As I Recall, Nobody Is Perfect

When I was growing up, I was probably viewed as some kind of a gearhead. I bought my first car at the tender age of fourteen. I spent a lot of my spare time tinkling under the hood or grinding away at the body. I always ran in social circles with the kind of guys who turned wrenches and found trouble by barking tires and practicing red-light launches, or “blatant displays of speed”, as the citation would always read.

I remember a tale I was told, back in the day, by a car-buddy of mine who drove a ’70 Nova SS. He said that you should never buy a car that was built on a Monday. His statement cleverly insinuated that the guys who worked the assembly line would show up for work on a Monday, still a bit hung over from the weekend, and, for that reason, would do a less-than-stellar job. I found it somewhat silly to make such a declaration when the process of finding out what exact week a car was built was as complex as advanced trigonometry, much less the exact day.

d5f8c35dd54aef01ff42c05a06999863

My friend’s statement was founded nonetheless. His Nova, as nice as it was, held a sort-of factory defect itself. His father was the original owner of the car, having purchased it in November of ’69, before passing it on to his son; so its history was pretty well known. On a hot June afternoon, while installing some wiring for a stereo amplifier, the passenger side kick panel was removed to reveal an old Stroh’s beer can crushed flat and nestled inside the hidden cavity behind. The fact that the metal can was heavy and had the old pull tab style top made it seem original to the era. It wasn’t like we ever heard an unknown rattle nor did we smell the stale funk that would surely emanate from a discarded beer can on a hot day, had it not been some 17 years later. We always joked that the UAW workers were literally “lit” while assembling his X-bodied pride & joy. And we may have not been wrong.

kick2

This old yarn was brought to mind recently when the new and highly-touted 2018-19 Jeep Wrangler JL was recalled for faulty welds on its track bar mounts. Nothing stirs up public speculation like a crack in the frame of a brand new vehicle. Is it even possible today that the guy behind the welding gun over at Jeep is all dizzied-up on malted hops? Surely today’s assembler would be sipping coconut water or a soy latte?

Track Bar Bracket Weld

After my recent tour of the Toledo Assembly Plant back in August, I can say definitively NO. In fact, a large majority, if not all, of the welding on the chassis is performed by robotic arms that work efficiently and with exacting precision. The actual temperature of the weld is a known quantity, as is every aspect of the welded union, generating a finished weld that simply can’t be duplicated by even the most skilled human with any degree of regularity. The entire process is monitored by sensors and carefully controlled by an advanced computer system that serves as the brain of the operation. And therein lies the only likely suspect for such a manufacturing flaw.

IMG_2068-1

So while the level of automation that is incorporated into the assembly of a car has all but eliminated the possibility for human error, the fact that humans are tasked with building the robotics and developing the programs that drive their systems leaves a wide window for such glitches to occur. If nothing else, such a recall should remind us that it’s usually best to wait for the second year of production on a new model before making a purchase; or develop a deeper comfort level with the possibility of such issues arising, knowing that solutions will be swift and exhaustive. That being said, I’m a long way from being comfortable with a computer driving my car for me…those things weld like they’re drunk! OlllllllO

IMG_7777

2106b4ca367891a36776fcdb10f2edd9

Legends of the Fall

I was fortunate enough to recently spend the better part of a week in the mountains of North Georgia with a group of journalists assembled from around the country. Our primary purpose was to get out and enjoy the backroads and wooded wilderness in a handful of Jeeps. And on this particular occasion the timing couldn’t have been better.

mediatrip08

Folks with an advanced level of knowledge can advise you on the virtues of the yearly procession of fall that they call the autumnal equinox. In the south, the event is usually marked by cooler temperatures and a welcomed reprieve from an endless cycle of grass-cutting and yard watering.

The “first day of fall”, as we call it, signifies what I would have to say is my favorite time of year. Besides the cooler weather, fall is a time for the spectacle of golden hues that adorn the trees just before they shed their foliage entirely for the winter. It’s a time for brewing up some homemade chili and for high school football on a Friday night. Best of all, it’s a time for Jeeps.

mediatrip47

This year, fall’s entrance has been marked by unusually warm temperatures. Certainly warmer than we are normally accustomed to in the south. But that doesn’t change the fact that fall is the perfect time to get out and enjoy your Jeep.

