New Light Guards added to deliver full vehicle protection
Rugged Ridge®, a leading manufacturer of high-quality Jeep®, truck and off-road parts and accessories, today announced the expansion of its Elite Line of exterior styling accessories with the addition of its Elite Turn Signal Guards, Elite Fog Light Guards and Elite Side Marker Light Guards for 2007-2017 Jeep Wrangler JK and JKU models.
Rugged Ridge’s Elite Line of exterior accessories features patented designs intended to provide an attractive and desirable option for JK owners that incorporates Rugged Ridge’s exclusive Elite Line styling, high-quality materials and premium finishes – elements selected to separate the Elite products from others currently found in the JK aftermarket.
Rugged Ridge’s new Elite Turn Signal Guards, Elite Fog Light Guards and Elite Side Marker Light Guards all feature full die-cast aluminum construction, along with a premium black powder coated finish, chosen for its exceptional durability and appearance.
The new Elite Light Guards are designed with the same distinctive styling as the Elite Headlight Guards for a complete lighting protection package that delivers a cohesive appearance.
The Rugged Ridge® Elite Line of exterior accessories for Wrangler JK and JKU models are backed by an industry-leading five-year limited warranty and are available online and through select Jeep and off- road accessories retailers nationwide.
For more information about the Elite Line of products, Rugged Ridge’s complete line of high-quality Jeep and off-road parts or to find an authorized retailer, please contact Rugged Ridge at 770-614- 6101 or visit www.RuggedRidge.com
|11231.26||Elite Side Marker Guard; 07-17 Jeep Wrangler JK/JKU||$33.99|
|11231.27||Elite Side Marker Guard; 07-17 Jeep Wrangler JK/JKU||$33.99|
|11231.28||Elite Fog Light Guard; 07-17 Jeep Wrangler JK/JKU||$33.99|
An awful lot can happen in the better part of a century. While we’ve been told over and over again that Rome wasn’t built in a day, nobody ever gives any details about how long it actually did take to build it. Some rumors are that it has never even been built entirely, not even once, before somebody goes and tears it up and the infuriated Romans must begin again. Rather than focus on the proven fact that you can’t accomplish anything too terribly remarkable in just one day, let’s focus instead on what Jeep has managed to do in the under-appreciated art of equipping Jeeps to provide support to our collective posteriors.
When the first Jeeps rolled off a troop carrier and onto sandy foreign soil in the early 1940’s, passenger seating was nowhere near the top of the totem pole in terms of importance. This fact can be no more obvious than when you sit in an early war-era Jeep. Just getting in is punishing enough before you ever hit the seat. In fact, the outrageous weight restrictions imposed by the military meant that the drivers could very well be supplied with only an over-turned milk crate on which to position themselves. Thankfully, in the interest of overall operator safety, a lightweight seat frame was fashioned out of 1-inch diameter steel tubing, barely 18 inches in width, and bridged from side to side with a sheet of flat steel on which the task of supporting the drivers back and buttocks fell. This was a crude design and not exactly a drastic improvement in comfort over the supposed milk crate, but at least this unruly frame was indeed a seat and could be bolted firmly to the floor. Fitting these primitive seat frames with heavy canvas cushions is about the only thing that separates them from being mistaken for a medieval torture device. I have heard on several occasions that the early MB’s seat cushions could be used as a flotation device, in the event that things go terribly wrong during an unscripted beach landing. Seems like a grand notion until you note that the seat cushions are screwed to the seat frame! Not only do I have to muster the endurance to tread ocean water in frigid temperatures, only to play an impromptu game of high stakes tug-o-war with my canvas life-preserver as it slowly goes down with the ship. Such a prospect does seem to lend heavily to the strong sense of adventure commonly found in Jeep owners.
Since that observation may be a little hard to digest, we’ll make only slight mention that the early Willys / Jeep seat frame was mounted directly over the vehicles primary fuel tank, so that any semblance of physical comfort could be accompanied by a repressed feeling of uneasiness that, as the bullets fly, you can rest easy knowing that a giant can of highly-flammable liquid is safe and secure directly underneath you. Your only hope lies in the possibility that you will be blown clear of the actual destruction.
