely watching it! Sure, my sleeping habits were probably hampered as a result but I couldn’t help myself and at that age, sleeping was over-rated anyway. There was just something mysteriously captivating about such lore. I craved to view the evidence, however darkly lit or grainy it might appear, and then make a decision for myself. I wouldn’t even say that I was skeptical. Deep down I wanted to believe, I just wanted to see for myself. I remember the first time I saw the choppy 8mm video footage of what appears to be a Bigfoot walking across a partially open field that looked like it was in the process of being clear-cut. My heart skipped a beat! Heck, the creature even turned his head toward the camera mid-stride as if he knew he was being taped. I was convinced this thing was real, even if there had been an obvious zipper seam going up the front of the suit. I was a whole-hearted believer!

While hunting for Yetis in the Pacific Northwest and setting traps for the chupacabra have little, if anything, to do with Jeeps; there is an element of Jeeps colorful history that provides me the same sort of puzzling curiosity- the question of the first or original Jeep hardtop. While Jeep hardtops are as commonplace today as a traffic jam, this was not always the case. It’s a tall order to substantiate exactly when they came into existence.

I think it’s a fairly safe bet that a rigid, removable hard top was not anything that the factory concerned themselves with until the civilian Jeep, or CJ as they were known, had made its way to the farms and roadways of America. In fact, it’s not very easy to find any photographic evidence of a hard top mounted on an early model military Jeep at all, at least not one captured in black & white film as the period would dictate. And then you find one…

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Commonly, when you do find them, the tops depicted are obvious works of a craftsman skilled in some form of engineering outside the realm of the automobile. They are often contrived of wood, aluminum or some other building material pliable enough to be scabbed to a Jeep tub. They may have windows OR they may not. If so equipped, they will not likely be windows of a uniform size. I guess that’s why the picture above is so intriguing to me. It’s obviously a WWII-era Jeep and, based on the snow-covered banks in the background and the makeshift heat-capturing canopy covering the lap of the driver in the foreground, someone has made an exerted effort to devise a hardtop to keep the warm in and the cold out. And it looks like it belongs on the Jeep and not fitted with wheels and pulled behind your station wagon.

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By the late 1940’s and early 50’s, there were any number of companies that had ventured into the uncharted waters of Jeep hardtops and offered their wares to the civilian CJ drivers en mass. Sears & Roebuck, Koenig, Metro, Willys New England, Carson and JC Whitney, just to name a few and it’s fair to say that these companies were pretty good at what they did. Each had their own distinct designs and features and possessed an existence that can be well-documented through photos from the day. Again, largely captured in color film that would lead me to believe that they were existing comfortably in the 1950’s when color film had become affordable enough for common use. So, is it even possible to tell who may have been the first to craft and even manufacture hardtop for the Jeep?

In early 1946, surplus Jeeps that were left over from the war were treated to a custom “winterizing” by the construction of a crude sheet metal cab that was pop-riveted to the body tub as a means of separating the Jeeps driver from the harsh winter elements. The work was performed by Japanese citizens at the Showa Army Air Base in Japan under the watchful eye of U.S. military personnel using leftover airplane materials and a calloused disregard for aerodynamics. While this could possibly be the first documented hard top for a Jeep, it is certainly not of the “removable” variety and, by way of its semi-permanent method of install, is more likely a necessity than an accessory that can be removed at will like we are accustomed to today.

Photo Credit: Historic Images

Photo Credit: Historic Images

7So, despite the really cool black & white pictures of the Jeeps with suspected early prototype hard tops, I would have to concede that the first actual removable hard top could probably be credited to an aftermarket company and offered for sale only pages away from grandma’s girdle and pop’s thermal underwear. However disappointing that might seem, I’m gonna keep my chin up and keep looking until I know the truth. Besides, I’m pretty sure I saw a sasquatch cresting the snowy bank in the background behind one of those Jeeps. OlllllllO2106b4ca367891a36776fcdb10f2edd9

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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