LOCKERS…Understanding the Ins & Outs of Maintaining Traction through Modern Mechanical Wizardry

1I wonder how many countless middle schoolers have been subjected to the inhumane pre-teen ritual of being stuffed into a cramped school locker? While I have never personally experienced it myself, I’m sure that the mere mention of the word “locker” to anyone who has been, is enough to cause one to instantly forget their locker combination and quite possibly to lose partial control of their bodily functions. How on earth are you supposed to remember if you go counter-clockwise past ‘32’ twice before stopping on ‘17’ when you’re in constant and profound fear of becoming the defenseless victim of a wedgie; or, worse yet, having your lockers interior exposed to those who don’t share your same fondness for fuzzy animated movie characters or cheesy boy bands?

Fortunately, the word ‘lockers’ has an entirely different and less-emotional connotation to the off-road Jeep enthusiast. “Lockers” is short slang for a locking differential- the means by which the men are separated from the boys when the tires hit the trail.

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Most vehicles, including many Jeeps, leave the factory with an “open” style differential. What this means is that the rotation of the driveshaft is transferred through a set of gears and distributed to two separate axle shafts, each turning its own driven wheel. Since the two axle shafts are not actually connected together through any rigid means, they are able to rotate at different speeds independent of each other. While this concept is splendid for driving on the open road and around town, it loses its luster in off-road situations where one wheel may lose traction and will begin to spin wildly. The other wheel, despite having sufficient traction, might just sit there and do nothing while all of the engines torque is applied to the wheel with no traction. It’s very much like watching an innocent and unknowing bird fly headlong into a glass window again and again. After several minutes, there has been lots of motion, vast amounts of spent energy but no real progress. This is a condition that off-road enthusiasts commonly refer to as “stuck”.

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“Lockers”, or locking differentials, essentially drive both wheels with constant and equal torque, regardless of traction, making it much more difficult to achieve the status of stuck, as is common in an open differential-equipped rig. While the perceived invincibility found in driving off road with lockers is quite attractive, it can also be accompanied by a whole new set of drawbacks. Applying unrelenting torque to a tire that is hopelessly wedged up in a rock pile will eventually find a way to turn itself loose despite the tires resistance. This newfound and forced freedom is brought on by the sudden failure of whatever component lacked the most in the integrity department. If you’re lucky, it’s just a u-joint. More than likely , such a calamity will befall a more expensive component. And one that is significantly harder to repair on trail side, like an axle shaft or, heavens forbid, a costly CV driveshaft. Even at such high cost, Lockers ARE the way to go if you like to wheel off-road.

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Those who are blessed with the ability to be free-thinkers may instinctively suggest that we just build ALL Jeeps, or cars for that matter, with locking differentials and send those open differentials down the road, the way of the Dodo bird and full-service gas stations. After all, nobody really wants to get stuck, do they? Certainly not any number of my personal friends who I can recall having gotten their Jeeps stuck in their own back yard while doing something as simple as hauling furniture or flexing their macho manly side by attempting to persuade a shrub from its earthen nest by brute force. Nothing is quite as masculine as winching your Jeep out of a muddy pit that used to be your yard while using a kid’s swing set as an anchor point.

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The bottom line is that all of the traction benefits offered by a locked differential are overshadowed by their negative on-road manners. Since very few roadways are completely 100% straight, the need to turn the steering wheel occasionally is very real and turns the prospect of locked differentials into a nightmarish ordeal; similar to the horrors of getting stuck in your own yard. Since the opposing wheels are essentially “locked” together inside the differential, going around a corner becomes a nerve-grinding experience.

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When you steer a vehicle through a corner, the wheel positioned on the inside of the turn has a shorter distance to travel while the outside wheel has a longer distance to negotiate. This conflict in rotational energy between the inside and outside wheel manifests itself in a vehicle that simply isn’t happy turning at speed anymore; never mind the larger diameter tires and pavement-hating tread. In fact, a lot of this excess energy in the turns will be absorbed into your driveline and by your tires tread, resulting in reduced fuel economy, accelerated tire wear and a downright poor overall attitude. Three things that Jeeps can’t afford to compromise on unless there are substantial benefits to be gained. Benefits like x-ray vision or George Clooney-like good looks would be good contenders.