While I am a firm believer that Jeeps were meant to be driven without doors, I’m not usually one to set out for a drive without some sort of overhead cover. At the very least, a bikini top or sunshade to keep the scorching rays off of my head is how I’m prone to roll. However, once fall has made its entry, I find that running with no top at all is the ideal remedy for whatever ails you. Besides, you don’t need anything between you and the pageantry of changing leaves; not to mention those clear, starlit nights. But take the time to breathe it in…because in a few short weeks, winter will be here and such deep breaths will be much less enjoyable. And those Jeeps will be weighted down with doors and tops and heaters on full-blast. It is then that you will yearn for this day.

mediatrip30

 

So get out there and enjoy your Jeep and all the beauty that autumn brings us. There is plenty to see and experience and the legendary Jeep is the perfect place for you to take it all in. OlllllllO

A red Jeep Wrangler drives toward Cottonwood Pass through bright fall aspen trees.

2106b4ca367891a36776fcdb10f2edd9

My Retrospective Look at Toledo Trek 2018

It was many months back, early spring of 2018, that I forged the idea in my rat’s nest-of-a-brain to take my 25-year old Wrangler YJ and set a course northward. To drive to the land long-revered as the birthplace of the Jeep- Toledo, Ohio.

Looking back, I was a bit distressed that my old Jeep might not be up to the chore. She has been known to consume a little oil, which is not in any way uncommon for a Jeep. It’s not been assigned a quart of oil per gallon of gas ratio as of yet, so all is good. I will note also that, after years of dedicated efforts, I can proudly declare that the old 4-liter doesn’t leak oil, in any measurable quantity, at all.

All Photos Courtesy of Evan Coolidge

All Photos Courtesy of Evan Coolidge

So what was I really worried about? My antique Jeep, with its ostracizing rectangular headlights, seemed to make the 1,300 mile jaunt with no real struggles at all. So why would I be, in any way, surprised? She has been hauling my cumbersome structure to & from work faithfully every day for what seems like forever. So I can’t say that I am the least bit surprised. I do find myself cherishing a newfound sense of pride that I hadn’t held before…proud, but not surprised.

What I do find a bit surprising is how much I enjoyed my visit to Toledo. I had heard from more than a couple people how degraded and destitute the city had become. How the city streets were lined with shops that had been boarded-up long ago and either moved on or folded completely. While this perception is not untrue by any means, I can’t help but think that Toledo is a city in need of a second chance.

IMG_2108

To be fair, when you pack legions of Jeeps into one town, I’m probably gonna fall slightly head-over-heels for it. I can’t really help it. Toledo loves the Jeep and she wears her love for it right out on her sleeve for everyone to see. Having the city be completely overrun with Jeeps, if only for a weekend, seemed much like some kind of homecoming. Like all the kids who were born here, had grown up and moved on, all agreed to come back to Grammys house for a reunion. To share a meal, to play on the lawn and show how much they’ve achieved over the years.

IMG_2164

 

There is no discounting the notion that the Jeep and its loyal followers are more than just a community; they are indeed a family. But the attraction of the city of Toledo, at least for me, goes far beyond its relevance in the history of our beloved Jeep. It’s like the city, with its endless array of aging architecture, symbolizes a way of life that is seemingly nonexistent anymore. The city is romantic. It is historic and it is charming. The fact that time left Toledo behind was no fault of the city at all.

IMG_2083

The Toledo Jeep Fest was originated as a celebration of Jeep’s 75th anniversary, back in 2016, with the plan of it becoming a biennial event, or happening every other year. With such overwhelming success, rumors are adrift that the city of Toledo might try having the show every year. With such a swell of enthusiasm over the Jeep brand and the recurring boost to the local economy that an annual show would provide, I can’t help but dream of the possibility that the town that built Jeep might someday become the town that Jeep rebuilt. I, for one, will anxiously await the opportunity to relive my trek to Toledo once again. After all…my old Jeep can make it, no problem. OlllllllO

IMG_21152106b4ca367891a36776fcdb10f2edd9

Space-Age Polymers and Advanced Technology Makes for Instant Fun – Just Add Water!!!

