Goin’ With Your Gut

It’s been a more than a year that the media has spent speculating about the new 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL. Another few months that we’ve been treated to a virtual deluge of actual coverage, reviews and photographs of the new model since it’s unveiling. Since it might be a few months until the new JL becomes a common sight around town, this coverage has helped us develop a fairly strong first impression based on what we’ve seen. Or is it more of a pre-disposition?

Working for a company that makes part for Jeeps, we’ve had several JL’s on order for quite a while now. We’ve waited earnestly, accepted delay after added delay and grown rather impatient to finally accept delivery of our first JL- a startling 2018 Unlimited Rubicon in white.

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To be honest with you, the initial hours that passed after the arrival of our newest Jeep kinda resembled that of a crate full of supplies being dropped by airplane into the territory of some uncivilized native tribe. There was instant chaos, barely enough room to stand around the Jeep’s perimeter as every sort of intrigued employee carefully evaluated seating amenities and interior trim all while design engineers systematically deconstructed every mechanical assembly they could access. Measuring dimensions and gauging hardware specs with wild abandon and I’m not even sure the factory paint was dry yet.

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For those reasons, I held the new JL at a reasonable distance, ignoring my obvious curiosity until the furor recedes; choosing rather to absorb what others initial observations were about what they had seen and sensed. Not adopting those opinions as my own but rather making them my “foster opinions” until that day that I would become a worthy of experiencing the JL for myself and creating my own opinions, at which time I would then leave my old foster opinions off at the end of an old country dirt road in hopes of them not finding their way home again.

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For the large part, everyone around spoke very highly of the newest Wrangler. Testifying to its greatly refined interior, improved dash layout and tasteful red accent stitched upholstery were common remarks. The exterior held some obvious changes but nothing groundbreaking. I was taken back a little by someone who noted that the new JL was not a completely new design- not far enough removed visually from the prior JK’s appearance. While I can see some merit in this viewpoint, I can say that choosing to start over from scratch when revamping a successful platform would likely be an unwise choice for an automotive designer to make. It goes back to the old saying “dance with the one that brung ya” that seems to make the most sense. Wiping the slate clean of all the facts, figures and framework that got you to where you are today would likely bolster your failure, certainly in the eyes of those you hope to satisfy the most.

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Once the initial peak of enthusiasm had passed, I began seeking an opportunity to get behind the leather-wrapped wheel and take our new JL for a test drive. At each inquiry, the Jeep was perpetually involved in some cumbersome short-term relationship with some random guy with an Engineering degree and wandering hands. Parts of her would be strewn across the shop floor as she was endlessly measured and made the subject of countless test-fitments. All of which impeded my desire to take her out for a spin myself; a chance to build an opinion all my own and not tainted by others prejudices. And so I waited.

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The amount of pre-release pandemonium that surrounded the new JL was unlike anything we’ve seen before. Not just for Jeep but for most any vehicle. The fact that the JL is an extensively-re-imagined successor to an off-road icon that has been around for the better part of a century meant that everyone in the automotive community seemed to be watching. Watching. And judging. In the first few weeks since release, Jeep enthusiasts have taken the new JL on everything from test drives and off-road excursions to cross-country treks, evaluating every facet of the Jeeps design in real world scenarios; letting us all in on their conclusions and sparing no details. Prospective buyers of the new JL have more carnal knowledge of what they’re in for than any other new car can boast. We all know how great knowledge is and how limited it can be until it is paired with experience.

One particular outlet took a brand new Wrangler JL 4-door and converted it into a stretched wheelbase custom 2-door riding on 42” tall tires in a ridiculously cool off-road build. While such a build does not provide as much insight into the stock JL’s credentials, it does speak very highly as to the strength of the foundation on which they built off of. Much like the prior JK served as the base for just about anything the enthusiast could dream up- the new JL delivers the same in spades.

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Photo Courtesy of Dynatrac

As of today, I can proudly declare that have been able to drive our new JL for a grand total of 5.6 miles and have attained a top speed of 51 mph. While this is neither noteworthy or grounds for forming a very detailed opinion, I can tell you that the road manners of the new JL are much improved over any JK I have ever driven and the driving experience, however short, was far superior in comparison. Heck, I think the JL might have even met my expectations which were pretty lofty. The 3.6 liter Pentastar power plant in our Rubicon seemed to provide a much smoother transfer of power than on the previous platforms. I can’t wait to experience the long-awaited 2.0 I-4 turbo diesel and accompanying 8-speed automatic on a muddy trail somewhere and as soon as it is available…hopefully more than 6 miles away. We can dream, can’t we?  OlllllllO

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Rugged Ridge releases new Adjustable Rear Track Bar and Relocation Bracket for 2007-2018 Wrangler JK

Two Options Offered to Maintain Differential Alignment in Lifted Jeeps

Suwanee, Ga. (February 6, 2018) – Rugged Ridge®, a leading manufacturer of high-quality Jeep®, truck and off-road parts and accessories, today announced the release of both a new Adjustable Rear Track Bar as well as a Rear Track Bar Relocation Bracket for 2007-2018 Jeep Wrangler JK / JKU models.

