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August 30, 2017

Jeepless for the 1st time in 30 years and the quest for 71 inches

by Paul Daniel

Jeepless in Pewaukee

Photo: Jeep Blog

For those of you who have not read my posts before, I love Jeeps! My love affair began in 1970 when American Motors purchased The Jeep Corporation from Kaiser Industries. My dad worked for AMC at the time at its National Parts Distribution Center in Milwaukee, WI. so now I would receive employee pricing on Jeeps. Dad was the first family member to hop on when he purchased a Cherokee Wagoneer in 1988 exactly like the one in the picture. This wasn’t the larger SJ version but the XJ built on the new Cherokee platform introed by AMC in 1984 and over its 17-year run, just under three million were sold. This was ground-breaking stuff at the time essentially kicking off the SUV segment. Later on, mom wanted something easier to get in and out of and he sold this Jeep to me. That started a relationship that would last a very long time.

Photo: Jeep Blog

Pushing 250,000 miles it was time to look our first new Jeep. My wife and I loved the styling of the ZJ Grand Cherokee and purchased one in 1996. Our first new vehicle we bought together as husband and wife. This one we loaded up including leather seats, and heated, which was a big deal living in Wisconsin. Not quite as fancy as the Orvis Edition pictured right. Damn it gets cold here. It was also the vehicle we brought our daughter Meg home from the hospital. Even though she is now a freshman at Western Michigan University, she says she still remembers that Jeep. Like just about everybody else in this country we learned how tight the money gets after having a kid. This Jeep had about 300,000 miles on it and was like saying goodbye to an old friend. A new Grand Cherokee would be out of our budget but dad came through again giving us a killer deal on his 2002 Jeep Liberty (KJ).

While I love Jeeps, my response to this one however was lukewarm at best. This was the Jeep created by “the merger of equals” in 1998 When Daimler bought Chrysler. My dad has tons of stories about the Daimler people, not good, that could fill another blog entry. Let’s just say, it was their way or hit the highway. The Liberty was peppy but way too choppy of a ride.  Not too stable going sideways on I-894 when the roads became slushy and I ended flipping the Liberty on its side and skidded 500 feet before  coming to rest. When I knew I wouldn’t get whacked by another car I then exited through the sunroof, a first, because the driver and left passenger doors wouldn’t open enough for me to get out. I killed it and did it in fine style. For my next act…..

Second verse same as the first

Again, having no cash saved up for a new Jeep, and not a Liberty, I started looking at the car Jeeps like the Compass and Patriot mainly because they got good gas mileage, were cheap, and carried the Jeep name, just barely. Not really getting all warm and fuzzy about my options, it was time to get wifey’s input so off we went to the local dealership. When we walked in, boom, right in front of us was our next Jeep, a Wrangler Unlimited (JK). I wanted a Jeep and Ann wanted a convertible. It was a match made in Toledo. The cash issue was solved when we decided on leasing. That 2011 was followed by a 2015 which we just turned in at the end of its lease and we are now Jeepless, sigh. As you can see in the photo, I hate goodbyes. We could have gotten back in the rodeo and gotten a killer deal on a 2017 but wanted to wait for the next-gen 2018 which the dealers just started taking orders for.  I follow Wrangler Forum and the info in this graphic shows the cool options, like a power soft top, will not start arriving until about Spring so it’ll be a couple of months.

The quest for 71 inches

The Wrangler is just a part of our vehicle jigsaw puzzle because about the same time we were getting ready to turn it in our 2008 Chrysler Pacifica decided its transmission was done at 160,000 miles. Now what? Well here’s the thing. I have toys. I fly some large radio control airplanes. Between my Piper Super Cub’s, and F-16 turbine fuselages, (left image), along with all the other stuff I need to take for a day of flying, it sucked up all the space in the back of the Pacifica. It was now dead! Too bad they didn’t keep making it because we loved it. Time for Plan B so we were now on the lookout for a vehicle, a Chrysler vehicle because of the deal, that would have a length with both back seats folded down to the lift gate of at least 71 inches to fit my planes. Let me preface my selections is that I can’t do minivans so the new Pacifica was out. The Jeep Grand Cherokee was about 10 inches too short and the new Compass even shorter. Then we saw a 2017 Dodge Durango on the dealer lot and out came the tape measure. Bingo, 71 inches plus and we sealed the deal. It’s a cousin of the Grand Cherokee since they are both built in the same plant. That’s my logic and I’m sticking to it.

Putting the Jeep wave on hold

It’s a Jeep thing if you wouldn’t understand. From JeepTalk.org, “The Jeep Wave: An honor bestowed upon those drivers with the superior intelligence, taste, class, and discomfort tolerance to own the ultimate vehicle – the Jeep. Generally consists of vigorous side-to-side motion of one or both hands, but may be modified to suit circumstances and locally accepted etiquette.” This is only done with Wrangler (along with it predecessors) and none of the other Jeep lines so it’s an exclusive club. I know I’m still going to do it. Some habits are hard to break. We’ll drive dad’s Chrysler 200 for about six months and then get a new Wrangler. I won’t be Jeepless again for a very long time. I just can’t handle it.

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