This Old Jeep – Background

Lots of folks drive used cars. I, on the other hand, have this:

That’s a 1994 Jeep Cherokee “XJ”, built in Toledo in June of 1994. It has been a trusted member of our household since November 2005. Today, it is 236,000 miles young and counting. Most days, it’s just simple transportation. Others, it’s a recreational gateway; or a platform for escape. Somehow, despite 20 years in the “red-light-running” capital of the nation, it’s still intact. A survivor, if you will (and let’s hope it stays that way).

It is far from perfect. The paint is eroding away from 20+ years in the southwestern sun. The headliner is disintegrating and needs replaced. The driveline is noisy and clunky from wear in the transfer case and differential. There’s an engine-vibration squeak somewhere in the front end that I cannot isolate. Engine instrumentation is of questionable trust. Leakproofing the engine/transmission/driveline are never ending tasks. Oh, and the drivers seat is utterly and completely shot.

In short, if one wants a rolling collection of mostly harmless puzzles and projects with a secondary purpose of transportation, it’s perfect. And that’s why I’m writing about it.

Most old cars are just old cars. But there’s something about old Jeeps that transcend time. Sure, a brand new Wrangler is quite a refined improvement over the CJ-series. But the CJ, imperfect as it was, speaks of fun and freedom over the decades with a fold-down window, canvas top, and no doors. You’ll sunburn, freeze, bake, drown, and yet smile most everywhere you go in it. The XJ is the same, yet different; it trades the topless joy of the CJ for utility, yet it’s simple, light, and goes everywhere in the bargain, while remaining affordable, simple, and above all, fun. Despite it’s flaws, it exhibits this “let’s go” personality that’s irresistible. Like the CJ, it’s easy to fix, and parts are rarely an issue (although good quality parts can be a problems).
They used to be thick around here; now, the few that still exist are modified or pampered. Owners will wave at each other (“hey, another one lives!”). There’s little else like it that can replace it’s go-anywhere utility and practicality and personality. So I’m going to keep it awhile yet. Consider it a challenge…