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January 2009 Dr. Vern - Good Jeep Deals

Posted in Features on January 1, 2009
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Contributors: Dr. Vern

Recently, I found myself cruising the main drag after dark in a seedy part of town. My neck craned left and right to check out the questionable beauties that were calling me. While most were long past their prime, they were still quite good looking in the evening light. Even though this was far from a nice part of town, I couldn't help but slow down to look. Before I knew it, I was handing over some cash.

Get your mind back out of the gutter, because it's not what you're thinking. I've just described buying a car. I stand guilty of possessing the "likes anything with a motor" gene, which might explain my elaborate history of Jeep ownership. It might also explain why I bought yet another family car. And yeah, as usual, it came from one of the bottom-feeder used car lots in a sketchy part of town.

I do need to submit a formal apology. When this issue hits the newsstands, certain advertising bigwigs may soon find themselves unemployed, so I feel bad about that. Keep in mind that manufacturers carefully direct their advertising to appeal to a certain market. Jeep, for example, rightfully crafts their efforts to attract the rugged, outdoorsy type. What if a manufacturer wanted to attract the crowd interested in high performance? The advertising department at Porsche, for example, has certainly done just that. What if a manufacturer wanted to draw an elegant and sophisticated crowd? Rule #1 should be to make sure it doesn't interest a guy like me. Because of that, I foresee a round of pinkslips at the advertising department at Jaguar, because that's what I bought (a car, not the company).

As expected, my Jag is loaded, needing only an in-dash PEZ dispenser to be perfect. I am a little disappointed with these new-fangled projector headlights, because I can't figure out how to make them play a movie. Other than that, the car is stunning, but from the first time I got behind the wheel, I felt insulted. A list of necessary safety precautions is printed on the sun visor, but on the very first line, in large letters, it says, "ATTENTION AIRBAG." Sure, I may be a bit long-winded and verbose at times, and might tend to say something twice when once is plenty, but I don't like being addressed like that.

As nice as this car is, I've got to say a Jaguar is about the worst choice a vintage Jeep owner can make. In collector car circles, the saying goes that Jeep people are cheap people. I like to scour local ads for Jeeps and Jeep parts, but appearance is everything when you show up to close the deal. To score great Jeep bargains, the trick is to look destitute. I'd often bring my son with me, because everybody knows feeding a teenager is a ticket straight to the poorhouse. My penniless image gets blown out of the water, however, if I show up in such a sharp looking car. Fortunately, I have my "Dumpster Behind the Thrift Store" fashion sense to save the day (Editor's Note: Don't make fun of thrift shopping, because that's how I replenish my collection of Members Only jackets).

There's another problem with owning such a nice car. Being surrounded with such luxury has caused me to start speaking with a faux British accent. Depending on my medication levels, I'm tempted to ring up and say things like, "Cedric, do bring the motorcar around." This is rather disconcerting because it would imply my little suburban place has room for a separate carriage house, and even more alarming, that I actually have a hired hand. It's actually quite nice here in my little fantasy world, though, so I see no reason to leave. I've also decided retaining Cedric is the best thing that could ever happen to a vintage Jeep enthusiast like me.

For example, I've got a few stalled Jeep projects waiting for me. On my '63 wagon, the transmission is in dire need of a rebuild. Have you ever rebuilt a T-90 transmission? It's a piece of cake, and somewhat fun. Press out this bearing, replace this gizmo, and so on. Why, it's so simple, even a magazine editor could do it. It's a relaxing way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I enjoy that part of the rebuild process. The part I don't care for, though, is wrestling the greasy mess out from under the vehicle, and then detoxifying it in preparation for the rebuild. That's where Cedric earns his keep. "Cedric, do pop out that T-90 and clean it up." "Very well, Sir," I'd hear in reply, and a couple of hours later the transmission would be spiffy clean and waiting for me on the workbench.

Cedric should be most handy off-road, too. My Jeep is too fun to drive, so he won't be doing any chauffeur duty. Anytime I need a spotter, though, Cedric will be at my beck and call. Because of his proper British upbringing, he'll be most courteous in this duty, which is a marked contrast from most trail spotters I've encountered. Even better is when I find myself in a sticky situation: "Cedric, this mud pit is astonishingly deep and we have failed to proceed. Do carry out the winch line." The proper answer, of course, will be, "Very well, Sir, I'll get out the scuba gear."

The benefits are almost endless for having an imaginary sidekick, whether working on the Jeep, four-wheeling, or just watching Fight Club on DVD. You name a situation, and my faithful servant will earn his keep. "Cedric, the Caller ID shows it's my editor again, probably with his annoying 'Does last week's deadline mean anything?' speech. He is also likely to still be upset because you kept using your PeeWee Herman voice on the phone last time." And of course, the proper reply: "Very well, Sir, shall I do it again?" -Dr. Vern

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