A Pair Of Presidential Jeeps
Ronald Reagan was a lot of things to a lot of people: a lifeguard credited with saving 77 people, sporting goods salesman, college football player, U.S. Cavalry officer, Hollywood actor, television spokesman, California governor, and the 40th President of the United States. Like a character plucked from the old west, his down-to-earth sensibilities, strong values, and no-nonsense attitude marked him a charismatic leader who gave hope to a country at a time it needed hope and, it can be argued, helped our side win the Cold War. But we're not here to recount the history of Reagan. That's been done by far more eloquent and learned writers than us. Rather, we're here to share a rare opportunity we had to visit Reagan's self-described little piece of heaven and get up close and personal with his two ranch Jeeps.
In 1974 the Reagans bought a 688-acre ranch in the mountains north of Santa Barbara and dubbed it Rancho del Cielo. It was here that they would get away from the shuffle of politics and the outside world. In addition to being an avid and accomplished horseman, Reagan was a hands-on guy who did many of the upgrades to the ranch himself, and his CJ-6 played an integral part in some of them. While on horseback, he'd take note of areas that needed brush cleared, or he'd see a good sandstone rock for the front patio he was building. He would then come back later in the CJ-6 and haul away the debris or bring back the rocks for the patio. And while he may have been photographed many times in the blue '83 Scrambler that his wife Nancy purchased for him while he was president, it's the CJ-6 that we really got excited about.
After Ronald Reagan's health declined in the mid '90s, Nancy gave the vehicles to friends and acquaintances and sold the ranch to the Young America's Foundation (yaf.org), which preserves Rancho del Cielo as a living monument to Reagan's ideals and values. After the purchase, the Curator of Collections for the Reagan Ranch Center, Marilyn Fisher, tracked down the missing vehicles and purchased them back. We were granted access to the President's Jeeps and given a private tour of the property by Mrs. Fisher. And we've gotta say, it was both an honor and a moving experience.
The Blue Jeep
Nancy Reagan surprised her husband with the sky-blue '83 CJ-8 Scrambler while he was president and it provided shuttle service around the ranch for the President, countless Secret Service agents, and even visiting dignitaries such as Mikhail Gorbachev. With only 18,124 miles on the odometer, the exceptionally-clean CJ-8 appears to be all-original with the exception of the tires. The denim-blue factory buckets, pedals, steering wheel, and shifters show very little signs of wear. And the clean body is a testament to the fact that the little red CJ-6 must've done most of the heavy lifting on the ranch.
We weren't allowed to open the hood or climb inside, but mechanically the Scrambler sports a 4.2L six-cylinder backed by a Borg Warner SR-4 four-speed manual transmission. Seeing the weird SR-4 shift pattern with its "left-and-up" Reverse on the transmission shifter knob came as something of a surprise to us, but the Scrambler experts at Collins Bros Jeep assured us that it's not unheard of to find the SR-4 behind the six-cylinder. Naturally, a Dana 300 T-case sits behind the little four-speed and power is then sent to a pair of wide-track axles. The disc-brake Dana 30 front and AMC Model 20 rear, which undoubtedly still sports its factory two-piece shafts, look original and undisturbed. Axle gearing is most likely 3.54, but we didn't crawl under to check the tags out of respect for the display.