In the Words of Freiburger…

Hot Rod - - Front Page - By David Freiburger Road­[email protected]­freiburger Fol­low us @ hotrod­magazine

Don’t worry, this isn’t (com­pletely) an ed­i­to­rial about 4x4s. How­ever, I find the study of gear­head so­ci­ol­ogy fas­ci­nat­ing, and my own Jeep was the trig­ger for my most re­cent les­son. Here’s the setup.

A cou­ple weeks ago, I un-moth­balled my 1981 Jeep Scrambler that hadn’t been on the open road in 15 years. A Scrambler is a CJ8, like a long­wheel­base CJ7 with ex­tra rear over­hang and most of­ten fit­ted with a fiber­glass half-cab to cre­ate a small pickup (Jeep is soon to in­tro­duce a mod­ern it­er­a­tion based upon the new-for-2018 JL-se­ries Wran­gler). I built my ver­sion way back in the late-1990s, fo­cus­ing on rock­crawl­ing per­for­mance by bob­bing 12 inches out of the over­hang to im­prove de­par­ture an­gle, and also short­en­ing the nose with a mil­i­tary M38A1 front clip. My friend, Pat Helge­son, cus­tom-fab­ri­cated mas­sive wheel­tubs in the rear and in­te­grated small fend­ers into the hood to add front-tire room. I’m cur­rently run­ning 42-inch-tall tires. The moral of the story is that the Jeep is rad­i­cally hacked from stock.

But here’s what hap­pened in the last 15 years: Scram­blers be­came col­lectible. As I rolled mine onto the high­way along­side my old friend Rick Péwé, edi­tor of JP mag­a­zine, I posted pics on In­sta­gram (@david­freiburger). Fol­low­ers re­called the Jeep fondly, but when pics were re­posted else­where, many com­ments read, “How could he de­stroy a clas­sic

Jeep?” and “Do­ing that to a Scrambler is just ig­no­rant.” Of course, these folks were un­aware that I’d mod­i­fied my CJ8 more than 20 years ago. Peo­ple were giv­ing them away be­cause the wheel­base was deemed too long for off-road­ing (to­day it’s con­sid­ered ideal).

Here’s where I roll this back to cars, and how they go through so many phases of per­cep­tion. First, they are just new cars—no big deal to ruin, be­cause they’ll just make more; con­sider the now-leg­endary Van­ish­ing Point 1970 Chal­lenger and Ban­dit Trans Am for ex­am­ples of how movies treated the cars when they were late-mod­els. The same time in a car’s life is when new cars were rad­i­cally cus­tom­ized; think of the Hiro­hata Merc or Bar­ris’s Sonny and Cher Mus­tangs.

The sec­ond phase is when cars be­come worth­less used cars. A great ex­am­ple is 10 years ago when 5.0L Fox-bod­ies were $1,500 a copy in de­cent con­di­tion, or 40 years ago when the cars that are to­day’s most col­lectible mus­cle cars were just junk gas-guz­zlers, or 70 years ago when 1932 Fords traded for $20. That’s the life stage my Scrambler was in when I got it. This is the same pe­riod when those cus­tom mod­i­fi­ca­tions of a decade prior start to look dated and tacky. Think of how hor­ri­ble a tail-high, Cra­gar-shod, tun­nel­rammed street ma­chine looked in, say, 1990.

The third stage is when those pre­vi­ously worth­less cars be­gin to seem nos­tal­gic and in­crease in value.

This was seen in the mus­cle-car boom circa 1983, when auc­tions and chalk­mark-cor­rect restora­tions were ris­ing. At this time, the mus­cle cars that were hopped up or cus­tom­ized in the 1960s and 1970s were con­sid­ered “ru­ined” (like my Jeep) and those mod­i­fi­ca­tions were re­versed as the cars were re­stored.

Stage four is when peo­ple claim to have been in­spired by the same cars they con­sid­ered hideous junk in the not-so-dis­tant past. I’m guilty and can re­call the Pro Street 1990s when the 1970s-style street ma­chines were passé, and I never wanted to see an­other Cra­gar, Auto Drag, or slot mag. Un­til now, when those are the wheels on most of my cars. And look what’s hap­pen­ing with prices sky­rock­et­ing for old dune bug­gies, stoner vans, and square-body Chevys. You know, the stuff that was near-free a decade ago.

So there’s my per­se­ver­a­tion of over­thought in the face of auto cul­ture. And so it goes. Wanna be im­mune? Just build what you like and stop read­ing the in­ter­net.

[ My “ru­ined” Jeep Scrambler. Some con­sider it a waste, oth­ers see it as trend­set­ting.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.