Engineered to effectively address issues with differential alignment in vehicles with suspension lifts installed, the Rugged Ridge Adjustable Rear Track Bar gives JK enthusiasts the ability to adjust the rear track bar length to compensate for suspension lifts ranging from two and a half to five inches.

Constructed of high strength forged steel to stand up to the rigors of off-road use, each Adjustable Track Bar features a durable black powder coated finish and urethane bushings for improved control and stability on the road with an extremely robust adjustment sleeve for greater versatility.

Rugged Ridge Rear Track Bar Relocation Bracket restores proper track bar positioning on lifted JK Wranglers. Photo Credit: Rugged Ridge

Rugged Ridge Rear Track Bar Relocation Bracket restores proper track bar positioning on lifted JK Wranglers.
Photo Credit: Rugged Ridge

Additionally, Rugged Ridge has released a Rear Track Bar Relocation Bracket designed to accurately reposition the factory JK rear track bar to help restore proper wheel tracking on lifted JK Wranglers. Built from four-millimeter-thick plate steel and beautifully powdercoated to resist corrosion, each bracket is precision formed for ease of install on the 2007-2018 Wrangler JK with two positions for a tailored fitment.

The Rugged Ridge Adjustable Rear Track Bar and Rear Track Bar Relocation Bracket are backed by Rugged Ridge’s industry-leading five-year limited warranty and are available online and through select Jeep and off-road parts and accessories retailers.

For more information about Rugged Ridge Adjustable Track Bar and Bracket, or its complete line of high-quality Jeep and off-road products, or to find an approved retailer, please contact Rugged Ridge at 770-614-6101 or visit www.RuggedRidge.com.

Part Number Description MSRP
18303.81 Rear Track Bar Relocation Bracket, 07-18 Wrangler JK $106.99
18305.06 Rear, Track Bar, Adjustable, 07-18 JK/JKU $249.99

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

Rugged Ridge announces new 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL exterior accessories

Stylish Aluminum Wheels and Spartacus Bumper Top the List of Newly Available Accents for the 2018 Jeep Wrangler

Suwanee, Ga. (February XX, 2018) – Rugged Ridge®, a leading manufacturer of high-quality Jeep®, truck and off-road parts and accessories, today announced the release of several new products for fitment on the all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL models.

The Rugged Ridge® SpartacusTM Front Bumper patented design offers the most advanced styling on the market. Utilizing a state-of-the-art steel stamping process creates a bumper that is lighter than most aftermarket steel bumpers. The bumper also allows the owner to retain the factory fog lights and tow hooks for a clean look and seamless installation.

Rugged Ridge Spartacus Front Bumper, XHD Aluminum Hood Catches and massive 20 x 9” Drakon Wheels give the new ’18 Wrangler JL an updated appearance. Photo Credit: Rugged Ridge

Rugged Ridge Spartacus Front Bumper, XHD Aluminum Hood Catches and massive 20 x 9” Drakon Wheels give the new ’18 Wrangler JL an updated appearance.
Photo Credit: Rugged Ridge

The XHD Aluminum Hood Catches are one of the simplest upgrades available for the new Wrangler JL. Constructed from high-quality cast aluminum and engineered with an adjustable torsion rod for an exact fit on every Jeep. The latches add muscular accents and provide a functional upgrade over the factory latches. They are now available in Black, Silver or Textured Black powder coat finishes.

Rugged Ridge’s 17” x 9” Jesse Spade Wheels hub-centric design delivers performance-oriented styling with a factory fitment. The wheels features a hub-centric design and an exclusive valve stem pocket that protects from potential off-road damage. Available in Black Satin and Gun Metal Satin finishes to ensure these wheels work with any color scheme.

The Rugged Ridge 20” x 9” Drakon Wheel is crafted for those who desire the improved appearance and performance benefits achieved by using plus-size wheel packages. Built from lightweight cast aluminum alloy and designed with a unique beveled spoke face with oval recesses gives the Drakon wheel a stunning visual appeal. Also available in Black Satin and Gun Metal Satin finishes.