I believe that it is written, somewhere deep within the yellowed pages of an old Jeep owner’s manual, that you have not officially achieved full-fledged Jeep ownership status until you have been baptized into the Jeep church. Don’t get me wrong…despite the name this isn’t a religious ceremony of any sort. It doesn’t require a priest and is not likely to be followed by a reception, complete with little finger sandwiches, fruit punch or a cake. This ‘baptism’ is one of deep water, of pouring rain and probably of mud. Sure, it tends to be a messy ordeal but it always washes off and things dry out long before the memory ever fades.

827ba68302d879abef5f98e7e081bd7d

I can’t even recall the first time it happened to me, or begin to count the number of times that followed. What I can easily recall is that some of the best times I’ve had in my Jeep have been when things are NOT going the way they should. I could go as far as to say, with reasonable certainty that I’ve been set up. Jeep made plenty of allowances in their design to allow for the unexpected and undesirable to happen. The roof is configured to come off the vehicle entirely, as well as the doors, which both seem pretty suspect to me. There are even plugs in the floor that, when removed, allow for water to drain out of the cab, although the diameter of the drain holes are much too small to keep up with the water flow demand so your ankles will usually remain completely submerged in a heavy downpour. It’s like Jeep knew what kind of trouble Jeep owners were likely to get into and they wanted to make sure we were equipped to handle it and make a full recovery.

IMG_1998

 

My first ‘baptism’ was innocent enough. It was a sunny spring morning in Georgia and I opted to give my daily driver wheels the day off, choosing to enjoy a sun-soaked trek in to the office in the Jeep. The fresh aroma of budding trees triggered by winters end, accompanied by soft, cool breezes was just the right way in which to start your day and an even better way to end it. Mother nature, however, was hard at work in the background, enacting plans to make sure those blossoming trees had ample water- a plan she would put into full action about the time I began my homeward jaunt. As a steady stream of water trickled from my interior rearview mirror, as though a water faucet had been left on, it occurred to me that a bikini top was probably a well-chosen name for a product that basically guarantees that you are going to get wet. My thoughts then shifted to relative gravity of the situation that unfolded around me as my vehicles entire interior electrical system was being exposed to the one element of nature that it has the least in common with. All these years I spent avoiding the urge to use the hair dryer while lying in the bathtub were all for naught, as I was most certainly about to perish in a freak electrical fire.

tumblr_n5inl2Xq5m1qat53so1_500

 

 

The most redeeming part of the Jeep baptism is probably the impression it makes on those around you that get to witness the event. The look of complete and total pity expressed on the faces of onlookers as they watch you brave the torrential floods must be seen to be believed. A look that could only be outdone by the shock and dismay that their faces would reveal, if they only knew that you were having a blast! I recall on one occasion a fellow in a black luxury sport sedan who pulled up next to me in one such monsoon, partially rolled down his window and made a verbal gesture of his compassion for my plight. “Bad day to own a Jeep! Ain’t it?” he said, to which I replied “No… Thursdays are as good as any day.”

9-Create-Rain-Effect-in-Photoshop-600x300

 

 

Of course, there is a flip-side to that coin. Every rose has its thorns; or at least that is the rumor I’ve heard relayed in a song. When it comes to having fun while in a Jeep, water is clearly the magical multiplier. Whether it’s a wide water crossing that runs up to your rocker panels, skirting a majestic waterfall on an isolated backwoods trail or adding equal sums of dirt and water together to make mud- the end result is always the same. Everything you do in a Jeep is “funner” when you add water, but be careful. When you are out wheeling and you add water, things can get really slick really fast! While I don’t mind an occasional struggle for traction, if your adventure has you on any sort of an incline, you will soon be unwillingly finding the shortest route down the mountain; bouncing off anything and everything that is in your path. While this still makes for vast amounts of fun, for those who value pretty painted sheet metal, this can be a real downer. For those Jeepers who are still sending the bank a monthly payment, it’s a downright unacceptable activity to use your Jeep to clear-cut forest land. For that reason, splashing through puddles is the recommended watersport until you have title in hand (with the top off, of course).