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Any time the left is so far removed from the right, it’s good to know that an accord can be struck and a happy middle ground established. Ground where we can enjoy the off-road benefits of locking differentials combined with the street-friendly mannerisms of an open differential. Such an accord can be found in a selectable locker, a differential whose locking abilities can be turned off or on with the simple flick of a switch, the pull of a lever or by reciting a short mystical chant. Such systems would include an ARB Air Locker, Eaton E-Locker or a cable-actuated OX Locker.

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While the selectable locker is a bit more expensive that most other options, it’s hard to identify any negatives to support an argument that they are anything but worth the price you’ll pay. Jeep has utilized a selectable locker system in their Rubicon models since the early 2000’s and it has quickly become a consumer favorite for its expanded level of capability. So much so that you’ll find Rubicon stickers plastered across the hoods of Cherokees, YJ Wranglers, and even an occasional Grand Cherokee. While obviously the decal doesn’t make any Jeep a Rubicon, what does make the Rubicon stand out can be largely attributed to its locking differentials, front and rear. Just try to comprise a similar locking differential system in a base model Wrangler and you will concede that the Rubicon package is a smart way to go. Trust me… a lot can be said for being able to drive out of your own back yard and it’s hard to put a price on shame. OlllllllO2106b4ca367891a36776fcdb10f2edd9

 

In Search of the Legendary Arctic Top

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Historic Images

Photo Credit: Historic Images

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

Behold…The Antidote for Black Friday Fever!!!

While I am happily still driving well into winter with no doors on the trusty Jeep, we find ourselves on the brink of yet another Thanksgiving and the supposed-official start of the holiday season. It seems like the Black Friday commercials start airing before the kids are even back from trick-or-treating., or is it just me? The arctic winter air plays tricks on my minds sometimes.

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Wouldn’t it be nice if we could, just for once, celebrate Thanksgiving without the stress and strain of the upcoming Christmas shopping season hanging over our heads? Wouldn’t that third plate of turkey and dressing taste a whole lot better if Aunt Edna wasn’t out in the car revving the engine with her lap covered with a blanket of sales circulars?

The bottom line is that retailers treasure our shopping dollars much more than they value our own personal well-being. And who can really blame them when we are all mostly guilty of falling in line in one way or another; by our refusal to pay more than the next guy for anything, even at the cost of our seasonal sanctity. I think Cyber Monday is the better shopping choice, hands down. Unless you can wait until the week after, that is.

But just because we can’t beat them, doesn’t mean that we should have to join them. There is more than a handful of really cool gifts to get that Jeep guy or girl in your life, even if they’re the kind of person that already has their Jeep pretty-well decked out. Not to mention, they won’t break the bank. They will have you enjoying your Friday after turkey day sitting on the sofa watching football or maybe one of those horrid Christmas specials. You know the one with that guy that sings that song? Yeah, that one! Sure, it will likely put you right to sleep but it’s still easily better than fighting the crowds at the mall. So here goes…