Last but not least, the Elite Antenna Base allows JL owners to modernize the appearance of one of the most overlooked parts of their Jeep. Featuring high-quality cast aluminum construction and a distinctive gear-like design for a truly rugged look. Available in either black or red powder coat finishes, or a raw aluminum paintable finish.

Rugged Ridge’s exterior accessories for Wrangler JL 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 line of accessories for the Wrangler JL or any of Rugged Ridge’s complete line of high-quality Jeep and off-road parts, or to find and authorized retailer, please contact Rugged Ridge at 770-614-6101 or visit www.RuggedRidge.com.

Part Number Description MSRP
11544.21 Spartacus Front Bumper, Black, 2018 Wranlger JL $933.99
11210.21 Hood Catches, Black, 2018 Wrangler JL $133.99
11210.27 Hood Catches, Textured Black, 2018 Wrangler JL $133.99
11116.21 Hood Catches, Silver, 2018 Wrangler JL $133.99
15303.90 Jesse Spade Wheel, 17×9, Black Satin, JK/JL $399.99
15303.92 Jesse Spade Wheel, 17×9, Satin Gun Metal, JK/JL $399.99
15304.01 Drakon Wheel, 20×9, Black Satin, 07-18 Wrangler JK/JL $586.99
15304.30 Drakon Wheel, 20×9, Gun Metal, 07-18 Wrangler JK/JL $586.99
17212.13 Elite Antenna Base, Black, 07/18 Wrangler JK/JL $26.99
17212.14 Elite Antenna Base, Red, 07/18 Wrangler JK/JL $26.99
17212.15 Elite Antenna Base, Raw, 07/18 Wrangler JK/JL $26.99

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

“A Place for Everything & Everything in its Place”

1It sounds so simple, almost poetic. The most brilliant minds of our time have reiterated its importance and yet I find myself in seemingly constant denial of its very existence. I’m talking about organization. It’s the one and only thing that can transform you into the star of your own weekly program on the DIY Channel, instead of the unwilling focus of an episode of Hoarders. Yet I hopelessly still continue down life’s road with a cargo area brimming full with all of “necessities” that a Jeeper might find sudden need for. I believe it was Albert Einstein who once stated “Out of clutter, find simplicity”. Since he’s got me beat by more than a handful of IQ points, I’ll take those wise words, somewhat reluctantly, and try to apply them to my own personal situation in hopes of finding a better way.

In all honesty, my own organizational misfortune began innocently enough. A few years back, while preparing for a weekend wheeling trip, I decided that removing the rear jump seat in my YJ would free up some valuable interior room and make for much easier packing. Both of my sons had grown to the point where climbing into the back seat for a wheeling trip had become both physically impossible and socially unacceptable at the very same time. The vacated expanse of newfound cargo area was undeniably enticing- much like a day-old chocolate éclair on the kitchen counter when you’re expecting company. Sure, you could leave it out there but one single pastry could never satisfy more than one person. So you find yourself cramming the entire treat into your mouth hurriedly just as the doorbell rings. The back of my Wrangler quickly became home to every sort of disaster preparedness gear imaginable. Just like that, it had begun. Such catastrophes always start somewhere.

2Before concluding that my Jeep is a rolling refuse bin, I want to state that I really only carry the actual bare necessities. Although, when you drive an older Jeep, like me, that list of essentials can be considerable. There are the mandatory tool kit- pliers, screwdrivers, sockets, and wrenches, in both standard and metric sizes based on Chrysler’s inability to commit to any set standard (combined with my own mechanical inability to do the same). Then there is the recovery gear, a virtual boat-load of straps, ropes, shackles, pulleys and gear to snatch ones four-wheeled soul from the grips of vehicular misfortune. Add to that the horde of specialty tools that seem to gain paramount importance when you’re broken down on the trail and losing daylight. Work lights, fuel pressure gauge, a trusty voltmeter, well-stocked electrical kit, a selection of clamps and hoses, u-joints, spare wire, etc. I failed to mention the plastic milk crate stocked with an array of motor oils, brake fluid, tranny fluid, penetrating oil and other essential potions.

With all the evidence provided above, I dare say that the only cargo I have in tow that is not absolutely vital to my vehicles overall preparedness is a small 8” x 10” metal storage case that serves as transport for my vast music collection that I have loaded on tiny and convenient flash drives. While this could be deemed by many as non-essential payload, the fact that I can carry the contents of hundreds of CD’s in the space of a tissue box stands as proof positive that I am not beyond help. And who doesn’t like some tunes as accompaniment for the droning of the mud terrains? So while the age-old adage ‘Less Is More’ may be true, I am decidedly at the point where any less would likely not be enough.

