My love affair with Jeeps began as a little girl. My sister, 10 years my senior, drove a red YJ in my childhood. I would do just about anything to earn a ride, top off and Salt n' Peppa on the stereo -- usually, it meant doing her chores or helping cover her latest lie to our parents. By the age of 9, I had become both a master bed maker and liar. Fast forward to a few weeks ago. My love of Jeeps was as strong as ever, despite the fact that I'd never bitten the bullet and bought one. For me, Jeeps had become like the cute punk boy in the bar that you don't think you're quite cool enough to approach. However, in the brief time I've been working at the Jeep gift store, All Things Jeep, I've learned that all you need to be cool enough to be a Jeeper is to love Jeeps. Guess I qualify.
Last weekend, Mike from our warehouse took me on a trail ride with his jeep club, JonFund. It was like the world's slowest but most exciting roller coaster ever; physics aren't necessarily going to keep you safe in a 4x4. The other drivers were just as much fun. There was a group dynamic of taking care of each other and genuinely wanting to see every other driver succeed which was unlike anything I've seen. Like the folks at ATJ, everyone was genuinely excited to meet me just because I liked Jeeps, too. I quickly realized that owning a daily driver Jeep just wouldn't be good enough -- I had found my new favorite thing to do and I would need a rig that could handle it.
I've done my research, talked to my coworkers at ATJ and my new friends from JonFund, and compiled the following list of requirements for my double duty off-road rig/daily driver:
Jeep TJ -- Despite Mike's undying love of his XJ, I want the openness of a Wrangler. I just can't afford a JK. I don't think I have the skills to restore and modify a CJ, but someday I will. So, the decision between TJ and YJ came down to the TJ's move away from the leaf spring suspension -- coils just provide a much smoother ride on the highway. Less importantly, I prefer the look of the round headlights.
Manual Transmission -- Definitely a personal choice thing. Lots of people on different boards swear by their automatic transmission, but there's just so much more control with a manual. NB: Automatic transmission are more expensive to replace.
Never Been Off-Road -- If you've already beaten it up off road, I don't want it. I want to be the one to beat it up! I've become extremely wary of tow hooks and lifts, even if I know they were only added for show.
V6 Engine -- Bad ass girls drive bad ass toys. Enough said.
So, over the next few (insert undetermined unit of time) I'll be keeping track of everything from the test drives, to the modifications and into hitting the trail. Be you novice or experienced, come along with me. It'll be fun.
Next time: The first test drives and dealing with the dealer.