I thought I’d share my story. I’m 31 years old. I drive a ’15 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen. Nice little turbo with a stick. Back in college, I drove a ’96 Cherokee, white, Country edition, with the gray tweed seats and fake wood interior accents. Bought it from a mechanic for $4,000 after my ’88 Camry’s head gasket blew. Loved that Jeep. Drove it all over. It was with me for five summers while I was working as a cook and a lifeguard on Martha’s Vineyard. Most of the time the tires were left at 14 psi so I could throw it in 4-Lo and turn onto the beach. Lots of great memories. Lots of memories working on it too. Being of simple means, I had to figure out how to fix it myself most of the time. Really easy car to learn to work on. Big engine bay, cheap parts, and no lift necessary for oil changes. I ended up selling it to a friend after the radiator basically blew up. I still wish I had bucked up and replaced it.
Fast-forward almost a decade and I am two weeks into ownership of another Jeep. This time, it’s a second car, a weekend wagon. It’s a ’99 Wrangler TJ with a five-speed and 110,000 miles. Same 4.0L engine and same leaky radiator. I bought it off a young kid I work with for $500. Immediately dropped $2,000 on it to have a mechanic fix the intake and exhaust manifolds, radiator, leaky tire, and so on. Plus additional spend for jobs that I’m doing myself: fluids, serpentine belt, plugs, hoses, and so on. Everything that goes in there is Mopar or better. I am really polishing this old turd back to glory. It’s pretty exciting. Working on it and driving it takes me out of the cubicle and puts me back on the beach, so to speak. The Jeep had been neglected, so every time I change something out, there is a significant improvement to the way it runs and drives. With a new transfer case and diff fluid it rolls like a hot knife on butter. New plugs and it’s purring like a tiger. I can almost hear it thanking me implicitly after each job is completed.
I’m going to take a breather on spend for now and simply enjoy it. I’ve been driving it to work daily. Leaving the shiny, smooth-shifting German gentleman at home. I plan to take it out to the far corners of the beaches of the Cape and islands, do a little fishing and surfing with friends. Might end up keeping it through the summer and sell it for a small profit.
Anyway, I share your excitement about having an old 4x4 to mess around with! I say keep scratching that itch!
THOMAS JENKINS VIA EMAIL