09 September 2011

Todd's Technicolor Jeep

"As an undergraduate at a small school with no means of conveyance, and with a mother who desired to see her son more often than just once or twice a semester, I was informed by my father that I'd be getting a used vehicle.  Immediately I had visions of a '67 Camaro, a '70 'Cuda, or a '65 Mustang fastback.  I told my father how I'd look for one with a V8 and manual transmission, and I surveyed the classifieds for weeks, all the time going on about what I'd do to soup up the vehicle. 
One day after I got home from my summer job, my father informed me that he'd found me a new vehicle, and it was in the garage.  I rushed out the door, expecting to see a low and mean-looking muscle car.  It took my mind a moment to register the vehicle before me:  a 1976 Jeep CJ-5.  Apparently my worried parents decided it would be a safer, yet still "hip" vehicle for their son with just a couple years of driving experience.  Granted, the Jeep had a 304 C.I. V8, and granted, it had a 3-speed on the floor, but still - it wasn't what I had in mind!

After some initial reluctance, I took to that Jeep with a passion.  It was painted orange, and it had the Levi package, meaning brown vinyl seats with "Levi Strauss" buttons on the seats, and the interior was likewise orange.  There was a bit of surface rust, which I tackled with sandpaper.  Not having the correct orange paint to match, I decided to use black paint in a rattle can.  The soft top that came with the Jeep was badly faded and torn, so I got a new top - in blue.  As a result, I drove around college in an orange Jeep with various portions painted black, and brown seats and a blue top.  The thing was a study in colors, to say the least. I put dual sidepipes on it, which woke up the engine, creating significantly more power and a glorious, raspy exhaust note that turned the coeds' heads.  It had a wonky electrical system; sometimes if I went over a bump at night, the headlights would turn off, but the next bump would bring them back.  I could never figure out the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of the wiring, so I learned to expect it whenever I drove at night.  Eventually I installed two pairs of off-road lights, which when turned on along with the high beams acted as a guiding beacon for the fighter jets flying to the Air Force base 40 miles away.  Those off-road lights helped considerably whenever the headlights took a break.  I learned also not to have more than one person in the back seat as I drove along; if I had two or more passengers back there, the rearward shift of the vehicle's weight would start up a rather serious shimmy in the front end whenever I hit a bump (hopefully not at the same time the lights went out). As my passengers usually consisted of lovely, petite sorority girls in bikini's, I really couldn't assign blame to any one particular person, weight-wise; there were just too many of the ladies in the back. But how could I pick one or two to stay home?  Eventually I caught onto the trick of a short, sharp application of the brakes to bring the Jeep back under control.  Going to the drive-in theater was a delight, because I sat higher than just about everyone else in the lot - sucked to be the person parked behind me, but as a self-centered college student, I never really thought about that.  Not only did I enjoy that vantage position, but I could also fold down the windshield for an uninterrupted view of the movie screen.

I loved driving that Jeep for the year I owned it, but unfortunately, rust was still making serious inroads due to the Jeep's being parked outside 24/7.  It was replaced by a used CJ-7 with a straight six, and from then on by a succession of new 4WD trucks, a tradition I've continued to this day.  I still think of that technicolor Jeep with fondness..."

Cheers!         Todd

1 comment:

  1. Aaahhh, the infamous Jeep "death wobble"!