Get Over It!
Regarding Trail Head in the Dec. ’15 issue, I’m a guy who grew up wrenching with my dad, starting very young. Before that I was working on RC cars at my first job in the local hobby shop. That evolved over the years to wrenching by myself as my dad got older and faced some serious health issues. Ironically, I’m one of those corporate executives you mentioned, but that’s just what I do to keep the lights on.
To say I was defined by and proud of doing my own work is an understatement. I hated others working on my vehicles and still do to a large degree. Unfortunately, I also have had to deal with some health and back issues that leave my desire to hurt from wrenching significantly less. Fortunately, my career has gone well and I’ve been smart and saved a little. I now find myself with a healing broken back that firmly puts me in the bought-not-built club. You know what, I’m rather enjoying it! I’m going to bring out the T-shirt, “Bought not built; get you a bigger bank account, son” and wear it with pride. I have been fortunate to be able to keep enjoying a hobby that I love, despite “life” getting in the way.
In hindsight, one of the things I loved as a kid working at a hobby shop was that it sheltered me from judgment. If you had an RC vehicle or model train, you were welcome; no other labels were necessary. Looking back now on the characters that came through that door, boy, could there have been labels!
Jeeps are just bigger toys, and as one goes along this crazy ride of life, the perspective of what matters, I would hope, goes far beyond someone’s ability to turn a wrench. I think that if one gets worked up over this stuff, you must have a very fortunate and blessed life to have nothing bigger to worry about. It’s none of anyone’s business if I bought or built my rig. Because I chose buy does not mean I couldn’t out wrench anyone with one hand tied behind my broken back!
Just read Trail Head in the Dec. ’15 issue regarding the debate on built or bought Jeeps. First, I applaud your point of view allowing for an open world of Jeeping without discrimination. Secondly, you asked the readers where they weigh in on this debate, so here I am. I agree wholeheartedly. This is the Jeeping world I've grown to love.
As for reasons people do what they do, I'd like to add another variable into consideration. You see, for some of us, it's not quite that we aren't mechanically inclined, or we wouldn't like to spend time building or tinkering. Nope, in fact, for some of us, it's quite the opposite—we'd love to build, if given the opportunity!
However, due to our current living arrangements—constraints, if you will—many of us may be limited. Some of us, in order to remain in close proximity to our inner city jobs, may take up residence in temporary smaller apartments. Maybe we simply haven't found the house we're looking for yet and are saving money while in a condo. Or maybe we might live in a high rise with only a single parking garage spot. Whichever the scenario, there's always that one common denominator—none of us have the luxury of a garage to work in. Or a friend or relative that's willing to store all our crap in theirs. Nope, we're left with a minimalist approach. We buy what we can, most likely already fully loaded, and generally take our ride to a shop for any upgrades since it's our only option.
So as much as we love to sit on the edge of our seats reading much-anticipated debates on which part is best and thoroughly enjoy all the "how to" guides, we're often simply left as nothing more than envious observers and avid fans, dreaming that someday we'll have our own space to tinker around in.
I have mixed feelings or at least thoughts that lean both ways on the subject of built or bought. I’m a welder by trade and build stuff all day, so I'm capable of building about anything from metal. Many times I often enjoy building something myself, but sometimes there is something to be said for six bolts and two hours spent, and then off to the trails you go. Either way, I don't feel there is any reason to insult people who buy and not build. Not everyone has the skills, facilities, or desire to spend hours welding and grinding.
Everything on my rig is built from scratch. Meaning I measured, cut, tacked, and welded all of it. I had no experience in cutting or welding so I started to research everything from measuring to welding on my own. YouTube was a huge help, but buying a cheap welder for starters and doing some welding on my own got me going. Test your welds out first, then begin building. Everyone started at the bottom and worked their way up. You think the pro's became pro's overnight? Think again. They all learned through trial and error. Unless you have money to spend, then go for it; otherwise, who else is going to make your truck run. You must trust yourself.
Just so you know, I build rigs for a living. I personally love quality work. If I can't do something to my own standard, I'll have someone else do the work. My strengths are suspension, differentials, motor, transmission, transfer case, and so on. I do electrical pretty well and can do tube bending and sheet metal work, but I'm not that fast at it. As for paint and body, forget that. So if I have someone else do my cage and body work can I still say "built not bought"?
I have a question for you guys: If I don't have the skill to build a quality rollcage but still build one on my JK, are you going to get in, sit down, and hold on while we go play with a possible chance of a rollover? Some of us know our limits and can't build our rides. The house I live in has a one-car garage. It is not big enough to fit my Jeep. I'd love to hear your answer to my question, will you trust the cage I build?