The first evidence of any sort of civility in the seating found in Jeeps would coincide with the development of the early civilian Jeeps, or ‘CJ’s’ for short, which came along in the late 40’s. Not that they weren’t stricken with very similar unforgiving steel seat frames found in the MB; seats that were purely about fit & function with total disregard to the comfort of the seats occupant. The CJ was given a softer feel by means of a rugged, yet much more comfortable, seat cushion. A seat cushion ample enough in thickness to absorb most of the pounding the off-road suspension was prone to put out. Graduallly the drivers of Jeep CJs were being spared from the agonies of the severely harsh ride they had grown accustomed to. The days of feeling like you had just been paddled with a rowboat oar after an hour behind the wheel were largely behind us (pun intended).
As the CJ platform continued to develop through the 60’s and 70’s, car seat construction practices had progressed considerably, as well; the last CJ models, the CJ7 and CJ8, marked a rather significant period in terms of passenger comfort. Seats were now being designed with soft yet supportive foam that was suspended by springs rather than merely plastered to a rigid surface. The seats backs were becoming taller so as to provide greater support for the upper back and shoulders. These subtle improvements continued to find their way into production, each having positive influences on the overall experience of driving a Jeep. While still far away from what I would consider refined, Jeep had come a very long way in a relatively short timeframe and the backsides of Americans quietly rejoiced. Not only was the seating surface becoming a place where moderate comfort could be found, but the bucket seats were now being mounted to an elevated pedestal via a seat slider that would allow for some level of fore & aft adjustability in relation to the steering wheel. Not to even mention the fact that the 1970’s had brought on a much welcomed move for the Jeeps fuel tank, ostracizing it entirely from the passenger compartment. It seems kind of silly to wait until we’re no longer being shot at to make such a decision, but still a very generous engineering gesture, nonetheless.
The 87-95 Wrangler YJ and subsequent TJ models further advanced the Jeeps standings in terms of driver comfort. While seats still remained a manual operation in their means of adjustment, the seats received additional bolstering and added support to enhance overall comfort. The true pinnacle of seating luxury in the Jeeps history is obviously the most recently experienced- the 2017 Jeep Wrangler JK and JKU Unlimited. You would be hard-pressed to find a more plush seating apparatus furnished in any other go-anywhere off road vehicle. It’s almost hard to remember the Jeeps humble beginnings when you are wrapped in the opulence of high-back leather bucket seats, equipped with spine-numbing seat warmers and upholstered in some of the finest supple calf hides you have ever felt. These seats even have air bags on the outboard side that deploy in the event of a substantial side impact. And to think we used to have to sit on the gas tank…OIIIIIIIO
As a long-time Jeep enthusiast, I have never been a very staunch supporter of the theory that bigger is always better, particularly when it comes to Jeeps. I adore the short wheelbase, the inherent maneuverability and the ridiculously small turning radius; although I could get whole-heartedly behind the idea of adding a little more legroom in the front passenger area. Trying to deform my 6 foot 2-inch frame enough to climb over the sill, under the steering wheel and into the cab of an early Jeep probably resembles a really bad contortionist in a third-rate circus side show- you know, the kind where the bearded lady also mans the kissing booth?
If you were going to take an early World War II era Jeep and make it better…where would you start? Enter “The Invader”. The U.S. Coast Guards collective answer to transporting up to 10 soldiers on shore patrol maneuvers with speed and agility. Faster, you ask? I seriously doubt it. More spacious and comfortable seating for passengers? Well, when filled to its intended occupancy, it is clearly as cramped as its Ford GPW predecessor ever was. Nonetheless, watching a video of this rare 1944 “Super Jeep” launch itself over sand dunes is captivating. See for yourself! https://youtu.be/DVl8S-iHMIE
Although very little actual information exists on the Super Jeep “Invader”, most media accounts seem to agree that this was really just a standard military Jeep, likely a surplus unit left over from the war. Skilled fabricators, who were likely accustomed to more nautical ventures, adeptly cut the four-seater in half so that three additional feet of frame and sheet metal could be welded in. These must be three very miraculous feet of increased interior space, as they provide seating for six additional passengers. No mention is made that the drivetrain was modified in any way, other than the obvious lengthening of the rear driveshaft and the addition of a much broader and less-aggressive tire, similar to what you would see on an aircraft; allowing the vehicle to stay atop of the sand rather than dig itself in deep with its newfound girth.