When it comes to organizing the rear cargo area of your Jeep, there are some extremely innovative and cool products on the market today that can help convert your version of chaos into a neat, orderly collection of tools and supplies that are easily accessible and always right where you left them. Drawers that glide smoothly on tracks with roller bearing slides; more than ample to house all your hand tools and bottles of essential fluids seems almost too good to be true. It could take some time to get used to such civility though, when you are accustomed to the other extreme. I remember the time that my can of PB Blaster got tipped over and its spray nozzle became depressed by a tumbling gear bag. As the cans smelly contents saturated my Spice interior carpeting, the noise created had me searching feverishly under the seats for the hissing serpent that had apparently become unwillingly trapped inside my Jeep; not thoroughly convinced that I really wanted to find it. I still don’t know where the lid to the can went.

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While solutions to the problem of cargo organization can be solved easily and in a relative hurry with a little online shopping at any number of retailers, the truth is that many of us choose to use our precious little funds for more imperative endeavors like lift kits, remote reservoir off-road shocks and providing meals to our offspring. With just a little money and some creativity, you can come to some pretty impressive storage solutions by scouring the aisles of your local home improvement superstore. Plastic caddies, multi-level shelves, tie downs and storage compartments can be cleverly combined to suit any need. Whether you prefer to trail ride, hunt, fly fish or just love to drive into the mountains to crash your expensive drone into really tall hardwoods, your cargo compartment can cater to your specific needs.

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Whatever cargo area organizer you devise, remember to make sure that you keep your own safety at the forefront of the design. Everything needs to be securely mounted, contained and restrained. In the event of a vehicle rollover, you don’t want a 30 pound box of wrenches tumbling around inside your Jeeps cab, much less any massive plywood tumbleweed. Take the time to anchor your creation to the floor and secure all of its contents well.

If you find the limited confines of your Jeeps interior to be too limited for the kind of organization chaos you have going on, you might consider a more sizable investment is in order. An overlanding-style trailer can be equipped to serve as a base station or kitchenette on camping excursions, a portable hunting stand or any variation in between. All with the convenient portability of going anywhere your Jeep can pull it. Not to mention, they look really cool and help to free-up that invaluable interior space you thought you would never see again.

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Admittedly, I have not yet fully committed myself to the task of organizing my cargo area… yet. But I am wholly convinced that I have a problem, which is often considered the first step in finding true healing. Maybe as a resolution for the upcoming New Year, I can come to terms with a plan to organize my gear and bring some much-needed harmony to my discord. If for no other reason, it would be nice to find the lid to my PB Blaster. OlllllllO

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Rugged Ridge announces the addition of new Elite Ballistic Heated Seat Covers for 2007-2018 Wrangler JK

Durable Tactical-Styled Seat Covers Equipped for Cold Weather Comfort

Suwanee, Ga. ( January 23, 2018 ) – Rugged Ridge®, a leading manufacturer of high-quality Jeep®, truck and off-road accessories, today announced the addition of new Elite Ballistic Heated Seat Covers for 2007-2018 Jeep Wrangler JK / JKU models.

Constructed of a resilient 1,200 denier polyester material in a tough ballistic weave, the Rugged Ridge Elite Ballistic Heated Seat Covers are fitted internally with dual-zone heating elements located in the seat bottom and backrest to provide welcome warmth on chilly winter mornings.

Each Elite Ballistic Heated Seat Cover is engineered to deliver unparalleled longevity and protection. Designed specifically for 2007-2018 Wrangler JK, the seat covers install easily and fit securely over the factory seats. A simple two-wire installation is made possible by three position control switches built into the seat covers, so cutting or mounting switches onto the dashboard is not required.

Rugged Ridge’s Elite Ballistic Heated Seat Covers are backed by an industry-leading five-year limited warranty and are available online from select Jeep and off-road parts and accessories retailers nationwide with an MSRP of $439.99.
For more information about the Elite Ballistic Heated Seat Covers and Rugged Ridge’s complete line of high-quality Jeep and off-road products, or to find an authorized retailer, please contact Rugged Ridge at 770-614-6101 or visit www.RuggedRidge.com.

