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January 2005 Dr. Vern

Posted in Features on January 1, 2005
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Contributors: Dr. Vern

Believe it not, I did a little cleaning in the garage recently. I didn't find any entire Jeeps forgotten under the clutter, but I did come across the next best thing. I have nearly enough parts to build a spare Jeep. Scattered around the garage, in no particular order, are axles and transmissions and transfer cases and engines and who knows what else. About the only parts missing at the moment are an intact frame and some of the sheetmetal. This shortage may take care of itself soon because it's been scientifically proven that Jeep parts can find their way into my garage all by themselves. At least that's what I tell my wife.

Initially, my plan was to arrange these spare parts in the shape of a Jeep. As an experienced husband, I know I can't move everything at one time. One afternoon I'll move an axle about where it belongs and rearrange some lawn furniture for camouflage. In a week or so, I might relocate that box of Christmas ornaments so the transmission can be placed in correct proximity to the axle. Little by little, I'll rearrange the contents of the garage and stake out this prime territory for another Jeep. While I can no longer sneak home an entire Jeep, this new one can slowly materialize in the garage and never trip my wife's radar. Unlike the Cadillac of Johnny Cash fame, all of the parts should fit together without difficulty.

While hatching this diabolical plan, a disturbing thought occurred to me. With three Jeeps in various stages of disarray in and around the garage, did I need another one? Actually, that's a rhetorical question. But I didn't need just another ordinary Jeep. With everything but a frame and sheetmetal, why bother with any of that when I could build a hull around these Jeep parts instead? I could have my own floating Jeep, just like the amphibious GPA of World War II fame. Using many standard Jeep parts fitted in a special hull with a propeller in back, it was a vehicle that could travel on land or water. Wouldn't that be something when four-wheeling?

I realize this is a little ambitious. Looking at my track record, maybe I shouldn't tackle anything new just yet, or perhaps ever. While browsing through a car magazine, inspiration hit me. (I'm still nursing a black eye from that, but I was able to duck before motivation got me too.) Automakers are making a killing selling new versions of old vehicles. Volkswagen has the new Beetle, the new Mini Cooper is selling like hot cakes, Ford is selling retro Thunderbirds and so on. Where are the blueprints for the original amphibious Jeep? Spiff it up a little bit, add some chrome trim and a nice stereo, and I'd be first in line to buy one.

Bringing an amphibious Jeep to market would be quite an undertaking. Unlike yours truly, Jeep executives might actually think through all of the ramifications before embarking on such a project. Advertising would be the key to making the new amphibious Jeep successful since looks by themselves aren't going to do it. The key to runaway sales would be to highlight how much time could be saved with an amphibious Jeep.

Unless you have the luxury of your own dock (on the water, in case I need to be specific), launching even the smallest boat is a time-consuming process. Much time is spent hooking up the trailer, waiting in line to launch, parking the tow vehicle and trailer and so on. Afterward, the entire process must be repeated in reverse. Don't forget that a boat ramp can be pretty congested on a summer weekend. With so many idiots crowding around, you'd swear you were at a rockcrawling competition. Imagine how much quicker you could be in the water by simply driving straight down your local boat ramp and bypassing the trailer hassles altogether. Actually, there's nothing to prevent that now, but it makes more sense to do so with an amphibious vehicle.

Maybe fate will smile on me, and I'll be asked to test a prototype of a new amphibious Jeep. You could find yourself watching in awe as a tall, handsome guy motors up to the dock. Handing you a rope, I'd say, "Tie that line please, and make it fast." Months might pass before you'd understand what was possibly the world's best joke (hint: look in a dictionary), by which time your local dealer might have an amphibious Jeep for you, too.- Dr. Vern

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