I’m fairly certain, or maybe just hopeful, that the video footage of the fully-occupied ‘Super Jeep’ is somewhat dramatized to be more entertaining to the viewer and to flaunt its increased capacity. Certainly it would not spend quite so much time airborne in its normal daily usage. After all, by most accounts, each frame rail is in three pieces that have been fused together, possibly by no more than an eighteen year old welder’s apprentice whose flat feet kept him out of the infantry. I can’t help but wince a bit when I think of those poor servicemen arranged in a sideways fashion around the cargo area of that old Jeep as it is catapulted off the top of those sandy drifts. They probably don’t remember any questions about being claustrophobic on the medical screening when they first enlisted. How they must have cherished every less-than-graceful landing as the 1-inch steel pipe, mounted to the top of the tub rail as a method of passenger containment, pummels them across the lower back, about kidney high. While such a stunt in a normal Jeep might have you knocking your front teeth out with your knees, this ‘Super Jeep’ seems more intent to punish your spine in such a scenario.
Regardless of how perverse the idea of converting a perfectly acceptable Jeep into a highly specialized land yacht may seem, especially one capable of causing painful disfigurement, I would still jump at the opportunity to take one for a spin with nine of my dearest friends. There have been numerous advances in the art of chiropractic over the past 70 years that we could even justify trying to put some light between us and the ground. Perfect posture is over-rated anyway. OlllllllO
Omix-ADA / Rugged Ridge just finished putting the wraps on their 2nd Annual Jeep Heritage Expo- a simple and unadulterated celebration of Jeeps past, present and future. While the show is new, only in its second year of existence, the event has grown steadily each year with over two hundred Jeeps migrating to our Suwanee, Georgia facilities to take part in the affair.
One truth that stands out boldly to me every time I attend a Jeep event like this is the true sense of kinship that is shared amongst Jeeps loyal following. It’s the heritage of the Jeep that sets it apart from other cars on the road; and the reason why a gathering of such is different from any other ‘car show’ on the planet. If you drive a Jeep, you have a key part in that heritage and the unique sense of unity that comes with Jeep ownership is your part of the inheritance to cherish.
As I stood at the main entrance of the Heritage Expo with the sun beating down on me relentlessly, I was rewarded in being able to greet Jeep after Jeep-load of enthusiasts as they arrived for the event. Some were locals and had driven for a relatively short time, while others had travelled for untold hours, from many states away, to participate. No matter the distance, visible smiles seemed to declare that it was clearly more than worth the distance covered. Some of the rigs were immaculate, having been detailed and cleaned to the nth degree. Other rides were splattered with mud reminiscent of some previous off-road jaunt, not necessarily recent, but one that finds a way to live on in the owner’s memory by keeping what traces remain for as long as he/she can- like the suntan that remains after a great beach vacation. You hang on to it as long as you possibly can. Each one of the Jeeps is carefully surveyed by the masses as they arrived and given an unstated measure of appreciation. Each one admired for their own merits, each comparable to the next as well as the ones before; all equal regardless of how they came dressed for the party.
This is not anywhere near my first car show, by any means. For as long as I can remember, I have always been into muscle cars, trucks or generally any mechanical contraption with more than one wheel as long as it serves to transport you at a speed greater than which I can walk…preferably something I can fiddle with. While the throngs of muscle car enthusiasts and the cars they relish are still near and somewhat dear to me, the level of exclusion that occurs inside their ranks always impugned any positives for me. The animosity that exists between the Ford guys and the contrasting Chevrolet faithful always seemed to undermine the hobby itself. Since when is a brightly-colored sticker of cartoon juvenile urinating on another car manufacturer’s logo a tool for building comradery? Can’t we just collectively appreciate a piece of automotive engineering that has been painstakingly restored by its owner to new condition without any regard if it is a Fiero or a Ferrari?
