Every year, about this time, our vehicles undergo a transition of tremendous proportions. After braving several consecutive months of frigid temperatures, we now find ourselves basking in the cool pleasantness that Spring always brings. While this seasonal shift seems to provide us with a much needed period of repose, it’s important that we shift our focus to the relentless summer heat that surely lies in our not-too-distant future. Taking the proper steps to insure that your Jeep is ready to deal with the inevitable onset of grueling temperatures is crucial to surviving the summer season unscathed. Choose to ignore the obvious threat on the horizon and your rig may just make this summer one you will occupy your every thought, but not in a good way like a beach vacation or a hammock under a shade tree. Here are an even handful of easy pointers to help you get prepared for some primetime Jeepin’ weather:
The most important element to keeping your vehicle running cool is….the cooling system! While this seems to be a bit of a ‘no-brainer’ statement, it bares being restated largely because the cooling system is often forgotten about unless the temp gauge tells you something is wrong or, worse yet, your radiator decides to evacuate the entire systems contents into a cloud of steam on the highway. Taking the time to drain the radiator and thoroughly flush the vehicles cooling system is a practice that should be observed religiously every 40,000 to 60,000 miles. If your vehicle is used heavily in off-road conditions, erring on the side of caution is definitely recommended.
While performing this maintenance, take the time to clean the radiator and A/C condenser cores with a garden hose and a soft scrub brush to remove any buildup of dirt, bug shrapnel and debris that may have formed inside the fins. Any improvement in the amount of air flow through the core will help with heat transfer later. It’s also important to note that any vehicle equipped with an automatic transmission will likely have an internal transmission cooler built into the radiator assembly.Properly maintaining the tranny with the proper ATF fluid levels and a clean filter will result in a cooler running transmission and will lessen the cooling burdens for your radiator.
After your system has been flushed out, make sure radiator is refilled to the manufacturers recommended capacity with a proper 50/50 mixture of coolant and distilled water to insure the best cooling performance. Never use only antifreeze/coolant or only water when you refill the system as they lack the stability to perform independently of each other in such a wide temperature range. Using tap water in the mixture is not advised as it is filled with minerals and contaminants that will calcify inside your engine and will undoubtedly damage your cooling system over time, causing inefficient operation and premature failure.
- Check the condition of your cooling system hoses for signs of wear and poor structural integrity. Be sure to check the entire length of the upper and lower radiator hose for cracks, abrasions or for noticeable swelling, as any of these could be a sign of a potential failure. It’s a good idea to squeeze the hose firmly in your hand while the engine is still warm. A hose that is in good physical condition will feel firm but never hard like a baseball bat. A hose that is in need of replacement will feel soft, spongy or like it is easily misshapen, particularly around bends in the hose. Any sign of these conditions should result in a replacement hose being installed before the need is escalated by a complete hose failure. Remember to perform the same sort of inspection on your vehicles heater hoses which are a smaller diameter and should enter the firewall in close proximity to each other on the passenger side of the engine.
- Part of your cooling systems effectiveness can be determined by the condition of your engines drive belts. A V-groove or ribbed serpentine belt that has become worn or stretched due to age may not do a sufficient job of driving a mechanical fan which will reduce the amount of air that is pulled through the radiator. A visual inspection of the engines belts for signs of excessive wear, as well as an observation that the belt is under adequate tension, can aid in a properly operating cooling system Any drive belt that is in less than ideal condition should be replaced immediately and not expected to continue to perform miracles at 3,000 rotations per minute.
- Mind your lubricants! Seeing as friction is as efficient at creating heat as it is at reducing efficiency, the task of reducing said friction can be a vital element to keeping a cool running engine. While utilizing a quality full synthetic oil will give you a more stable temperature range in the summer months, just making sure your engine is properly filled with good, clean motor oil that is properly filtered can make a noticeable difference in overall engine operating temperatures and can even help with your fuel economy. While you’re at it, a fresh air cleaner element can’t hurt and don’t forget to check the levels on transmissions, transfer cases and differentials, too! Less resistance makes your engines job of propelling you down the road a whole lot easier.
