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August 2011 Trail Head - Editorial

Posted in Features on August 1, 2011
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So which is more popular, newer Jeeps or the older, well-used stuff? I know there really is no arguing against the fact that there are more newer Jeeps on the road than older models, and the bulk of the aftermarket products sold today are for newer Jeeps. But what do people really prefer to see, and which ones do they prefer to look at up close and personal?

We have a scenario we often repeat while at work, and I have yet to find someone with a solid argument against it. Imagine two Jeeps. The first Jeep is a brand new JK Wrangler tastefully outfitted with all the latest in cool bells, whistles, and wingdings, including a well-optioned lift, fancy wheels, luggy tires, an imposing winch bumper, a winch, a rattle-free spare tire carrier, aftermarket axles, and maybe even a V-8 Hemi swap. Now imagine the second Jeep as a dead-stock vintage flatfender. If you put them both in a parking lot nearly anywhere on the planet, the old vintage Jeep will almost always garner more attention. And it’s not something we just made up. We’ve seen it tested many times, including at this year’s Easter Jeep Safari. And in fact, this particular time it was even worse than our imagined scenario. The flatfender in question was dilapidated beyond belief thanks to wear, rust, owner neglect, and unbelievably shoddy, hack-job repairs and modifications. Yet this sorry example of a nearly stock Jeep attracted the largest crowd at this Jeep show. And there were several modified newer Jeeps easily worth fifty times more. This beat up and rusty Jeep had so much character that we even shot a feature on it that you’ll find in an upcoming issue. So even I fall victim to the allure of older Jeeps, and I can’t really explain it. But it’s not just with old Jeeps and I know it’s not just me.

A couple of years ago while on the way to Arizona I was driving through the desert. I was on a two-lane road with some friends and one of their girlfriends. Off in the distance my three buddies and I became fixated on a vintage-shaped truck with weathered paint heading towards us. We were so intent on figuring out exactly what it was that it took my buddy’s overly excited and obviously distressed girlfriend to point out that it was in our lane, heading right for us, and getting really close, really fast. The three of us eventually came out of our vintage-induced daze and avoided collision. We later laughed about it by saying “Ollld Truuuck” as though we were in a zombie-like state mindlessly looking for brains to eat.

Interestingly enough, as I was writing this editorial a major suspension manufacturer asked for my input on putting a vintage Jeep in its SEMA booth this year. At first I couldn’t really understand why the company wanted to do this, since as I mentioned before, the majority of the products this company sells today are for newer Jeeps. But I get it. It makes a statement about heritage, especially since this company has been building lift kits for decades and still offers kits for the older models.

Anyway, even though the combined number of Jp staff-owned Jeeps isn’t currently at its peak, we have just about every major model covered, the newest being an ’07 and the oldest being a ’45. With 70 years of Jeeps to work with I think we do a pretty good job of trying to hit them all, or at least the ones that make sense. I’m not gonna lie though, given a choice between new and old we’re just like most of you. I think Hazel, Trasborg, and myself would all walk over and check out the vintage Jeep in the parking lot first. Each of us has a special place for vintage Jeeps, and it’s not just the hidden nook in the side yard.

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