The Jeep community largely acknowledges the concept that a show truck has virtues just as commendable as an off-road capable trail rig. It’s not that one is superior to the other but rather that each person buys into the spirit of freedom, capability and adventure that the Jeep represents and adapts the Jeep to fit the lifestyle they prefer. We prefer to celebrate the entire bunch of them, In fact, you can walk into a Jeep dealership and buy a completely stock Jeep Wrangler JK and never modify a thing on it- it just doesn’t matter. You ARE instantly and entirely adopted into the Jeep family and you will be waved at whenever you pass another brother or sister. It’s truly revolutionary to experience and a large part of why we seek to preserve this long-standing heritage for future generations to enjoy.
If you want to find out more about the 2nd Annual Jeep Heritage Expo or see what all the excitement of the Jeep lifestyle is all about- check us out at www.RuggedRidge.com and we hope to see you and your Jeep at next year’s Jeep Heritage Expo in 2018! OlllllllO
Trek 8 Wheels for Renegade
Start customizing the look of your Renegade with Rugged Ridge’s Trek 8 Wheels. Made with aluminum alloy to be lightweight and a one piece design. The Rugged Ridge Trek 8 Aluminum wheel combines high-end looks of an aftermarket rim with a factory-quality fitment, all while exceeding strenuous SAE J2530 standards for safety.
|15307.02||TREK 8 Wheel, Black, Aluminum Wheel, 14-17 Renegade||$213.99|
Perforated Grille Inserts
Add a aggressive look to your Jeep with our Perforated Grille Inserts. Constructed of durable UV-treated space age plastic that resists fading, cracking, and warping for years of good looks, these Mesh Grille Inserts are molded for a precise custom fit and an easy installation with no drilling or tools required.
|Part Number||Description||Part Number|
|11306.31||Grille Inserts, Perforated, Black, 07-17 Jeep Wrangler JK||$69.99|
I believe that it is written, somewhere deep within the yellowed pages of an old Jeep owner’s manual, that you have not officially achieved full-fledged Jeep ownership status until you have been baptized into the Jeep church. Don’t get me wrong…despite the name this isn’t a religious ceremony of any sort. It doesn’t require a priest and is not likely to be followed by a reception, complete with little finger sandwiches, fruit punch or a cake. This ‘baptism’ is one of deep water, of pouring rain and probably of mud. Sure, it tends to be a messy ordeal but it always washes off and things dry out long before the memory ever fades.
I can’t even recall the first time it happened to me, or begin to count the number of times that followed. What I can easily recall is that some of the best times I’ve had in my Jeep have been when things are NOT going the way they should. I could go as far as to say, with reasonable certainty that I’ve been set up. Jeep made plenty of allowances in their design to allow for the unexpected and undesirable to happen. The roof is configured to come off the vehicle entirely, as well as the doors, which both seem pretty suspect to me. There are even plugs in the floor that, when removed, allow for water to drain out of the cab, although the diameter of the drain holes are much too small to keep up with the water flow demand so your ankles will usually remain completely submerged in a heavy downpour. It’s like Jeep knew what kind of trouble Jeep owners were likely to get into and they wanted to make sure we were equipped to handle it and make a full recovery.
My first ‘baptism’ was innocent enough. It was a sunny spring morning in Georgia and I opted to give my daily driver wheels the day off, choosing to enjoy a sun-soaked trek in to the office in the Jeep. The fresh aroma of budding trees triggered by winters end, accompanied by soft, cool breezes was just the right way in which to start your day and an even better way to end it. Mother nature, however, was hard at work in the background, enacting plans to make sure those blossoming trees had ample water- a plan she would put into full action about the time I began my homeward jaunt. As a steady stream of water trickled from my interior rearview mirror, as though a water faucet had been left on, it occurred to me that a bikini top was probably a well-chosen name for a product that basically guarantees that you are going to get wet. My thoughts then shifted to relative gravity of the situation that unfolded around me as my vehicles entire interior electrical system was being exposed to the one element of nature that it has the least in common with. All these years I spent avoiding the urge to use the hair dryer while lying in the bathtub were all for naught, as I was most certainly about to perish in a freak electrical fire.