- Lastly, check all your tires for proper air pressure levels as well as inspect the tread for any signs of improper tread wear. While a flat tire won’t make your engine overheat, changing a flat tire in July on the side of crowded highway is the farthest thing from keeping cool. Summer heat can push rubber tires to their limits so making sure that they are up to the task can keep you safe and out of harm’s way. Tire pressure should be checked, if at all possible, before your trip as tire pressures will increase as the tire heats up on even a short trip in warm weather. Therefore, an under-inflated tire that has been driven on for any period of time may appear to be properly inflated.
While these tips are far from being a comprehensive maintenance regiment, they represent a concise and simple plan that you can implement to help guard your Jeep from the hazards that a long, hot summer can pose. Whether it be a new radiator, radiator hoses or just a new bikini top to keep the sun off your head, Omix-ADA / Rugged Ridge has the replacement parts and must-have accessories you need to keep your Jeep dream alive. Check us out at www.omix-ada.com and www.ruggedridge,com and we hope to see you out there rolling down the road and not parked on the side of it! OlllllllO
A Simple, Effective Solution for Keeping Cargo Inside and Harsh Sunlight Outside
Rugged Ridge®, a leading manufacturer of high-quality Jeep®, truck and off-road accessories, today announced the expansion of its line of Eclipse Sunshades for 2007-
2016 Jeep Wrangler JK to include a Cargo Barrier for both two and four-door models.
The new Rugged Ridge Cargo Barriers are designed to provide the feel of “open-air” driving while protecting the rear seat passengers from harsh sunlight and battering winds. It also serves as a barrier to prevent anything inside the Jeep from blowing out of the cab. Eclipse Cargo Barriers also offer a more secure option for any pets that accompany along for the ride.
Featuring a mesh construction with integrated bungee retaining cords, the Eclipse Cargo Barrier has three sections that install quickly and easily by securing to the sports bar tubing and tub rail. This allows for it to be installed or removed in minutes. The barrier can also be partially removed to gain access to the seating area, if necessary. Additionally, it can be left in place when a soft top is re-installed.
Rugged Ridge’s Eclipse Cargo Barriers are backed by an industry-leading five-year limited warranty and are available online and through select Jeep® and off-road part & accessories retailers nationwide with an MSRP starting at $106.99.
For more information about the Rear Cargo Barrier or 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.
If you talk to any random gathering of Jeep enthusiasts, you won’t find many who can’t testify for the off-road icons military roots; the Jeep was born out of necessity when the need for a combat-capable personnel carrier became a clear calling to join the fight for freedom and defend our country. It’s no wonder that the Jeep has such a loyal following. It’s when you mention more unfamiliar subjects like the Ford GPW and Bantam BRC that things get a little blurry. What, exactly, is a Bantam BRC??
The American Bantam Car Company was originally founded in the very heart of small town America, Butler, Pennsylvania, in 1929 as the American Austin Car Company and was later reorganized in 1936 as part of a bankruptcy ordeal that was plaguing the small sports car manufacturer. Despite having a small-scale design and manufacturing facility, Bantam was able to create the original pattern on which all other Jeeps would be based. In fact, if it weren’t for their meager facilities and a financial portfolio that was still unstable from the ripples of the Great Depression, Bantam would likely be a household name to this day, in company with the likes of Ford Motor Company and Coca-Cola; but it was not to be for Bantam. Unable to fulfill the high production demands placed by the military, production based on the prototypes of the Willys-Overland MA and the Ford GPW were maximized while the Bantam BRC (Bantam Reconnaissance Car) that had managed to best incorporate the militaries requirements into its design, was relegated to the status of ‘non-standard’ after only 2605 total units were built. Despite having been one of only three companies to submit a prototype for military use and developing what was arguably the superior design, the Bantam company was reduced to manufacturing trailers for the military until it was overtaken by American Rolling Mills in the mid 50’s. Existing Bantams that were already built and in service were shipped off to our allies in Britain and Russia as part of the Lend-Lease Act to aid in the war efforts; with them, went a giant part of the heart of tiny Butler, PA.