  1. 2Portable Tire Inflator – There are any number of different brands and models available and the prices are great, often as low as $30. They usually run on 12 volts DC from your cars power port but many have adapters that will let them plug into a traditional AC outlet in your garage, as well. They tend to be a little slower than a full-size air compressor but there is a lot that can be said about not having to feed quarters into the machine at the filling station while you try to keep the cursed air hose from constantly retracting.
  2. 3Rechargeable Flashlight – I believe it is Newton’s Fourth Law of Probability that states if something is going to go wrong, it will usually happen at night or, at the very least, in some area that is completely devoid of daylight. Sure, most folks have a handy flashlight built right into their fancy cellphones but try illuminating the VIN number on your broken down car to the roadside assistance operator while you talk on that same phone and you will surely learn what true frustration is all about. It’s great to always have a working flashlight at hand and even better when you don’t have to concern yourself with how old the batteries are or if they are encrusted in a merry layer of green corrosion. You can check it out at http://www.ruggedridge.com/flashlight-rechargable-700lux-with-rugged-ridge-crush-bezel-15104-44.html
  3. Dash Cam – It should come as no surprise to anyone that we live in an electronic age. The days of being able to act like a complete nitwit one day and start the next day with a clean slate are all but gone. Be sure 4to use such technology to your greatest advantage to help offset the obvious disadvantages. Equipping your car with an easy-to-use and affordable dash camera is a great way to protect yourself from the threats of road rage and to document actual events, as they occurred, in the case of an auto accident. Dash Cams can be had for well-under a hundred dollars that have decent picture resolution and adequate memory capacity. Do a little bit of homework before you commit to a purchase to make sure you get the best bang for your bucks. You don’t want to be left with a video so grainy that you suddenly end up the prime suspect in a chain of local convenience store robberies.
  4. 5The Power Cup– Cell phones, radar detectors, tablets, GPS devices, DVD players all have a few things in common- they all find home in your car and they all use power. Unfortunately, most vehicles only come with a pair of power ports. Who has time to play leap-frog with charging cables while they are driving? The Power Cup plugs into one of your vehicles power outlets and it will instantly improve your charging game by giving you two power outlets AND two additional USB ports. Best of all, it stores securely in your vehicles cup holder for easy access. This Christmas, maybe it’s time for you to give the gift of empowerment? You can get the lowdown by looking at http://www.ruggedridge.com/power-cup-2-x-usb-plus-2-x-accessory-ports-universal-15101-03.html
  5. 6Tire Pressure Gauge– You know those old tire gauges that have a doo-hicky that pops out and shows you the reading on a flimsy square stick of plastic? Well, it turns out that such lame “pop-out” technology doesn’t always tell you your turkey is properly cooked either. The fact that my insurance agent hands them out like they’re candy doesn’t bode well for their credibility either. I do think they make a great gizmo for scratching an itchy inner ear but for actually checking tire pressure? Not so much. Every car guy / girl needs access to a good tire pressure gauge, especially when it comes to safely maintaining oversized off-road tires. Proper tire inflation is vital to safe on-road manners while preserving the life of your tires tread. Darn thing will even fit in a stocking in place of that coal lump!
  6. 7Full Auto Detail– Generally speaking, Jeeps are NOT usually known for being clean vehicles. While there are many Jeeps on the road that pride themselves on shining like a new diamond, others are lucky to see water coming from something other than the ground or the sky. In any case, nobody longs to brave the frigid temperatures of winter to wash their own car, much less apply a coat of wax. Fortunately, there are droves of auto detailers who are equipped to do just that and are looking for somebody to do it for. In many cases, they will even come out to where the car is and perform their services in your driveway or in the parking lot at work. You can search Mobile Auto Detailing online and look for reviews on crowd-sourced apps like Yelp! to find reputable detailers in your area. Giving that special Jeeper in your life a gift certificate for a wash and detail is sure to put a smile on their face, not to mention the thrill they will have when they find out what color paint hides under all that dirt.
  7. Radio Controlled Jeep Rock Crawler– Maybe the Jeep enthusiast in your life has been extra-good this year or maybe you’re just looking for a great way to get them out of the house- to “blow the stink off” as my mom always said. Who wouldn’t want to go exploring in their very own 1/10-scale radio-controlled Jeep? We’re not talking about your typical run-of-the-mill boring street action where the smallest of pebbles brings the fun to a halt. No, we’re talking about high ground clearance monsters with fully working suspension systems and gigantic knobby tires meant to climb ridiculous rock ledges and come back for a seconds. For as little as a hundred bucks, you too can experience the kind of extreme off-roading that monthly car payments normally prohibit. Face it, acting your age is one of the worst resolutions ever.8

So with a few gift ideas like these working in your favor, you can certainly take the time to enjoy Thanksgiving, as well as the Friday after, as a time of rest, relaxation; maybe even an attempt at recovery from whatever feast and festivities you may have endured. It’s totally acceptable to refrain from Christmas preparations until the last cold turkey sandwich has been served. Unless Black Friday shopping is indeed your thing, in which case, we wish you godspeed as you go forth. May your long list compounded by the even longer lines fail in shortening your fuse. And don’t forget where you parked. OlllllllO

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An Enlightened Peek into Life in Pre-Jeep America

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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November 2017 Monthly Update

Elite Aluminum Fuel Cap

Add a individual touch to your Jeep with our Elite Aluminum Fuel Cap. Available in a variety of different finishes that will match any style you are going for from black to black with brushed accents. Attractive styling that the Elite line is known for to outfit your Jeep.