The most redeeming part of the Jeep baptism is probably the impression it makes on those around you that get to witness the event. The look of complete and total pity expressed on the faces of onlookers as they watch you brave the torrential floods must be seen to be believed. A look that could only be outdone by the shock and dismay that their faces would reveal, if they only knew that you were having a blast! I recall on one occasion a fellow in a black luxury sport sedan who pulled up next to me in one such monsoon, partially rolled down his window and made a verbal gesture of his compassion for my plight. “Bad day to own a Jeep! Ain’t it?” he said, to which I replied “No… Thursdays are as good as any day.”
Of course, there is a flip-side to that coin. Every rose has its thorns; or at least that is the rumor I’ve heard relayed in a song. When it comes to having fun while in a Jeep, water is clearly the magical multiplier. Whether it’s a wide water crossing that runs up to your rocker panels, skirting a majestic waterfall on an isolated backwoods trail or adding equal sums of dirt and water together to make mud- the end result is always the same. Everything you do in a Jeep is “funner” when you add water, but be careful. When you are out wheeling and you add water, things can get really slick really fast! While I don’t mind an occasional struggle for traction, if your adventure has you on any sort of an incline, you will soon be unwillingly finding the shortest route down the mountain; bouncing off anything and everything that is in your path. While this still makes for vast amounts of fun, for those who value pretty painted sheet metal, this can be a real downer. For those Jeepers who are still sending the bank a monthly payment, it’s a downright unacceptable activity to use your Jeep to clear-cut forest land. For that reason, splashing through puddles is the recommended watersport until you have title in hand (with the top off, of course).
So if you’re out in your topless Jeep and the dark clouds seem to conspire to rain on your parade, don’t despair. It’s just part of your baptism. Sit back, breathe in the air and enjoy it. Most importantly, try not to look too crazy. It’s a Jeep Thing! OlllllllO
For as long as I can remember, I have taken a great amount of pleasure in driving around the country and looking for deserted automotive treasures, camouflaged by the overgrown landscape on which they reside. You see them, to some extent, everywhere you look, but it seems like the closer you are to the city, the newer the age of the dearly departed becomes. For me, there is not a strong personal attraction in reviving somebody’s old discarded pea-green Geo Prism, whose intrinsic value suddenly plummeted with the failure of a head gasket. It’s when you get away out in the rural areas that you begin to find those truly classic examples; those that served their owners well for the automotive equivalent of a lifetime, before they were literally “put out to pasture”. I spent quite a few years searching these out and taking Black & White photographs to capture my discoveries in their natural habitat. The character that these cars portrayed seemed to be better captured without the detail of color film. My desire was to be able to look back on these photos later; remembering where and when I saw them, and hopefully re-imagine some of the stories those rusted heaps might tell to me, if they could.
I believe that the car lover that hides deep inside a large number of us secretly longs to reclaim those forsaken lost relics; to pull them out from their earthen tombs and breathe new life into them. While the venture of doing such a thing is admirable and ultimately very costly, it’s important to realize that, to borrow a line from the American classic film, Cool Hand Luke, “Some men you just can’t reach”. There are times when the life you hope to recover is just too far gone. It’s at those times that you need to be able to identify this reality and NOT deny it. Are you dealing with a “Barn Find” or are you just buying an expensive chunk of yard art? There may be very little difference between them.