To fully appreciate the Bantam BRC, it helps to identify the little things that make it different. Some of the Bantams most distinguishing features are its recessed headlights that are set down into the top of the front fenders and its ten rounded grille slats; traits that clearly separate it from its Ford & Willys counterparts. While the production version of the BRC did away with the rounded fenders of the original prototype in favor of a more squared off design; capable of serving as a make-shift seat for some lucky soldier. It also opted for a body tub that donned square corners at the rear which likely presented obstacles in terms of the ease of assembly.
On the interior, Bantam managed to use a seat structure that was drastically less crude than its associates utilized. With small side bolsters to support the back and modest overall proportions, a normal-sized man could find himself with a relative degree of stability while negotiating rough terrain in the BRC, unlike the ‘lawn chair on a tilt-a-whirl’ seat that the adorned the Willys MB. The BRC’s dash was decorated with stylish oval gauges that seemed almost elegant for the occasion. Also, a throttle that was hand-controlled with the pull of a knob on the dash and, for good measure, a button on the floorboard to engage the electric starter just to deter any enemy goons who might try and commandeer the vehicle. It is rumored that sixty-two of the BRC-40’s that were produced were outfitted with an innovative four-wheel steering system that gave the BRC unparalleled maneuverability and, when compounded by the vehicles short 79-inch wheelbase, was likely too much to handle at any speed over a crawl.
With such a storied past and rich history, it’s not surprising to find out that the folks of Butler, Pennsylvania are as enthusiastic about the mighty Bantam today as they have ever been…or maybe ‘enthusiastic’ is not a strong enough word. That is the driving force behind the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival, a premier event that is held yearly to celebrate Butler, PA and its proud status as the birthplace of the first Jeep. In its seventh year of existence, this year’s event will be held June 9-11, 2017 and, as the event planners proudly proclaim “If you have a Jeep in your driveway, it needs to be here.” You can get all the details at their website at http://www.bantamjeepfestival.com/ and make plans now to be there. You will likely have the opportunity to see at least one bona fide part of our country’s history in all of its divine olive-drab glory. Makes the beach seem kinda boring… OlllllllO
One thing can be stated with a great amount of certainty – If you have driven a Jeep for any length of time in your lifetime; you are most likely aware of the constant impact this activity has on your five senses. Sure, there are the favorable ones like the SIGHTS you get the pleasure of experiencing. The beautifully colored light-soaked rides with the top off as the sun descends on the horizon or the gorgeous mountain views that you just couldn’t fully appreciate from any seat in your father’s Oldsmobile. Those images easiest to recall are the ones that are the most pleasing and make Jeep ownership the pleasure that it is.
The flip-side of that same coin are the sensory experiences that are largely less-pleasant. Like those that register with your sense of SMELL. The ever-present odor of oil burning off a hot manifold; something you would never have noticed if you had opted for a mode of transportation that features doors and maybe something that resembles a roof. The distinct scents that you are subjected to when Spring is blossoming and the air is thick with a bouquet of budding fruit trees and the aroma of full-blown floral pollination. I cannot fail to mention that you simply have not lived life fully until you find yourself cruising along a beautiful stretch of countryside only to find out, the hard way, that Farmer Ed has chosen today to clean out the ‘ol chicken coops. The only thing you can do is try your best to guard your sense of taste. As tears well-up in the corners of your eyes, breathe it in! This is what owning a Jeep is all about and this is part of your initiation.