2018-Jeep-Wrangler-Wading-in-Water-copy

 

So if you’re out in your topless Jeep and the dark clouds seem to conspire to rain on your parade, don’t despair. It’s just part of your baptism. Sit back, breathe in the air and enjoy it. Most importantly, try not to look too crazy. It’s a Jeep Thing! OlllllllO

2106b4ca367891a36776fcdb10f2edd9

Weighing the Pros & Cons of Insanity

Over the years, I have come to realize that I do my best thinking at night. In that short period of time between lying down and actually falling asleep, I solve some of life’s largest quandaries. To be honest, what I consider to be “my best thinking” is probably substandard to most other people but, at least to me, it’s pure genius-level stuff.

827ba68302d879abef5f98e7e081bd7d

In stark comparison, I seldom if ever have a lucid thought when I first wake up. At the earliest hint of the first shrill tone from the alarm, my mind is prone to produce such mindless gibberish that I’m left wondering on what occasion I received a head injury. “Where’s the dog!?!!”…”Lefty Loosey” or even “Hello!”, as if answering a phone in my slumber, are some of the first things that come across my mind and therefore cross my lips in mornings earliest seconds. I’ve even been known to grasp desperately at a non-existent handrail, while still comatose, because my mind convinced me I was falling. Trust me…at night time, I am freaking brilliant!

I am currently deeply engaged in the planning of a cross country trek to Toledo, OH for the annual Toledo Jeep Fest in August. And this is not just any trek, but one taken in my 25 year old Jeep. As I laid in bed last night planning what mechanical tasks I needed to address this weekend in preparations for my voyage, it occurred to me that, amongst all the other pertinent planning, I needed to address how my Jeep was going to dress for the trip.

Toledo

If you have or have ever had a Jeep, you probably know what I mean. Anytime you take your Jeep out, you have to assess your itinerary and determine the best and most practical set-up for the occasion. If you have a hardtop, most of that decision making is pre-determined for you. Since my YJ is a soft top, I need to ask myself “Do I run the fastback soft top so I have my windows ready in waiting in case the weather goes south or do I roll the dice and don the more-risqué bikini top?” I decide that the fastback top would be the wisest choice and offer the most versatility. See! Nighttime-Me is ridiculously sharp. Isn’t he?

Then my mind progresses to the subject of doors. Do I mount up my half doors to the Jeep with a plan to then store the uppers in the rear cargo area when the weather permits or do I just leave home without any doors at all? I can even store the doors in the hotel room for short jaunts without doors. Or, do I drive half a dozen states away from my home with no means of protecting myself and my vehicles occupants from the elements during what might be one of the hottest Augusts in recent memory? Why, of course I do. Wait…what??

image...........

I think if my wife was accompanying me on this trip, I would have to give the topic of going door-less for 1,300 miles some more intense thought. Bottom line is that I’m taking my teenage son and I love the open-air Jeep lifestyle as much or maybe more than anyone. Face it! I’m never gonna be able to tell my son about walking to school, ten miles each way, uphill in the snow. I need him to remember that time we drove across the country in a Jeep for no reason other than we could. And, worse yet, we wanted to! My exhausted and heavy-eyed self could not pose a single counterpoint as to why I would complete this trip in anything other than true Jeep fashion. Limited top and no doors!

tylers-YJ

I hope, beg and pray that you will follow me along my journey beginning on August 8th, 2018 as we make our way to Toledo, the birthplace of Jeep. We’ll be posting pictures from the road and sharing the experience on our Rugged Ridge Facebook page and at YourJeepYourAdventure.com . We hope to see you then! OlllllllO

IMG_20180611_095551158_LL2106b4ca367891a36776fcdb10f2edd9

How Old Is Your Jeep In Dog Years?

It’s pretty common knowledge that a dog ages quicker than people do. What is also commonly perceived is that one year for a dog is the equivalent to seven human years, which is a bit of a misconception. The very first year a canine is alive, it undergoes significant development and actually matures at a rate equivalent to 15 human years. The following second year of life, the dog ages around 12 years and declines a little each year thereafter. I guess the seven years is a bit of a mean average across a dogs suspected lifespan.