I tend to favor the term “barn find” because it, by nature of the name, insinuates that the vehicle was stored in a barn or, at very least, under some sort of cover. While this does not guarantee a cars structural integrity and hardly limits the likelihood of the interior now being home for a colony of rats with an appetite for seat cushions and electrical wiring, most barn owners would not likely designate precious space for something that they didn’t care about or hold some plans to repair in the future. If the old Jeep was seriously broke beyond repair, it would probably be repurposed as a flower bed out in the yard. However, once you put a car outside, exposed and unprotected from the elements, you can count on it returning to the ground from whence it came, in a painfully short period of time. While many of the components on a Jeep that are the most prone to rust from exposure are readily available and easily replaceable, one has to consider whether starting out with nothing might be a better option.
For an old vehicle to truly qualify to be considered a genuine ‘barn find’, the vehicle should only be corrupted by years of dirt, grime and passing of time; something that got put away some time ago for semi-safe keeping and not surrendered to the elements. Too often, one man’s barn find is, more accurately, just a basket case in which to pour large sums of money with little hope of ever recouping even a modest initial investment. The art of finding those that pass more easily as a treasure than trash and acquiring them for as cheap a price as possible is where a bargain finder shows his true mettle. Developing an emotional attachment to the subject is where many people lose sight of the primary objective and end up with a few apple crates full of rusty parts and no substantial premise on which to build. Don’t ask me how I know. In such cases, the buyers motivation should only be save the mechanical artifact from the edge of extinction for nothing more than the sheer satisfaction of it, as that is likely the only certain profit to be had; a profit that is exempt from taxes and only appreciates with time.
I’m reminded of a buddy of mine when I was growing up who, while everyone else was acquiring their first set of wheels, chose to take ownership of a certain Willys M38A1 that his grandfather had pulled from a lake or, more accurately, a South Georgia swamp. We spent several warm summer months scraping barnacles off that old crusty hull of a vehicle with putty knifes until our knuckles bled. The metal, thanks to the coating of mud, was remarkably well-preserved for its age. In spite of that, I remember slowly coming to the realization that this dream that we were chasing was running speedily in an opposite direction than where we were headed. That old Jeep, fortunately, hadn’t cost him a thing but the time and effort it took to try to resurrect it; and maybe a small fee for a scrapper to haul it off. It wasn’t my first project and certainly would not be my last.
So, regardless of where you find them or how much time and effort it takes to restore them, I cannot think of a more admirable or satisfying pursuit than tracking down one of these old vintage vehicles, in whatever barn they may hide, pluck them out from the grasp of decay and reviving what is left of their automotive spirit. You might even share the experience with a member of a younger generation so they can enjoy the same sense of fulfillment that such an undertaking brings. After all, it’s only the seeds you sow that multiply and not what you keep in the barn. OlllllllO
New Heavy-Duty Covers are Engineered for Superior Off-Road Protection
Alloy USA®, a leading manufacturer of performance drivetrain products, announced the release of its new line of Aluminum Differential Covers for the Dana 30, 35 and 44 differentials. Each cover is designed to help protect internal components from damage caused by contact with rocks and other off-road hazards as well as aid in dissipating damaging heat.
The new matte red powder coated Aluminum Differential Covers are constructed from A356-T6
cast aluminum for impact resistance. Additionally they feature a precision machined sealing surface, allowing gaskets or RTV sealant to be used for a leak-free seal.
Alloy USA Aluminum Differential Covers are engineered to provide an improved level of protection over factory stamped steel differential covers and add a stylish accent to any Jeep. The covers feature a magnetic drain plug for trouble-free maintenance and a specially designed dipstick bolt to help Jeep owners avoid issues from over- or under-filling their differentials.
Backed by Alloy USA’s five-year limited warranty the, Alloy USA Aluminum Differential Covers are available online and through select Jeep and off-road parts and accessories retailers nationwide with an MSRP of $114.99.