Most diehard Jeepers abide by a ceremonial calendar, of sorts, when it comes to exposing their sense of TOUCH to the elements. We celebrate the annual day when the doors and roof finally come off in favor of a summer top or, better yet, no top at all. Depending on where they reside, this ‘prime’ Jeeping season can vary greatly from as little as a few months to full year-round toplessness (I don’t think that’s a real word, but it should be!) Even with the best of planning, anyone who drives a Jeep is going to, at some time, brave what is known as “Jeepers Summer”- a phenomenon where you set out for a beautiful, warm day of open-air driving in the Jeep, with a giant smile smeared across your face, only to have the sun set on the tail end of your day of frolicking and you find yourself in the midst of what can only be described as unseasonably cold weather. When you’re in a Jeep, it doesn’t have to actually be freezing. When you are in T-shirts and short pants, even 50 degree temperatures will have your knees knocking together as you tremble in a sniffling, huddled mass tucked behind the windshield. Suddenly, controlling the radio knobs becomes a painful process as you fumble with your fingers, frozen & numb from the cold. Pulling the neck of your shirt up over your ears and breathing as hot air as you can conjure into your shirt is one recommended means of survival if you find yourself in such a predicament.
The greatest sensory experience you will likely ever endure is the relentless sonic pummeling that occurs to your sense of SOUND while driving a Jeep. While certainly not as true with a brand new hardtop JK, Jeep owners have become accustomed to an intense level of noise that would likely drive non-Jeepers to insanities brink. Wind noise, creaks, rattles and clunking noises that should cause concern for your vehicles road-worthiness are written off as normal and virtually tuned out by the Jeep owner. This often comes to light when you have someone ride with you that is not so accustomed to these unique character traits of a Jeep and they respond after a few short minutes with questions like “Do you hear that?” or, more likely, “What is that friggin’ noise??” It’s a Jeep thing and they wouldn’t understand. To try and explain it to them would just be added noise.
One side effect of driving a Jeep, that I’ve noticed, is how the concept of making or receiving a cellphone call while in your vehicle is swiftly and permanently discarded. You’re actually three times more likely to get 20 miles to the gallon on your next fill-up than you are to successfully complete a phone call in a doorless Jeep. Even with my soft top on, I would take an enormous dose of divine intervention for the phones ringtone to be heard, much less be able to carry on anything that resembles an actual conversation and I’m certainly not going to sense the miniscule vibrating of the phone over the reverberation from the whirring mud terrains. We’ll just leave the Bluetooth phone calls while driving to the mainstream masses. Besides….who wants to be talking, mouth wide open, when they pass the chicken coops anyway? OlllllllO
LED Brake Light Ring
Add a unique flare to your Jeep with our LED Brake Light Ring. It enhances visibility while your on the road while adding a cool factor with the torch-red LED’s. Designed to work with various rim diameters from 15 to 20-inches on Jeep CJ / YJ / TJ and JK models having either a 5 lug bolt patterns with 4.5, 5 or 5.5” spacing. Made with waterproof connectors to withstand the elements for consistent all-weather performance.
|11585.04||Accessory Brake Light LED Ring||$93.99|
Trek5 Aluminum Hub-Centric Wheel
Switch up the look of your 2014-2017 Jeep Renegade with our Trek5 Wheels. Made with aluminum alloy to be light weight and a one piece construction merge for a flawless design. The rims hub-centric design delivers a factory- quality tment that meets or exceeds all SAE J2530 standards for safety. (Includes center cap)
|15307.01||5 Spoke, Black, Aluminum Wheel, 14-17 Jeep Renegade BU||$213.99|
“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right. “-Henry Ford
When three American automakers answered the plea of the U.S. Motor Transport Board in July of 1941 to submit prototypes for a new military multi-purpose transport vehicle, little did Ford Motor Company know that they were soon to become reinforcement for the age-old adage that the reward for a job well done is always the opportunity to do more work. While Fords recent development of a quarter-ton prototype vehicle capable of meeting the Army’s stringent specifications AND complete it in just 49 days could have been considered nothing short of a mechanical miracle, the task that lay ahead for them seemed insurmountable- take all the things that made their Ford GP (Jeep) great and make it all work on water, as well as land.
