Lately it seems that when-ever I do something to improve one of my Jeeps it just makes things worse. It’s actually not surprising. In fact, I frequently spew the mantra with regard to vehicular modifications that there’s no free lunch. You want the cold, hard reality of it? Virtually every change you make to your vehicle will negatively alter something that, in turn, will require additional modifications to correct. Then, those mods will require other mods, and next thing you know you’re sucked into the vortex of Jeep building with no escape in sight. There, I said it. It’s out there. Building Jeeps is a trap. Mwahahahahaha!
So if almost every mod we make to our beloved vehicles has some hidden consequence or penalty, why do we do it over and over again? I thought long and hard about that question as I sat exhausted on an empty milk crate in my driveway, staring at yet another formerly operational Jeep I had “improved” into a non-operational Jeep. The low blood sugar shake in my legs began to take hold as I realized that in my mad thrash to fix it in time to pick the kids up from school I had skipped lunch -- and breakfast. I observed the clear delineation between my hands and forearms left by my work gloves, highlighting how badly the pastel-like grease and trail dust concoction coating the undercarriage had blackened my forearms, head, and Dickies work clothes. As I sat there filthy, hungry, and sore for the thousandth time with not one of my expansive fleet of vehicles able to make the trip to my kids’ school and back, the epiphany hit me: Manifest Destiny.
It’s the American way, man. Go forth and seek fortune and glory, whether it’s riches out west or a really bitchin’ Jeep build. The all-encompassing, ever-expansive drive to accomplish great things which countless explorers, pioneers, and adventurers possessed lies in the heart of each and every Jeep builder who keeps getting back up every time the string of bad luck and setbacks punches them in the forehead. Did Lewis and Clark give up after they broke an output shaft after reaching the Oregon coast? Did Jedediah Smith throw in the towel when his carburetor flooded out in the Sierra Nevadas? Did the Donner Party…eh, well…never mind.
The point is that Jeep people are just these sorts of adventurers, without whom we’d all be bunched up living in Plymouth and Jamestown driving Prius cars and nibbling on turnips and hardtack. Screw that. I’ll take my rattling, leaking, fuel-sucking modified Jeep with a side of pork ribs wrapped in bacon any ol’ day of the week, even if it means I gotta work on my back into the wee hours of the night to get it ready for the next day’s commute. So, as I came to this realization on my milk crate, I suddenly felt much better about all the trials and tribulations from my past two decades of off-road vehicular Jeep modifications. It’s not out of stupidity that I do this, as I’ve often suspected. It’s out of an ingrained mechanical imperialism which I’ve inherited from my ancestors and which I’m passing down to my kids. Like many other hard-charging, Jeep-building adventurers, my next generation will know how to work with their hands and won’t know the constraints of a rough road ahead of them. And when challenged, they’ll have the tools necessary to toss it in 4-Lo and continue up the trail to see what’s on the other side of the mountain.