Goodwin's Gunmetal '98
Hordes of them flock to Spring Break meccas every year. No, we're not talking about Daytona Beach's swim-suited college students. We're talking about Jeep's notoriously agile TJ. Even the mildly off-road minded would agree that when the Civilian Jeep was introduced in 1945, it was an off-road wonder. Over the course of more than half a century, the 11/44-ton has seen automotive advancements but none more dramatic than Jeep's latest modernization and '97 model year introduction of the TJ Wrangler.
Right from the factory the TJ offers off-roadability in the form of Quadra-Coil suspension and 7 inches of clearance, in addition to the timeless, classic, wind-in-your-hair freedom that it offers with its convertible top.
With the TJ's out-of-the-box capability it doesn't take a whiz kid to decide that it would make a reliable yet capable rockcrawler. During our spring break at Moab, we ran the daunting Proving Grounds trail where we hooked up with Dave Goodwin and his trailworthy TJ. It's not the supercharger, the lift, the flatfender bodywork, or the 36-inch tires that grab your attention. It's the driver's raw guts and flawless patience that make you want to watch the two in action. He knows just when to throttle and just when to hold back.