By late 1941, Jeeps were being produced in record numbers by both Ford Motor Co. as well as Willys-Overland in an attempt to keep up with the high demand that the ongoing war efforts dictated. Ford decided that they would use their original Jeep prototype, the Ford Pygmy, as the basis for the new water-going craft. The military wanted to have the new sea-worthy vehicles in service before the close of 1942 and Ford was truly in uncharted waters, not allowing for a surplus of time to develop an entirely new base concept to build off of. Ford contracted master yacht builders Sparkman & Stephens to focus their vast boat designing skills on the task of developing a hull that could be mated to the existing Jeeps chassis and thus allow the 2,000 pound GP to attain buoyancy or, better yet, full-fledged marine mobility. I can only imagine that the engineers assigned to this project must have sensed how overwhelming a task this really was. Although the Ford GP was originally held to a rigorous weigh standard, the sincere truth still remained. If the good Lord wanted elephants to swim, he would have given them a slimmer waistline and some fins.
By the time all of the weighty metal structures of the hull, bow and stern had taken shape and the components added to propel them, the curb weight of the new vessel had climbed upward to a massive 3,500 pounds, 4,300 when loaded. While there was little doubt that this new Ford GPA (The ‘A’ is for amphibious) would indeed float, there was very little advanced testing performed due to time constraints. This amphibious creation had largely given up the GP’s light weight and nimble mannerisms on land in trade for its newfound ability to walk on water, where it handled much like any other barge or tanker. Its immense weight caused it to ride very low in the water, a fact that proved to serve well in calm waters but when exposed to the choppy waters of the oceans surf, was a little less than confidence-inspiring. To help improve its rough water abilities, a surf shield was installed across the bow to reduce the amount of water that rolled over and into the cabin. In addition, the GPA’s 4-5 passenger carrying capacity was often compromised by a soldier in favor of remaining afloat and successfully reaching shore. The Ford GPA’s ocean-going ability was impressive enough that it was nicknamed the “Sea-Jeep”, or ‘Seep’ for short.
These shortcomings aside, the Ford GPA had literally been able to attain the unattainable, to transport its passengers across water OR land, safely and somewhat efficiently, and do so with a respectable level of excellence. Certainly, no boat had ever been able to do the same, nor had anyone ever bothered to ask one to. A total of roughly 12,774 units were built with production ceasing in June of 1943 leaving the dual duties of water & land conveyance to the formidable GMC DUKW, or ‘Duck’, for short. It’s believed that only a few hundred of the amphibious Jeeps still remain in existence today, one of which can be seen at the Omix-ADA Jeep Collection website at: http://www.jeepcollection.com/portfolio/1942-ford-gpa/
In the long history of automobilia, you won’t find many forms of transportation that provoke a more masculine imagery than the legendary Willys-Jeep. I have seen piles and piles of historical photographic evidence of Jeeps being used as mounting platforms for machine guns, rocket launchers and even a few that have been equipped with flame throwers, an option that could undoubtedly be credited with the total elimination of any and all traces of road rage, as we know it. In fact, some of the tamest photos you will find are the ones that show Jeeps merely traversing rugged terrain or carting battle-worn soldiers to and fro. Just the fact that the Jeeps driver is almost completely exposed and unprotected to his surroundings, however threatening or hostile, lends to support the fact that the Jeep is a no-frills method of transport that truly raised the bar of macho-ism for future military Humvees, what with all their roofs, doors and trinkets. You would be very safe to say that if ‘The Duke’, John Wayne himself, were still alive today, he would certainly and proudly be most at home behind the wheel of an old Jeep, without a doubt… but then you see ‘IT’ basking in all of its pastel glory.