556af13bd53681994d258c519bf8b40b--ugly-dogs-ugly-puppies

I think that Jeeps, in general, have a somewhat similar aging pattern to that of a dog, but in reverse. The first year on the road for a new Jeep is equivalent to an actual year, taking for granted that the proper maintenance program is upheld and the mileage is kept to a civil rate. The new Jeep maintains its year-for-year rate of aging for the first few years of its life; until the day the Jeep owner’s curiosity for the unknown has them wandering away from the pavement and searching to discover a little more about their vehicles capabilities. On that day, the clock is quickened to double its original pace. Whether in the first year or the fifth, the Jeep begins to age at a rate of two years per year, once it has adopted the tendency for off-road driving habits.

2dilzdn2i9cx

As the vehicle ages and compiles mileage, the wear and tear on the frame, chassis and mechanical components begins to compound. By the time the vehicle has reached 100,000 miles, or seven calendar years old, its rate of aging is around 3 years per year. That’s six years per if you’re busy climbing rock ledges or straddling crevasses on a regular basis. At this point, you’ll find yourself performing repairs at almost every turn. This aggressive schedule of addressing issues as they appear is the only thing that stabilizes your Jeeps rapid pattern of mechanical decline. Short of a complete overhaul and major rebuild, your Jeep will continue to age at a rate of 3 to 6 years for every New Year that passes, until that day when its fate is finally sealed.

My personal Jeep is a 1993 model which I bought in 2007. The first 14 years of its life, it was kept almost entirely stock and was fitted with highway tires that would turn utterly useless in the mud. It had compiled some 120,000 miles on the clock in its first dozen or so years. The 11 years that I have owned it, the old YJ has been plagued with massive tires, lift kits, heavy bumpers and tons of less-than-ideal driving conditions while enrolled in an extensive program of perpetual upgrade. By my calculations, my Jeep would be roughly 60 years old in dog years, and that’s if I grade on the curve. 60…That’s a pretty startling number when you stop and think about it; bottom line and best case scenario, it’s truly 25 years old on a regular Gregorian calendar making it an antique in the states opinion. Maybe sixty is not that outlandish…

IMG_7701

So for my YJ’s true 25th birthday, I am going to defy the odds, throw the proverbial caution to the wind and embark on a trek to the place it was born, Toledo, Ohio, and attend the Toledo Jeep Fest in August. In careful consideration for its propsed 60 years of age and the 1,400 grueling miles that lie ahead of it, I am undertaking massive amounts of maintenance on the old Wrangler in preparation for hours of driving at highway speeds. This includes touching virtually every suspension component to validate its integrity, replacing aging seals and bearings, renewing fluids and lubricants; maybe even a few cosmetic upgrades will be in order so my baby doesn’t necessarily look like an over-the-hill has-been. I’ve been around cars long enough to know that, even with the best of preparations in place, the likelihood of some level of catastrophe occurring is pretty favorable. With such impending doom, it’s understandable that I simply can’t wait…

To help document my voyage, we’ll be posting pictures from the road featuring sights and scenery from our travels and blogging a bit about the experience as we go. I am very hopeful that none of the coverage will feature dripping fluids, shredded tire carcasses or billowing plumes of smoke or steam. That seems about as likely as taking a trip to the zoo and hoping to not smell any unpleasantries…or you could say, pretty darn unlikely.

Our trip will begin on Wednesday, August 8th and we’ll share all the fun from the Toledo Jeep Fest when we arrive on Friday, August 10th and through the entire weekend. Make sure to follow the adventure on the Rugged Ridge Facebook page as well as at yourjeepyouradventure.com . We hope you can follow along! OlllllllO

IMG_20180611_095831111

2106b4ca367891a36776fcdb10f2edd9

5 Steps to Keeping Your Cool When Things Get HOT

1Every 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:

  1. 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.

    2

  2. 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.3
  3. 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.4
  4. 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.5
  5. 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! OlllllllO65

The Jeep Icon – A 90’s Concept Car That Almost Became Wranglers Adopted Little Brother

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.

