Yes, I drive a Jeep. Yes I know they get crappy fuel mileage, and they have about as much interior room as shoe box and on the road you feel every bump. But damn, can they drive off-road !!!
Having led some great weekend and day trips, with groups of just three up to fifteen, of varying brand and models of four-wheel drive vehicles, I think I’ve seen it all. I believe my knowledge of tracks ,and what vehicles and drivers may, or may not find challenging, is slightly higher than the average four-wheel drive hobbyist. I am very confident in what I can, or can not do in my Jeep Wrangler TJ.
Like any four-wheel drive enthusiast, I have spent months tinkering, modifying adding or removing parts to personalise my machine, and make it what I believe to be an off-road weapon. Every four wheel driver believes this of they’re vehicle. That is until we’re humbled by an obstacle we can’t drive over, thorough or around. Then we’re back to modifying to make sure we can beat that obstacle the next time we go out.
We all work for a reason. To pay off a loan, a house or afford that next holiday. I work for those things too, but I also work to afford to do the things I enjoy doing, when I’m not working. I don’t drink, smoke or gamble. What I do, is spend a lot of time waiting for parts to arrive, so I can fit them to my Jeep. When I’m not doing that, I’m looking for parts to buy, or actually fitting them. It seems I spend more time doing this than actually driving, but it’s what makes me happy.
Every man needs to justify the fact he’s spent $400 on suspension. I like to keep things simple and say “It’s so that we’ll be safer when driving off-road” or “Look Babe, see how smooth the ride is now, I did that for you !”. The accompanying “You can’t pull the wool over my eyes” look is priceless.
I’ve driven several different automotive brands off-road in my time. Land Rover, Suzuki, Nissan, Toyota, but Jeep has stuck with me for some reason. I find the brand versatile in that if you don’t want a roof above you, you simply opt for a soft top. The soft top can open up to have a sun roof, you can go windowless, or simply convertible. The windscreen folds down to resemble a Jeep like off the TV show MASH, you can even remove the doors if you so desire. No other brand of off-road capable vehicle has as much diversity as the jeep. The only other brand that comes close is the Land Rover, but they stopped making those models years ago.
People are funny when it comes to brands. I have found that Nissan and Toyota drivers really dislike Jeep drivers. Maybe it’s because the Jeep comes straight off the assembly line as a more capable vehicle, than they’re make and model. But that’s what Jeep is about. You don’t have to spend thousands on it to make it drive well off-road, it’s actually designed with that purpose in mind. A Nissan Patrol ( GQ or GU ) is a suburban four-wheel drive with towing a boat or caravan and the occasional gravel road in mind. The same goes with the Toyota landcruiser. Both very good vehicles and capable in their own rights in mud and over rocks, but to get serious, a lot of work needs to be done, ie, suspension, drive train, reduction gears etc. I know this having driven them myself, and the work required etc.
Jeeps don’t tow. I’m talking about the Wrangler models in specific the TJ and JK. They’re designed to be a recreational off-road vehicle. You just have to look at the TJ Wrangler for example. It has a max unbraked towing capacity of just 650kg’s. Practically nothing, braked towing capacity of under a tonne. What !!?? This suggests the designers had something else in mind when designing these vehicles.
The Jeep wave. Yes, there is such a thing, and people become wankers when you don’t wave back from behind the wheel of your jeep. There are bumper stickers highlighting the fact that you are an advocate of the “Jeep wave”. I personally will wave to anyone who waves at me regardless of what they drive. Does that make me a wanker, oh I hope so.
Apparel. I do own a pair of Jeep trousers, not to mention a few jeep t-shirts. Would I go out of my way to buy them, no. My brother works at Jeep and has flicked a few freebies my way, otherwise I’m not the sort of guy that has to display the vehicle I drive on my shirt. That’s a big negative in my books to being a brand whore. I actually don’t think I would be caught dead wearing a red shirt with a Ferrari emblem on it, let alone a Toyota or Nissan shirt.
Here in Australia, the authorities are very controlling on what someone can or can’t do to their vehicle. A four-wheel drive vehicle can not be lifted more than 2.5 inches above factory height, and that’s including tyres. You must not have tyres protruding past the guards or wheel arches, and you must have mudflaps to an angle of 45 degrees or greater on your vehicle to prevent stones from being flicked up behind your vehicle. This restricts many brands of four wheel drive vehicles from ever being able to be driven off-road as you simply cannot modify them within the law to be capable on the tracks and trails we have available to us. And only registered vehicles can be driven on the tracks and trails, meaning if your vehicle doesn’t pass inspection, it can’t be registered. Just look at the picture below of who trolls through the bush in search of offenders of such vehicles.
The purpose of driving recreational vehicles is to drive places a normal, road purposed vehicle can’t go, to see scenery, reach locations and enjoy the trip to such places. The roads we drive these vehicles are challenging, the trails demanding and the tracks treacherous. The fun that’s to be had is in-measurable. I for one, and glad to say that I enjoy doing this as often as I can. But there’s one thing I’m even happier to say. And that is, I enjoy doing all these things in a Jeep.