For more information about the new Alloy USA Aluminum Differential Covers or Alloy USA’s complete line of performance drive train products or to find an authorized retailer, please contact Alloy USA at 770-614-6101 or visit www.alloyusa.com
Everyone has likely heard the timeless quote “Look… up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superman!” It matters not whether you are young or old, rich or poor – EVERYONE loves a superhero. Interestingly, the one defining factor that allowed Superman to avoid being mistaken for just another common flying fowl or small passenger aircraft was always the outfit that he chose to wear. Certainly, no one else would be caught out soaring around the public skies, in plain view, dressed in little more than brightly colored briefs, a pair of Lycra tights and a cape. Clark Kent knew good and well that if you were going to save the world, you needed to dress the part. He needed to stand-out with colors so bold that no mere mortal would dare wear them in the broad light of day. Someone at Jeep must have been taking notes…
Flashback to 1972 – The Jeep CJ5 was selling like hotcakes after successfully surviving the transition from Kaiser to American Motors with its identity still firmly intact. The rest of the automotive world was still dazed from the tail end of the muscle car era: a time when the number of cubic inches your engine displaced was all that really mattered, so automakers proudly emblazoned it on your fender for all to see. But now cars were trending in an inverse direction, with engine size beginning to recede as fuel economy and emissions standards began to grow in importance. AMC Sales and Marketing thinkers saw this as a prime opportunity to give the consumers what they longed for- modest performance, touches of flashy chrome and wrap it all up in a color-coordinated paint and stripe packages that personified 70’s pop culture. And they called it Super Jeep.
The 1973 Jeep Super Jeep was NOT a car for the timid. In fact, little or nothing about this car was subtle or understated. The Super Jeep was available in a total of 6 paint colors, each a little bolder than the prior, and all accented with one of two stripe schemes to really set things off visually; delivering a massive dose of styling flash that can be equaled by nothing less than a sequin-covered body suit. All Jetset Blue Metallic and Champagne White CJ models received blue & red stripes while Butterscotch Gold, Daisy Yellow, Copper Tan Metallic and Fairway Green Metallic hues were all treated to orange & white striping that can only be described as being something snuck out the back-alley door of a retro pop art exhibit. A giant star adorns the side panel directly behind the door opening, reminiscent of the trusty shield wielded by Captain America in a vintage comic book. Suddenly you didn’t need to have 400 horses under the hood to be known as the baddest guy on the block.
Accentuating the daring paint jobs were a handful of appearance goodies that originated from well-outside the normal CJ fare like a curved chrome front bumper, two-tone vinyl seats in paint-matching tones and L78-15 whitewall tires mounted on white painted steel wheels. Much speculation exists that one of the motivating factors behind the “Super Jeep” was that the supply of aluminum alloy wheels used on the ever-popular Renegade had become scarce, causing Jeep to devise a plan to make people clamor for the simplicity of an over-abundant stock steel wheel. Sometimes giving the people what they want involves, to some extent, indoctrinating those people with what you think they want. After all, who ever said saving the world couldn’t be done in sensible shoes?
Whatever the reasoning behind such a limited production model as the ’73 Super Jeep, it seemingly disappeared just as quickly as it had appeared. It’s believed that only a few hundred were ever produced although no credible documentation is known to exist to support that claim. What is known quite certainly is that very few of these gems still exist and if you ever get an opportunity to see one firsthand, you really have to jump at the opportunity.
One opportunity to do just that would be found in the Omix-ADA Jeep Collection, which proudly possesses a fully-restored Super Jeep that truly personifies an automotive super hero. You can check it out at http://www.jeepcollection.com/ or see it in person at the 2nd Annual Jeep Heritage Expo on June 3, 2017. Further details on the show can be found at http://www.ruggedridge.com/event OlllllllO
It seems as though everyone has at least one sordid skeleton hiding in the dark corners of their closet; something that they would happily volunteer to just forget about; just go on living like it never happened to begin with. Take the Detroit Lions, for example, who went through their entire 2008 NFL season without winning a single game! They managed to chalk up a disgraceful 0-16 record!! To put that into some perspective, I never even got out of my recliner the entire season and I still experienced considerably less humiliation than they; just imagine if I had exerted some actual effort! Oh, the possibilities!! You might even consider The Beatles, who are largely considered to be one of the most successful music acts on record; surely when they hear their zany refrain “Yellow Submarine”, they try and pass it off as some Jethro Tull tune or maybe some gibberish from those mop-heads in The Monkees. Unfortunately, our less-than-perfect moments seem to haunt us in our memories more deeply than our successes. When it comes to Jeeps that one less-than-ideal masterpiece firmly founded in history is likely the Wrangler YJ.