Photo Credit: JeepForum.com

Photo Credit: JeepForum.com

 

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.

Photo Credit: allpar.com

Photo Credit: allpar.com

 

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!

Photo Credit: CarblogIndia.com

Photo Credit: CarblogIndia.com

 

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

5

March 2017 Monthly Update

Hood Bra

Protect your JK’s hood from unsightly damage caused by bugs, rocks and road debris with the Rugged Ridge Hood Bra. Our one-piece bra design is constructed of durable crush grain vinyl that defends against the hazards of everyday driving while the pillow-soft inner layer pampers your paints finish, shielding it from scuffing and scratches. Since this Hood Bra is made specifically for the Wrangler JK, it won’t interfere with factory or aftermarket hood catches and installs quickly & easily with an adjustable strap secured to the footman loop. Since when did protecting your paint look so great?

Part Number Description Price
12112.01 Hood Bra, Black, 07-17 Jeep Wrangler JK and JK Unlimited $44.99

Eclipse Tube Door Cargo Covers


Rugged Ridge Eclipse Tube Door Covers give JK owners the ability to enjoy the open air element of their Rugged Ridge tube doors while providing a higher level of containment for the passenger area and its contents. Nylon reinforced mesh construction offers a sturdy barrier that installs quickly and easily with the integrated bungee top and button retaining system. Highly functional and great-looking…you’ll wonder how you ever did without them! Set includes front and rear pair.

Part Number Description Price
13579.52 Tube Door Covers, Full Set, Black, 07-17 Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited $172.99
13579.50 Tube Door Covers, Front Pair, Black, 07-17 Jeep® Wrangler JK and JK Unlimited $133.99
13579.51 Tube Door Covers, Rear Pair, Black, 07-17 Jeep® Wrangler Unlimited $93.99

Paracord Grab Handle


Rugged Ridge Paracord Grab Handles are constructed of durable 550 nylon parachute cord that is woven into a brawny “Double Cobra” style knot that feels substantial in your grasp. Each handle secures to two OR three-inch diameter roll bars with heavy duty hook and loop straps for a firm and stable fitment. Your Jeep will love the attractive tactical styling, not to mention how much you’ll love the assistance getting in and out of your rig! Paracord Grab Handles are available in a variety of color combinations, with one to suit any taste: Black on Black, Red on Black or Gray on Black. Sold in pairs..

Part Number Description Price
13505.30 Paracord Grab Handles, Black/Black, Pair $52.99
13505.31 Paracord Grab Handles, Red/Black, Pair $52.99
13505.32 Paracord Grab Handles, Gray/Black, Pair $52.99

Dual Beam LED Light


No Jeep or off-road vehicle is complete without a full array of off-road lights and no light is more efficient at lighting your path than an LED. Rugged Ridge now offers an innovative LED light that provides that searing nighttime illumination accented by a functional and cool-looking running lamp allowing you to be seen without blinding other drivers. Each LED is constructed of a virtually indestructible black thermoplastic case that houses four bright white high-beam LEDs with a single center-mounted amber low-beam LED illuminating a unique “cross-hair” designed reflector giving you greater visibility in low light conditions. With a high-quality Fresnel optic lens and an IP-67 Waterproof rating, these LEDs are built to provide years of outstanding performance making them the perfect complement to your existing light package or as a standalone lighting option. Rugged Ridge Combo LED Lights are available with Cube or Round housings to t any application or suit any taste.

Part Number Description Price
15209.30 Cube LED Light, 3 inches, Combo High/Low Beam, 10 Watts, 900 Lumens $106.99
15209.31 Round LED Light 3.5 inches, Combo High/Low Beam, 10 Watts, 900 Lumens $106.99

Switch Pod Kits


Looking for a handy place to mount your accessory switches that doesn’t require cutting or other modifications? This A-Pillar Switch Pod Kit from Rugged Ridge has pre-molded cutouts to allow you to mount up to four aftermarket switches, in easy reach, on the driver’s side A-pillar, and out of the way of the shifter handle. Our Pillar Pod has the textured molded finish just like the factory cover it replaces. It snaps into place just like the OE for a great fitment! Each kit includes the driver side A-Pillar Switch Pod and FIVE 2-position Etched Rocker Switches (Zombie Lights, Light Bar Lights, Sasquatch Lights, Rock Lights and Off-Road Lights)

