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4xForward: The Jeep Police Are Out to Get Me

Posted in Features on March 21, 2018
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Photographers: John Cappa

Shhh, don’t talk loudly. We’ve got to be quiet. They’re out there and they’re listening, waiting, plotting. I’m like Ray Liotta in the movie, Goodfellas. “I think this helicopter has been following me all day.” So what’s got me so paranoid? The Jeep Police are out to get me. And for the life of me, I can’t understand why.

If there’s been one underlying rule I’ve abided by during my 19 years in this industry it’s to always write the truth. Advertisers and sponsors come and go, products wax and wane, and trends flourish and die. Through it all I realized early on if I wanted to enjoy any staying power and not have my credibility go the way of extreme wacky articulating suspension link mounts or spinning rimz, common sense and the truth were my greatest allies. But in certain cases, wielding either can cause just as much blowback as fabricating half-facts to serve the wrong master. And since I’ve been daily driving my 1978 Cherokee Chief and sharing my daily misadventures on social media, every time I speak the plain, unvarnished, ill truth about my Jeep, devotees descend upon me from parental basements across the planet via mobile apps and internet connections.

But here’s the fact: This particular FSJ is just complete garbage. I say this without complaint or emotion. I’m not anti-FSJ. In fact, I’ve owned four of them. My 1968 J2000, 1968 M-715, and 1972 J4000 were all great vehicles. But this Chief, which I purchased in 2011 with 101,000 original miles, is a complete pile. And the Jeep Police just can't seem to take my word on the matter. And the Jeep Police just can't seem to take my word on the matter. Made on a Friday afternoon by drunken UAW workers? Possibly. Cursed by evil spirits? Mebbie. Haphazardly tossed together without pride or care? Absolutely.

And not just since I’ve owned it. Apparently it’s always been a bad vehicle. The stack of receipts I got from the second owner dating back to the mid-1980s showed the engine had been in for a ton of work. They rebuilt the bottom end with new rings and bearings (without removing the engine for some reason). It had also had one head gasket replaced, then a valve job on one cylinder head, then a valve job on the other cylinder head. A rebuilt transmission, fuel tank removed and boiled out, rear window motor failure, and carb replacement. The original front upholstery fell apart and the seats and interior were redone in 1996. The T-case died twice, and then the front ring-and-pinion literally blew out of the front diff cover so a MileMarker part-time kit was installed along with a complete front axle rebuild. Remember, 101,000 original miles. That’s a lot of FUBAR in a short mileage span.

When I bought it the wiring harness was fried. The driver-side front shackle hanger had ripped off the frame because all the factory welds on the chassis had severe porosity from obviously being MIG welded without shielding gas. I had to grind them all out and reweld them. All the suspension bushings were toast, the water pump puked, the body seam sealer was applied right over uninstalled nuts and bolts that had obviously fallen on the floor during assembly, and so on. I’ve replaced virtually every single component in the thing, but any and every factory component remaining finds some way to fail. Hell, the roof even bangs at a stoplight like one of those Hollywood props that mimic the sound of thunder.

But despite all these flaws it’s still an awesome vehicle. It’s got discotastic mojo, and that’s worth not giving up on. It's a keeper that I'll never give up on. To me it’s like a supermodel who smokes like a chimney. Pretty nice to look at on the outside, but you know the inside must be a total disaster.

Well, that’s my pontification for this month. I’m just glad the Jeep Police don’t know how much I dislike JKs. That’d really put their undies in a twist.

—Christian Hazel

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