Part Number Description Price
11229.10 Elite Aluminum Fuel Cap, Black, 01-18 Jeep Wrangler TJ/JK $66.99
11229.11 Elite Aluminum Fuel Cap, Brushed, 01-18 Jeep Wrangler TJ/JK $66.99

Spare Tire Delete Kit

Remove extra weight from your Jeep while adding attractive styling to your Jeep with our Rugged Ridge Spare Tire Delete Kit. Designed to give you greater rear visibility and departure angles you were never able to see before. Features a license plate and third brake light relocation bracket to complete the package.

Part Number Description Price
11586.10 Spare Tire Delete Plate, 07-18 Jeep Wrangler JK $66.99
11586.11 Spare Tire Delete Kit, 07-18 Jeep Wrangler JK $119.99

“I See Your Rubicon and I’ll Raise You One Darien Gap”

1It’s no highly-guarded secret that today’s Jeep Wrangler prides itself on being one of the most capable off road vehicles to ever leave the road. You often see the ‘Trail Rated’ badge proudly displayed on the fender as a reminder of its off-pavement prowess. There’s even a special package offered comprised of all the necessary goodies to make your Wrangler a force to be reckoned with, like locking Dana 44 differentials at both ends and formidable 4:1 transfer case gearing capable of abruptly reversing the earth’s rotation when properly applied. Heck, Jeep has even given us such niceties as electronic sway bar disconnects that actually disconnect themselves! No more having to muddy-up the old shirt sleeves on those cold morning wheeling adventures. Wrap all that up in one package and call that thing a ‘RUBICON’- named after the infamous 22-mile long trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that has been taunting and thrilling off-road enthusiasts for decades. It’s truly priceless marketing gold that actually does have an associated price that the dealer prints clearly on the window sticker.

That’s all great and I truly love the sense of adventure that the name suggests but what about a special edition for those select few whose daring side borders on perilous; a package that pays homage to geographic oblivions that require a Rubicon Trail level of bravery just to access, and then an even larger lapse in rational thinking to proceed any farther. I’m talking about the Darien Gap- a location in southern Panama, just outside of the city of Yaviza, where any semblance of roadway fades into wild, overgrown jungle for a distance of over 100 miles, serving as a buffer deterring access to the northern border of Columbia. While I don’t feel that Jeep should start lettering hoods with ‘Darien Gap’ graphics quite yet, there is certainly much to be learned and appreciated from such an isolated locale.

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First of all, there have only been a handful of people who have even mustered the caliber to attempt such an endeavor. With obstacles such as rivers, dense forests, mud pits, wild animals, poisonous snakes and spiders and the occasional cocaine trafficker wielding a stolen machine gun to slow your progress, it’s understandable why so few have bothered to risk life and limb in such a pursuit. Since the Darien Gap is the only thing that stands between two halves of the earth’s longest roadway, the Pan-American Highway, it stands to reason that there are some pretty solid reasons why 30,000 miles of roadway pauses for this mere 100 miles span. Completion of the roadway through the Darien Gap would come at an extremely high cost, both financial and physical, and would likely only serve as a means of supporting the ever-present drug trade.

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Among the adventurers who renounced any and all concerns for their own personal well-being in attempts to conquer the Darien Gap, were a few Jeepers of note; most notably are Loren Upton and his girlfreind Patty Mercier in a new CJ-5, as well as off-roading legend and Jeep Jamboree founder Mark Smith and a crew of a dozen or more daring discoverers. Equipped for success in a fleet comprised of several Jeep CJ-7’s, as well as a Wagoneer and a J-10 pickup, Smith and his fellow explorers arguably made the easist work of the remote wildernesses terrain, bridging the gap in just 30 days. While arguments can be made that one expedition traversed the “gap” quicker than the other or another utilized rafts in lesser scale to navigate water crossings, the truth is that when a feat of this magnitude is minimized in any way by anyone, it’s really a shame. Just managing to prove the impossible and impassable to be anything but is absolutely worthy of worldwide acclaim. In my humble opinion, doing so in a Jeep puts the accomplishment on a whole new level- one more-than-worthy of a special decal package- dare I say, a 2018 Jeep Wrangler Darien Gap?? Unfortunately, very few have ever heard the names of these heroes or possess any knowledge of the place where they sought to achieve their own personal greatness despite unparalleled adversity.

