In the last post, I showed you pictures of the first car I wanted and the first car I ended up with. But, I finally got a Jeep.
Kaiser Jeep Corporation made a big mistake in 1970 when it sold itself to American Motors which ultimately got scooped up by Chrysler which merged with Fiat. When I was growing up, there were still a lot of Jeeps on the road with the original CJs (civilian jeep) carrying a Willys-Overland or a Willy’s Motors logo. A friend of mine had an early CJ-2A that we drove all over north Florida for years at its maximum speed of 45 mph and a four-wheel-drive that could only be engaged by manually changing the setting of the front hub caps (before you could shift into high or low range). The first thing you needed to remember was to turn on the ignition before stepping on the starter button.
My Jeep was much newer, a CJ-5 “Universal” built by Kaiser in 1970 before they sold out to the anger of Jeep purists everywhere. The top speed was about 80 though you really didn’t want to do that often. The four-wheel-drive still had to be locked in or out (before shifting) with the Free Lock or Warn hubs. This model had a Buick engine, removable doors and removable top. Fortunately, the manual starter button was gone. The manual choke was still there and you could blow off your muffler if you forgot to push it back in before shifting into second. I always had studded snow tires on mine during the winter months when I lived in Illinois.
On casual Friday, I still had to dress in clothes like those in this picture. The Jeep was fun to drive but noisy at highway speeds. Drove it from Northern Illinois to Glacier Park Montana once. At some point, I got flagged down by a trucker standing by his broken-down rig at the side of the road. Took him five miles to a gas station. He thanked me and said that he sure as hell preferred the relative quiet of his Mack truck to the “noisy contraption” I was driving.
I still had the Jeep when I moved to Georgia in 1975, though it was becoming nearly undrivable. Going up hills on the Interstates, my speed dropped to 40 mph. I picked up a hitchhiker in a rainstorm who had been standing beneath an overpass; he got out five miles down the road because of our slow progress and the fact we were showed with water through the falling-apart top every time a big rig passed. Sold it a year later. I was sad to see it go, but on a college teacher’s salary, I couldn’t afford to repair it. Traded with another college teacher, ending up with an Opel that tended to randomly catch fire on the I-285 connector around Atlanta (where everyone except me was driving at NASCAR speeds). They still do.
My wife and I ended up driving a Grand Cherokee once when we got upgraded by the rental car company from the Taurus we selected to this red barge. It was comfy. Had a radio. Had A/C. Bucket seats. But I really wasn’t a Jeep. Plus it cost a whole lot of money.
Now there’s a bunch of foreign stuff out there built to look like a Jeep. I won’t touch the stuff because I still remember, with more nostalgia than sense, the days when buying a real working Jeep meant something–as suggested by this old advertising poster.