I enjoyed reading your piece on the “built versus bought” argument and had to laugh, since I feel that I have been on both sides of the debate. I have been an avid four-wheel-drive enthusiast and magazine reader for years. I can certainly appreciate the hard work and effort it takes to build a vehicle from the ground up. I can also appreciate the time and effort it takes to establish wealth and enjoy the fruits of other's labor for a well-built Jeep that is already outfitted with the latest and greatest accessories, which is generally sold for a lower price than the cost of building the Jeep on your own. I recently purchased a ’03 TJ from a Jeep-only dealership. It came outfitted with a four-link front suspension, three-link rear suspension, OX lockers front and rear, 35-inch Goodyear MT/R tires, a Warn 9,000-pound winch, rock sliders, heavy-duty bumpers front and rear, and many other accessories too long to list. I figure had I purchased the bone-stock TJ and added the accessories myself, my investment would have been significantly higher. Since I didn't have the money (much less the time and/or tools to accessorize the TJ myself in the garage), I could finance an already-built rig and be ready to hit the trails in weeks, not years. Bottom line, don't ridicule other four-wheelers on how their rig got to the top of the hill. Just appreciate the fact that we all enjoy a common interest in the outdoors with fellow four-wheel-drive enthusiasts. I can tell you from experience that the view from the top still looks the same no matter how you crawled up there.
Inland Empire, CA
Get It Dirty
To me it does not matter if you build or buy your rig with the mods, as long as at some point it ends up built-up. Big tires and lift kits on rigs that never see what they were built for is a complete waste. My Wrangler has more dirt on the inside than some have on the underside, and it has been that way from day one. Don't get me wrong: wax and ArmorAll is great. It makes it easier to wash the mud off.
Golden Eagle Gaudy
In response to “Rare LJ” (Dec. ’15, Mailbag), you commented about how gaudy the modern Jeep special editions are. What about the ’06 Jeep Wrangler Golden Eagle I just happen to be the proud owner of. What’s so gaudy about it? This Jeep gets a lot of comments, and it’s rare to me. What happened to the comment of all Jeeps are great? By the way, I have been a motor mechanic for 30-plus years, and I know this Jeep inside and out. So please tell me what’s so gaudy.
Nothing is particularly gaudy about the Golden Eagle–edition TJ Wrangler. The moniker on your TJ is borrowed from the ’77-’83 Golden Eagle CJ. Most of the older special-edition Jeeps are tastefully done, although I’m sure someone would call a political correctness foul on a modern-day production Jeep Cherokee Chief.
Anyway, the Golden Eagle TJ is certainly one of the few special-edition Jeeps that isn’t overly gimmicky. Some people might think the gold wheels are a bit much, but I kind of like them. By the way, we don’t ever remember saying all Jeeps are great. There are some real losers out there for sure. You wouldn’t catch us owning an XJ Cherokee with a 2.8L V-6 or any Jeep with the BA-10 Peugeot manual transmission.
Matthew McConaughey Wrangler
I just got done reading the Dec. ’15 issue. It was another great issue as always. In Mailbag, you caught my eye with the “Rare LJ” letter. I was disappointed to see that you forgot to mention the rarest of the LJ's, although I wouldn't call it gaudy. I'm talking about the ’05 Rubicon Unlimited Sahara. They were produced following the release of the movie Sahara, and only 1,000 of this model were made. Mine is number 990. I bought mine used with 37,000 miles in 2009 from a used car lot that had no idea what it was. It was completely debadged and missing the chrome grille cover. I had no idea what it truly was either until a collector of these spotted it outside Desert Rat in Phoenix, Arizona. He let me know about the rarity and how to confirm what number it was. I bought it with a TeraFlex lift, Banks exhaust, Rancho 9000 shocks, performance chip, throttle body spacer, cold air kit, and rear bumper with tire carrier. They only thing I added was the winch. One man’s loss is another man’s gain. I can't go to the local dealer here without some sales person trying to buy it. Sadly for them, this one is not getting away from me. Anyway, keep up the good work.
Too Low Low
I just read your reply to Ron Mizia about the 4:1 low range in a Rubicon (Your Jeep, Nov. ‘15). I agree that sometimes the 4:1 gearing in a transfer case can be too low in certain instances (I’d love to have a three-speed case). For my CJ, the 4:1 is indeed too low for the sand dunes. I don’t, however, find it a problem in deep snow. I usually run only the low range when off-road in the snow unless I’m trying to show off by spinning donuts in high range. I can’t imagine topping out the low range in the snow. I live near the California’s Sierra Nevada so I know what deep snow is. We don’t have much mud around here so I really don’t know how my gearing would work in that situation. I guess I would run high range as I have a V-8 from a Z28 Camaro under the hood.
We Like Ideas
I had an idea for a story series that would help people like my wife and I. We have a ’13 JK that we are going to start wheeling. After looking at the wide range of equipment available, we are baffled as to what we should have on board, as well as what trails we want to try.
I'm suggesting a series on what equipment (winch, jack, snatch strap, and so on) we would need for the different rated trails, as I see they are rated from 1 to 9. It might also be helpful to us newbies if there was a story on a trail that shows what to expect when. I'm sure we aren't the only ones that are a tad hesitant when it comes to trying to figure out what we're doing. I know that for the fine people at Jp, it would probably be boring to tackle a trail rated 1 or 2, but for us newbies, it would be helpful to read an article on what we should have to run that trail and see some pictures so we have an idea of what to expect.