Part Number Description MSRP
Elite Ballistic Heated Seat Covers, Front, 07-10 JK $439.99
Elite Ballistic Heated Seat Covers, Front, 11-17 JK $439.99

Well, He Clearly Has His Fathers Eyes but Where’d He Get Those Hips?

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Take one look at any Jeep CJ5 and it’s pretty easy to see from whence it came. With those bug-eyed headlights straddling that stately slotted grille, the CJ5’s front fascia has become as recognizable as any in all of autodom. What about some of the other oddly distinct characteristics of the CJ5? The ones you may have glanced at before and wondered “What?’.  There are more than a couple irregularities about the CJ5’s appearance that beg for explanation; at the very least, it’s a topic that makes for some interesting chitchat when idle attempts at conversations about the weather fall short.

 

The Willys CJ5 was introduced in 1955 and was most notably remembered as the first civilian Jeep to have the softer, rounded fenders- a stylish departure from the flat-fendered form of its forefathers. Much like the CJs of the previous decade, the CJ5 was a direct offspring of a military model, the M38-A1. Produced by Willys beginning in 1952, the M38-A1 is the explicit template for which the CJ5 owes the majority of its most prominent character traits. And what a template it proved to be, launching the CJ5 to a historic near thirty-year production run with no significant changes- a boast that no other brand or badge can profess.

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One particular attribute of the M38-A1 that was passed on to the CJ5 was the odd V-shaped notches that extend downward from the upper body crease just behind the rear wheel arches. While the earlier Jeep models had entirely flat bedsides, the M38-A1 utilized a contoured bedside which gave the side panel more rigidity. The indentions were made to the side panels to allow for fitment of older style top bow assemblies that have pivots mounted outside of the tub rails.

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While the CJ5 had a soft top frame mounted inboard of the tub rails, it maintained the tub notches until the 1976-77 production era, when the price for retooling was more easily justified in the interest of maintaining parity with the newer CJ7 models. By this time, untold thousands of CJ5s were already on the roads, all blessed with a factory birthmark giving a secretive hat-tip to its military lineage.

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Another styling que that can be directly linked to the CJ5’s militray ancestors is the often-seen and seldom understood passenger side hood scallop. While it’s existence is solely attributed to the need for an intake snorkel on military models, the fact that it remained a fixture on regular production CJ5’s until the mid-60’s is a bit surprising. The M38-A1 was fitted with special waterproof ignition components that made the possibility of fording a water crossing a reality while adding a snorkel to a stock CJ5 with its antiquated ingnition system would have rendered a snorkel utterly useless.

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Directly behind the hood on the same passenger side, the CJ5 was fitted with a rather unsigthly rectangular cover scabbed to the top of the cowl. While many observers have speculated that this was some sort of air intake or maybe a thermal cooler compartment for toting a cold six-pack and some baloney sandwiches, the truth is much less novel. The Willys M38-A1 was equipped with a 24 volt electrical system comprised of two lead and acid type batteries hooked in series to both meet NATO standards and support the considerable power load of the military’s two-way communications equipment. This required a stable and spacious area for battery mounting and the cowl fit the bill. Since early CJ5’s were given a more mundane 6 or 12 volt electrical system, the battery was moved to an underhood tray and the compartment door was welded closed, although it maintained it’s place on the cowl as an object of  speculation until 1966.

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The driver’s side was by no means left out of the mix either. A small notch could be seen in the gap between the hood and fender designed for routing of the electrical wiring for the blackout lights utilized by the military. Despite the civilian version never coming with any such battle-oriented equipment, the accommodations for it were included on the CJ5 in the same fashion as the snorkel cutouts, although not nearly as conspicuous in appearance.

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Early CJ5’s were fitted with a fuel tank that was mounted underneath the driver’s seat and had a fill neck that routed through the side of the body tub directly behind the door opening. The tub was indented in this area to accept a fuel filler surround. In the late 1960’s, when government agencies began to express concern over the possible safety risks associated with hurling oneself down the road at 70 mph while perched atop a giant can of highly combustible fluid. The fuel tank was thus relocated to the rear of the vehicle, between the frame rails and away from our flammable fannies. The indentation in the body tub that marked the tanks designed access point remained however, possibly a reminder of where only a buffoon would choose to keep their gas.

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While the CJ5 underwent a number of minor changes in its twenty-nine year run, including a lengthening of the hood and fenders in 1972 to accommodate a lengthier engine assembly, the basic CJ5 platform carried on these attributes for a good many years, despite their total lack of necessity to civilian consumers. I, for one, think it’s pretty cool. The CJ5 is proud of its military roots and it wears that badge proudly. OlllllllO

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