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David Westerberg’s 2010 Jeep Wrangler JK: BFGoodrich's What Are You Building For? Contest Winner for October

Posted in News on November 14, 2018
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When David Westerberg bought a Jeep, he did it out of the pure satisfaction of owning one. “I always wanted a Jeep and I bought my first one in 1998,” he begins. “It was a brand-new TJ, ordered it just the way I wanted it.” He’s had one ever since—in fact he’s had eight, from a ’41 Ford GP to this, a 2010 JK. “I absolutely love Jeeps.”

But like so many people, David suffered an intense setback during the Great Recession “I got laid off,” he laments. “I did some soul-searching and went over some aptitude tests that I took.” The results pointed to social work. “I found a position that I could fit into so I’ve done that for the last six years now. It’s a lot of fun.”

Fun as it may be, working for nonprofits isn’t without consequence. “My wife is a youth director so we’re both in the not-a-lot-of-money fields,” he says. But David hasn’t let the reduced income interfere with progress; he just got a little more creative.

“Most everything that’s on there is second-hand,” he admits. He modified a used LoD rack to fit the OffRoadOnly tire carrier (another low-dollar score). A friend gave him the LED light bar and he found the mounts on Craigslist. The Bushwacker flares came by way of a TJ owner who won them in a contest. David’s rig included a budget-boost lift kit, which made the stock-dimension tires look a little puny. But the cost of 35-inch-tires to fit 17-inch wheels and the spacers to restore clearance with the stock wheels proved costly. So he’s rolling 15” MB-72 wheels. “It was cheaper than 17s on the stock wheels with spacers.”

The JKS anti-roll-bar disconnects were an Amazon Black-Friday special. “Through a friend I got a good deal on an Engo 9,000-pound winch and I put it on a used Rough Country hybrid stubby bumper,” he says.

In fact David admits paying full retail for only two parts: the Rock Krawler track bar and the Spohn tie rod. “Otherwise everything has been second-hand.” Even the Bestop Trektop was a recent want-ad find. And he’s far from done; when a friend lifted his Unlimited Rubicon, he donated his stock springs that will ultimately replace the sacked ones under David’s Jeep.

Naturally these modifications go towards David’s avocation: wheeling on weekends. And even that has a charitable angle. He belongs to Twin City Off Road, a club that, along with H.T.R. 4x4 Club, sponsors Crawl 4 the Cure. “We do a charity event every summer up at the Iron Range Off-Road Park for the MS society,” he says. “We give away a Jeep every year.” Dakota Customs in Rapid City built the latest one, a Hemi-swapped Wrangler. “We sell raffle tickets—last year we raised about $110,000,” he says (in fact the event raised more than $900,000 since 2005) “We’re the largest private-party fundraiser in the country.”

Driving out to do flood recovery in 2012 in Duluth, MN.

But the modifications give David’s Jeep an unlikely role in his vocation. “Every year the federal government mandates a count of homeless people in January,” he reveals. “So I’ve been able to get out to more remote areas where homeless people tend to congregate.” Even in Duluth, a city on a hill, occasionally suffers some severe flooding. “I could get to places that others couldn’t,” he says. “In fact the first time I used the winch that’s on there I pulled a guy’s shed out of a creek. It washed down in there and was damming up the creek and flooding his lawn. My boss always says that I have no reason to call in because the roads are too bad!

“Depending on what paperwork it is, I’m either a social worker or a case manager,” David continues. “I run The Salvation Army’s emergency-assistance programs and the food shelf. I also work with people who are in crisis for whatever reason, whether it’s a disconnection of a utility to evictions. These are people who are in extremely stressful situations. So it gets to be a stressful thing. You take a lot of that on.

“So during our short summer months here in northern Minnesota, I have the top off as often as I can. I relish those drives home from work because I let the wind and the hum of the tires blow my cares away. I call it top-down therapy; put the top down and go.”

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