The Jeep Surrey/ Gala was introduced in 1959 and, possibly involuntarily, traded in its standard-issue 4-wheel drive and manly olive drab-dressing for an Easter egg palette of glossy acrylic paints, fringed dangling tassels and striped interiors that are reminiscent of gaudy 1950’s lawn furniture you might have found at a chic Hollywood country club. Such an exchange barely registers as appropriate for any Jeep that stood a chance of being seen in public. The fact that the Surrey was essentially neutered based on its complete lack of a transfer case and the inappropriate addition of a column-shifted transmission speaks to the intended purpose for which the Surrey was built- to serve as a resort car that could be economically driven by staff or rented out to guests at tropical island locales, a likely predecessor to today’s club cars and golf carts but with a blatantly flowery personality that seemed to defy its Willys / Jeep lineage.
The Jeep Surrey / Gala was essentially an exterior trim package for the two-wheel drive ‘59-‘64 DJ-3A Dispatcher which had already distinguished itself in the Jeep lineup as an invaluable light-duty workhorse, being used in a variety of capacities from postal and parcel delivery to serving as an all-purpose utility vehicle at airports and large manufacturing facilities. The DJ-3A was made available to consumers with multiple basic top variations to suit their projected function, with the hardtop and conventional canvas top being the most common. The addition of the Surrey Top, with its wide two-tone stripes and sassy fringed edge treatments, was the perfect complement to the distinct palette of paint hues offered on the Surrey- Tropical Rose, Cerulean Blue and Jade Tint Green which were all softened by a contrasting shade of white. Is it possible that these flamboyant colors were chosen to help discourage theft or, at a bare minimum, to keep the Surreys drivers from abusing their usage of the car. You can’t exactly sneak off the resort property in a car that looks like a go-go dancer without being noticed. Nonetheless, these purpose built cars were easily able to carry four passengers over a greater variety of roads and terrain, a real benefit over early golf carts that were limited to just two passengers and whose limited off-road ability was likely to leave resort guests stranded with little hope of recalling their vacation memories with fondness. The Surrey changed all that. With such flashy charisma, it wasn’t long before these two-wheel drive vibrantly colored dynamos were turning heads and making their mark. Resorts and parks were taking advantage of the Jeep Surrey on their properties worldwide and aggressively launched attractive advertising campaigns featuring the appeal of these odd little vehicles.
In their brief six year span of production, it’s estimated that 1,100 of the Surrey / Gala models were built which accounts for only about 13 percent of DJ-3A models total production between ’59 and ’64, making them very rare and desirable today to collectors and enthusiasts. The one & only King of Rock & Roll, Elvis Presley, even found the Surrey to be interesting enough that he added a ’60 model Surrey, in Tropical Rose to match his pink Cadillac, to his personal collection for use around his estate in the early sixties. Having achieved such a high level of celebrity, Elvis’ Surrey is still on display in the museum at Graceland to this day. The King had a lengthy and well-documented history with Jeeps, having driven them extensively during his stint in the U.S. Army as well as co-starring with them in several of his feature films. It was only natural that he would want one for his own. He wasn’t about to be scared off by the Surreys fancy fringes or bold floral colors. He subsequently seemed more than happy to appear in skin-tight pant suits and glamorous sequins. Afterall, he wasn’t exactly ‘The Duke’. OlllllllO
Dual Battery Tray Allows for Increased Amperage Capacity for Off-Road Capability
Rugged Ridge®, an industry leading manufacturer of high-quality Jeep®, truck and off-road accessories, today announced the addition of a new Dual Battery Tray Kit for 2012-2016 Jeep Wrangler JK models equipped with the 3.6 liter engine.
Rugged Ridge’s new Dual Battery Tray provides the ability to support a second on-board battery for double the power capacity of stock power source, allowing the vehicle to have the kind of amperage needed to power off-road lights, a recovery winch and stereo equipment while not starving the vehicle’s electronics of the current crucial for proper operation. Most importantly, a back-up battery to support vital engine starts in dire situations is always ready and waiting.