I feel the need to be completely honest with you right up front and disclose that I currently own, enjoy and regularly drive a lifted YJ – a fact that has landed me on the receiving end of more than my fair share of torment over the years, all well-intended of course. They always seem to ease up when I start crying. Countless times I have heard “Real Jeeps don’t have square headlights” as an attempt to negate the premise that any YJ even deserves to be called a Jeep at all. While basic geometry has clearly defined for all of us the differences between a square and a rectangle, I will agree that the documented history of Jeep is certainly chocked- full of round headlights, always mounted nicely into slotted grilles; leading one to believe that they are both, indeed, fundamental elements of any real Jeep. In the half-century previous to the newly designed YJ, you would be hard-pressed to find any vehicles that didn’t have round headlights. It never was exclusively a “Jeep Thing” but, somehow, now defines it? The fact that Jeep designers chose to use rectangular headlight in the redefined YJ can be lent to the fact that they were purposely striving to make a sportier, more road-friendly Jeep that would easily appeal to a wider market than ever before. The U.S. automakers had largely switched to rectangular lights by the late 1970’s, based on their increased overall efficiency and lower cost to produce. This was deemed an acceptable evolution in exterior design and, once implemented, would undoubtedly guarantee that the YJ would receive some level of preferential negative treatment from the Jeep community for decades to come. So, out with the round and in with the squa-err, ….rectangles!
Once you got past the desecration that was the front grille and rectangular headlights, the new Jeep Wrangler was really a nice progression, in terms of driver ergonomics and comfort. While the CJ had always been outfitted with a dashboard that resembled a massive roadside billboard with oddly-placed gauge holes, the YJ dash was somewhat contoured, tapered and much more carlike; with recesses and varying depths that made it seem less an offspring of its purely utilitarian forefathers. The front bucket seats were appreciably more supportive than their predecessors had been. The folding rear bench, however, maintained perfectly it’s limited level of passenger comfort while solidifying its dual purpose design; allowing it to be used as a child torture device on any road trip lasting longer than a handful of minutes. If you are going to do it wrong, do so without compromise.
Underneath that new controversial sheet metal, the YJ stuck with the tried & true – a 2.5 liter 4-banger and 4.2-liter straight-six engines, dropping the latter for a potent 4.0 liter, in late 1990, that supplied Wrangler owners with a smile-inducing 180 horsepower, aided by a remarkably better fuel injection system. Power plants were nestled inside a frame structure that was virtually identical to that of the previous CJ7, although it was given a slightly stronger box section and front shock towers. The YJ continued, as well, with the age-old leaf sprung suspension, however, spring packs were widened while sway and track bars added in an all-out effort to improve the Wranglers on-road mannerisms without compromising its off-road integrity. While the YJ is a bit more docile on the highway than the typical CJ it replaced, it seemed to serve undeniable proof that the limits of the leaf spring suspension would always fall short in delivering a luxury car ride in, what was, essentially, a truck.
I can only imagine what kind of public reception would have been offered if the later TJ, released in 1997, would have been offered as the replacement for the CJ. Would its peculiar coil spring suspension and lavish interior been too much for people to handle, if not for the YJ having made such significant strides in regards to change. We may have never gotten to know the beauty of unadulterated off-road articulation that the Wrangler TJ and JK would eventually bring us for our enjoyment. If only we knew then that we would eventually get our glorious round headlights back…we just had to endure that awkward phase first. You know, that time of your life that you would just as soon forget? A time when the difference between a square and a rectangle was not so clear?
So when you see that YJ out wheeling down the road, be sure to give them a wave. They are as much a part of the Jeep family as any other. Sure, they weren’t the Homecoming Queen, and more than likely didn’t even make the homecoming court, but they were at the dance; in the corner looking a little more awkward than everyone else but present, nonetheless. OlllllllO