When I turned 16, I was sure I had to have a 4x4. I had been reading all the 4x4 magazines I could get my hands on (most of them from my brothers). A few of the guys who worked on our family farm had 4x4s, mostly Blazers. For some reason I wanted a Jeep. I’m not sure why that was the vehicle of choice, but a CJ of any type was at the top of my list. My parents actually had a VW Beetle that they had told me and my brothers we could drive, but I was sure I needed 4x4 to get to school in. My dad told me that if I wanted a Jeep I would just have to save my money and buy one. So I did.
I was socking away all my dollars in a jar and then upgraded to a savings account while I imagined ripping down the backroads of Pennsylvania with the top off. I’m not really sure what I was thinking I would be doing on those roads, but I was sure a Jeep would make all the difference in the world for me. I was pretty much a dorky kid and I assumed a Jeep would make me cool! The problem was I couldn’t find one I could afford. Now my dad was not thrilled about me buying a vehicle. He was always quite practical in that way, and considered vehicles as just tools to get from point A to point B, but it was he who actually told me about the Jeep I would eventually buy.
Dad never made it too easy for me, so rather than giving me an address he just said, “Go look around between this road and that road.” He wanted me to find it myself, but those two roads were many miles apart. Eventually I found the Jeep, and I found that I love exploring backroads (thanks, Dad). It was a CJ-5 with a 304 V-8 and a three-speed manual transmission, and it was mine for $650. Six hundred and fifty hard-earned dollars from working on the farm. Oddly enough, I cannot remember what year it was, probably a ’72 or ’73.
Also oddly enough, my dad came along and drove it home because he had insurance that would cover it, he claimed. Secretly I think he was actually pretty excited, but he never said so. Or he was concerned I would wreck myself on the drive home! The Jeep was pretty much a rusty deathtrap. The clutch stuck the first time the seller started it, and it almost ran over Dad and me! The brakes were marginal at best, and the lights didn’t. But none of that mattered. I now owned a Jeep!
I followed Dad as he drove it back to our farm. We put it in the barn, and I started a hobby that I still do today, messing around with 4x4s. I remember lying under that Jeep, reading a shop manual, and just figuring out how it worked. I really had no idea what I was doing, and my dad and brothers just let me figure it out on my own. It was frustrating and fun all at the same time.
In Pennsylvania there is a state vehicle safety inspection, and I tried every way I could to get that Jeep to pass—new wiring, some hoses and belts, and other upgrades—but I eventually ran out of money before I could get it to pass and had to sell my first Jeep. It was a major letdown. I did drive it around the farm some, and there may have been a time or two when it ran down local backroads without proper technical stickers or parental approval, if you know what I mean, but I finally gave in and sold that Jeep. I felt I had failed. My dad may have thought I was over that 4x4 bug, but less than a year later I came home with a ’76 CJ-7 and it started all over again.
As for the CJ-7, I drove it all over Pennsylvania for a summer and it was great!