The Rugged Ridge Dual Battery Tray is designed specifically for 2012-2016 Jeep Wrangler JK models, ensuring a proper fit. The tray itself is constructed of heavy gauge steel for strength and durability, finished in a gloss black powder coat and includes battery-retaining straps and necessary mounting hardware. The Dual Battery Tray for 2012-2016 JK is recommended to be used in unison with the Rugged Ridge Dual Battery Relay Kit (17265.01) for optimal performance, which allows for proper charging and isolation of the second battery during normal operation.
The Rugged Ridge Dual Battery Tray for 2012-2016 Jeep Wrangler JK models is backed by Rugged Ridge’s industry-leading five-year limited warranty and will be available online and through select Jeep and off- road parts and accessories retailers, with a suggested MSRP of $144.99.
For more information about the Dual Battery Tray, or 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.
|11214.54||Dual Battery Tray; ’12-’16 Wrangler JK/JKU, 3.6 L||$144.99|
I remember, as a kid in the 70’s, looking at pictures of concept cars and feeling a sense of exhilaration at the oddly obvious wedge-shaped styling that seemed to dominate that era. While I’m not a fan of driving a car that so closely resembles a doorstop, I think these styling trends transferred into some really beautiful designs like the DeTomaso Pantera and the Lamborghini Countach, both of which had large images that adorned the walls of my bedroom for the better part of my youth.
I then remember, as an adult in the mid-90’s, when an odd little Jeep concept vehicle made its inaugural appearance at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and the strong sense of disdain I felt for what was being presented to the masses as a possible design path for the Wrangler. We had just survived a generation of Jeeps that donned rectangular headlights in the Wrangler YJ and were inversely giddy with enthusiasm over the return of the iconic round headlights in the new Wrangler TJ. How had we come to this? Chrysler is going to boldly present this new concept to us and even be so daring as to name it “Icon”? As if having ‘Melrose Place’ on your TV at every turn was not punishment enough. We had somehow come to this…
The Jeep Icon was, from the outside and at a long distance, not far-removed from the venerable Wrangler and CJ’s of the past, with its federally-mandated 7-slot grill, round headlights and open roof design. It’s what lurked just beyond that first glance that seemed to cause the uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Chrysler Senior Designer Robert Lester declared that the inspiration for the ‘Icon’ was drawn from elements found in high-end mountain bikes. These words were not completely wasted on me as I was likely to be shopping for such a mountain bike in the near future, as an alternative to driving the new Icon. While the designers felt that adorning the vehicles body with gratuitous Jeep logos at every turn would be a reasonable penance for the rest of the Icon, it felt more like an attempt to remind you that this was an actual Jeep, a mission made even more important by the misplaced independent front suspension, industrialized car-like interior and wheels that were clearly repurposed from a Camaro RS. Maybe this could be a baby Grand Cherokee, but definitely NOT a Jeep.
Despite the tepid response from the press and media, the Icon was still being heralded as the next generation in Jeep styling but with the added corporate spin of its intended purpose not-so-much-being a replacement for the Wrangler, but more a smaller platform to serve as direct competition for the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. As of 1998, there were patents filed for the Icon under the Jeep JJ platform and the likelihood of its making it to actual production seemed imminent. The Icon would feature four cylinder drivetrain borrowed from Chrysler cars and would find its segway into the American market as a Jeep for beginners and would be utilized, to a greater extent, in Third World markets. Approximately 60 vehicles were built as prototypes and were able to meet all of the quality and durability standards as mandated by Chrysler. The problem with the JJ Icon came when the vehicle was being tested for its “Trail Rated’ badge.