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To find the proper scope of what is involved with crossing the Darien Gap, it’s helpful to ponder the fact that Smith managed to complete his trek at a remarkable pace, equating to just over three miles per day; a pace just slightly slower that if you were to crawl through the same jungle blindfolded. Earlier expeditions reported much less aggressive progress with some measuring daily progress in feet rather than miles. Having to literally clear a vehicle width path with hand-held machetes swung by individuals who were likely suffering from severe fatigue, dehydration, malnourishment and possibly the effects of disease and a rampant case of “jungle-butt” seems to be an insurmountable task. I’m not really certain that “jungle-butt” actually exists, although I can imagine it’s not the kind of thing that anyone is likely to feature in their memoirs. Imagine, if you will, having to wear a brand new pair of denim jeans to your friendly neighborhood water park and then fancy the prospect of having to wear those same jeans every hot & humid day that follows for the next month while you perform varying tasks of a strenuous nature. Suddenly it is clear that “jungle-butt” does indeed exist and it’s name is, in fact, much too kind.

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So… if Jeep were to see the ere in their ways and offer us, the appropriately enlightened consumers, a Darian Gap Edition Jeep Wrangler what kinds of options would we hope to see? Obviously, everything that the now pedestrian Rubicon offers, with a few vital additions. First of all, an innovative roof rack system would really prove to be essential as the need to carry a slew of jungle cutting implements, steel ramp boards and provisions of water and fuel could easily justify the extra weight of the rack. Secondly, a state-of-the-art satellite navigation system could truly prove beneficial on such an environemnt. Not that Google Maps is going to yield any street views of the Darien Gap…trust me, I checked. It’s just good to know which way is south when the symptoms of milaria begin to take hold and operating a compass becomes problematic, what with the blurred vision and trembling hands.

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I could think of a seemingly endless list of features to include in such an exclusive package. Ridiculous amounts of ground clearance are in order, as are a PTO-driven winch and bush hog attachments and maybe auxiliary oil coolers to keep things kosher while enduring the punishment of idling for 16 hours a day would all be welcome additions. Of course, nobody is gonna balk if they include a baby powder dispenser. Are they? OlllllllO2106b4ca367891a36776fcdb10f2edd9

Seeking Treatment for Horrible Misconception Syndrome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dispelling the Rumors Around Headlight Euro Guards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: JLWranglerForums.com

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October 2017 Monthly Update

Spartan Series Bumpers

The Rugged Ridge Spartan Series Bumpers gives your Jeep a classic look without the extra weight and high price tag. The one-piece design is made from plate steel that gives your a precise fit and high quality experience. Each bumper includes a stand-alone winch plate as the central backbone for the bumper and includes D-shackle mounts and a tubular overrider to complete the package (D-rings not included). The Spartan Front Bumper is a direct bolt-on replacement for 2007-2018 Wrangler JK models and includes all the necessary hardware for a worry-free installation. The Spartan even utilizes the factory JK fog lights for a finished look without any extra expense.

Part Number Description Price
11548.03 Spartan Front Bumper, Standard Ends, W/O Overrider, 07-18 Wrangler JK $399.99
11548.02 Spartan Front Bumper, Standard Ends, With Overrider, 07-18 Wrangler JK $466.99
11548.01 Spartan Front Bumper, High Clearance Ends, With Overrider, 07-18 JK $533.99
11548.04 Spartan Front Bumper, Overrider $106.99

XHD Steel Corner Guards

The XHD Steel Corner Guards protects one of your most vulnerable areas on your JK while hitting the trails. Built from super strong 3mm thick steel plate to withstand any hazard on the trails.

Part Number Description Price
11615.20 XHD Corner Guard, Rear, 4-Door, 07-18 Jeep Wrangler JK $266.99
11615.21 XHD Corner Guard, Rear, 2-Door, 07-18 Jeep Wrangler JK $266.99