Part Number Description Price
17235.70 Etched A-Pillar 4 Switch Pod Kit Left Hand, 07-10 Jeep Wrangler JK $79.99
17235.71 Etched A-Pillar 4 Switch Pod Kit Left Hand, 11-17 Jeep Wrangler JK $79.99
17235.72 Etched Lower 4 Switch Panel Kit, 07-10 Jeep Wrangler JK $79.99
17235.73 Etched Lower 5 Switch Panel Kit, 11-17 Jeep Wrangler JK $79.99

I’ll Spare You the Details

1One of the most unique and differentiating features of the Willys / Jeep vehicle has always been the presence of an externally-mounted spare tire. In the early WWII-era models, the spare was first mounted to the rear of the tub but was relocated later to the rear side panel as civilian models were introduced in the mid 40’s, making way for the new rear tailgates on the CJ2 and CJ3 models. While the external mounting of the spare was most likely done out of dire shortage of interior space, the fact that it still resides outside of the frame rails today, some 75 years later, is somewhat surprising. With all of the creature comforts and niceties that have found their way into the current Jeep platform, one would almost expect to see the unsightly spare tire hidden underneath the rear end or tucked away discretely inside the cargo area. That just isn’t the way Jeep has ever done it. Jeeps are about no-nonsense utility…if we have a humongous spare tire, we want it right where we can get to it! Otherwise, we would’ve equipped them with teeny, tiny donut-shaped space-saver spares that tucks underneath your passenger seat.

I have information from very reliable sources, from people that have actually experienced an off-road vehicle roll-over firsthand, and they all unanimously proclaim that, in the event of such an occurrence, you do NOT want anything on the inside of your passenger compartment larger or heavier than a small stuffed animal. Cellphones, toolboxes, tire irons, roofing hammers or, heaven forbid, a 30 ounce stainless steel thermal tumbler filled with scalding-hot coffee are all transformed into barrel-rolling projectiles of terrifying mass that will dent, beat and bludgeon anything and everything in their path. While I agree that the spare tire mounted on the outside is still going to wreak unbelievable havoc if you go belly-up, I am much more comfortable with it not using my lap as a starting point for its dismount. For that reason, storing the spare tire outside the Jeep seems to make a great deal of sense.

2

3Another dilemma that is not so easily solved is what do we do in the event that we have a damaged tire and need to use our spare? First of all, if your Jeep has even a small suspension lift and larger tires, you will find that your original equipment jack is of little OR no use to you, other than keeping the jack mounting brackets from rattling. You are going to need to utilize a hi-lift or farm jack and some level of ingenuity in your execution of its use in order to change your flat tire. You will also face a similar problem when it comes to decide where to stow your jack. I prefer a hood jack mount for two reasons: first, the fact that the jack is easily accessible regardless of your vehicles positioning. Secondly and more importantly, those unknowing passersby who seem to inevitably mistake it for some sort of machine gun mounting apparatus always yield some really humorous conversations at the fueling station. Many people opt for mounting the jack right next to the spare on the rear bumper or tailgate which has its own merits. Of course, you could mount the jack on the inside of your Jeep, too (see paragraph above).

Once you have a hi-lift jack mounted in a convenient location on your Jeep, yet another dilemma rears its ugly head. Gravity was happy to assist you when you removed the spare tire but now it’s time to remount the flat tire on your carrier and you have seriously underestimated the weight of a wheel and tire combination, even when it’s flat. Hopefully, you have someone riding with you that can assist with the task of lifting the tire. Even a 35” diameter tire can be cumbersome to lift, if not impossible for some, especially when physical exhaustion and uneven terrain become factors. If you have a 37” tire or larger, I might suggest digging a shallow grave to bury it in or hide it under an immense pile of brush temporarily and return later with a friend/accomplice to retrieve it. However inconvenient this may seem at the time, it pales in comparison to the deflation of being found days later, after an extensive search, with only your arms and legs protruding from under the giant spare tire.     

45