In order to proclaim the Jeep name, a certain amount of off-road prowess must be displayed. The JJ was limited to a fairly small diameter of tire due to its independent front suspension and limited body clearance. Although the Icon easily outperformed its small off-road market counterparts, it was unable to successfully negotiate the famed Rubicon Trail without the assistance of a tow rope which fostered serious concern over whether the JJ was a TRUE Jeep, a blemish that seemed to match the sentiment of the mass majority and the project was subsequently scrubbed. The 60 some-odd prototypes never left the confines of the assembly plant and were likely destroyed. Senior Designer of the Jeep Icon, Robert Laster, moved on to a lengthy stint at Ford Motor Company in 1998, where he aided in both interior and exterior design making significant contributions to the automotive realm with cars like the fabled Ford Figo and the Ford Ka (You can’t make stuff like this up) that are each icons in their own intended market places of China and South America. I can’t help but think that the original objective of the Jeep Icon may have been to lend Jeeps legendary off-road persona to a smaller fuel-efficient mode of transport that would largely appeal to an overseas market with the benefit of its greater capability, while not completely alienating the grass-roots customer base, who were likely left hoping for something more; many of the Jeep faithful would likely have been left with a dazed look, scratching their heads and wondering what just happened. The Icons compromising of its core values in an attempt to appeal to a broader audience was at the core of its undoing, which left me with a renewed faith in humanity and a reassurance that Jeep may have some reluctance to ever try and market a Jeep blessed with the spirit of a mountain bike. I’ll carry my ‘spirit of a mountain bike’ on a bike carrier on the back of my Jeep where it belongs, Thanks!
Despite its demise, it’s easy to see that many of the design characteristics of the Icon concept have undoubtedly made it to production in platforms such as the Jeep Liberty and Compass/Patriot, and I, for one, feel much more excited about the future of Jeep based on the upcoming Wrangler JL and the handful of current concepts we’ve seen recently, like the Shortcut concept that made the rounds last year- Maybe even enough to hang some posters on my wall! OlllllllO
I was recently looking through the dockets from one of the larger collector car auctions (which shall remain unnamed) paying particular attention to the borderline bonkers amounts of money that is exchanged for restored vehicles these days. Granted, we are fairly far removed from those days, just over a decade ago, when an unassuming guy, known mostly by his telltale Ferrari ball cap, spent countless hundreds of thousands of dollars on car after beautiful car like they were neck ties. Turns out he was a curator for an automotive museum owned by a rather wealthy TV executive and not the average Joe that he appeared to be…a Joe that we imagined had apparently been printing off counterfeit hundred dollar bills for months and decided that a highly-televised car auction was the perfect place to try and pass them off. We all secretly wished we could be him-goofy Italian sports car hat, and all. Snatching up every dream car that came across the block with little regard for how many zeros were lined up after the first few numbers.
While I usually expect to see six digit prices on pristine Corvettes, Lambos or Cobras and an occasional million dollar sum for anything with a traceable racing heritage, I tend to pay more mind to the market values assessed to the decidedly more mundane cars, the ones that normal working folks may aspire to be able to purchase or, more remarkably, be able to restore with their own skillset and hands. While it does take a crazy amount of money to buy a vintage Ferrari 250, it takes a person of a clearly different sort of means to bring a car back from the brink of extinction and restore it to its full form and function. The amount of the expense involved with the restoration may vary greatly based on the subject. While a Jaguar D-type would mean the financial ruin of most anyone, the re-creation of the mechanics that comprise a 1950’s Willys Jeep could be accomplished by anyone on a lawn boy’s budget and apparently the potential return on investment appears to be equal in scale.
So what kind of enthusiast might consider undertaking the restoration of an early Jeep? Well, with the abundant availability of reproduction body tubs and sheet metal, you would not need to spend countless hours scouring scrap yards looking for pieces to complete your puzzle or even be forced to start with a rusty, rotten shell. From a mechanical aspect, the level of technology that is involved is, to say the least, pretty basic. The tolerances for the fit and finish of the final product are far from strict. Many of the original Willys Jeeps from the 1940’s were largely assembled in the field from components stacked inside a shipping crate and could be replicated by a do-it-yourselfer in a shop or garage with simple tools. You might find it much liking building a model car kit, without the smelly glue. The only unique skillsets that would be required would be a basic mechanical aptitude, large reserves of patience and persistence, and a reasonable attention to detail. You can find just about everything else you would need at http://www.omix-ada.com. Maybe you can be that special kind of crazy? OlllllllO