We run around the country every year finding Jeeps we think are cool and preserving them for time immemorial by printing photos and writing features on them in our little magazine here. And like anything else, sometimes you hit it out of the park, and sometimes your peers just don’t see eye-to-eye with you. When it comes to these features, obviously, the editor who shot it really likes the Jeep. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have taken the trouble to grab the camera, collect the owner’s info, and write it all up. But what about the other two guys on staff?
Just like you, we bench race and our features aren’t exempt from the old yardstick comparison. We have favorites, we talk smack to each other, and on rare occasions, we actually agree. So when we had to pick a short list of our favorites and say why we liked ’em or not, it’s no wonder the opinions varied almost as widely as the types of Jeeps we feature. Check it out as Cappa (for the last time), Hazel, and Trasborg all cast their votes for the top Jp magazine Jeeps of 2011.
Cappa: The wheelbase is too long to actually take wheeling, but with the diesel engine it would make a sweet light-duty tow rig.
Trasborg: Don’t get me wrong; I love that thing. I have since I saw it the first time in person. However, I hate that it keeps popping up whenever anyone hints about a Jeep truck coming down the pipeline. If Jeep does make a truck it won’t have all that retro-cool stuff going on, so this is just a tease.
Hazel: Man, it’s just pretty to look at. I mean, I really appreciate the lines—especially where they hung the spare tire. Add some steel wheels with dog-dish hubcaps and a few other things to up the utility vibe and quash the show-pony factor and I’m in love. I’d leave it on small tires and low to the ground. It needs a PTO and a rear-mounted auger attachment, too.
Cappa:It was a blast to drive. I loved how it just skipped over the dunes compared to some of the other heavier Jeeps.
Trasborg: I disagree. It’s a great execution of a cool idea, but not one of my faves.
Hazel: Trasborg needs to get out of Jersey more. Not every Jeep needs disco LED strobe lighting to be cool. Go hang with The Situation in his double-dub H2 and leave the real fun Jeeps like Pork Chop to those of us who appreciate ’em!
Cappa: It’s just a clean Jeepster. Of course, I would end up thrashing it.
Hazel: It’s too pretty to wheel…but I would anyway.
Trasborg: Agree, both on being a favorite and that you guys would wheel (read: thrash) it.
Cappa: It’s just way cooler than my flatrod ever was.
Trasborg: Disagree! Well, no, I do agree it is cooler than your flatrod. But it’s like comparing apples and orangutans. I also think it is a cool Jeep, but not one I’d ever want for myself. It’s just not my style.
Hazel: I would never like something like this because there are no self-cooling cupholders or working air conditioning. The exhaust was loud and unpleasant and there were sharp metal things you could hurt yourself on that should be ground smooth or at least given an OSHA-approved layer of protective padding. Oh, wait—I mean the exact opposite of all that.
Cappa: I miss having a big, dumb Jeep that I could mindlessly bash over really nasty trails.
Trasborg: Agreed. My first experience wheeling TDS was in Cappa’s Rockwell-axled, 49-inch IROK-shod J2000, and it was just so cool how it seemed to go anywhere and even cooler that Cappa just didn’t care where he was piloting it. The Tempo is the same kind of thing.
Hazel: He calls it a CJ-5, but it’s got CJ-7-sized door openings, a YJ grille, and Kaiser axles. Aside from the schitzo-Sybill complex, I’ve never owned a Rockwell-axled rig, but this one kinda makes me want to.
Cappa: I hope that when I turn 50 (or hey, how about 45), someone will simply give me a restored MB or GPW. I ain’t picky; it doesn’t even have to be built with true NOS parts.
Trasborg: I know this is an awesome Jeep because I’ve crawled all over it. However, the fact is that under the skin it is less than perfect. And that works for me. I’d love to have a perfectly restored MB or GPW, but then I’d have to keep it in a climate-, humidity-, and dust-controlled environment. I want a Jeep to drive, not to sit around, and this one fits the bill.
Hazel: Mark my words: Some day I will own an MB or GPW Jeep with 100-percent factory-spec components, and I will love every second I spend behind its olive-drab steering wheel.
Cappa: Yeah, it’s not a Jeep. Heck it’s not even an OE-manufactured 4x4, but who can deny 1,400 horsepower, grooved rice-and-cane tires, and a green chrome paint job? I probably couldn’t afford to put fuel in it more than once or twice a year, but if my neighbors pissed me off, I could crank it up and blow out their windows.
Trasborg: It isn’t a Jeep, you ninny. And since this story is about our favorite Jeeps, it clearly doesn’t qualify for the list.
Hazel: Yeah, dumbass. Why don’t you go to Four Wheeler! (Editor’s note: It was somewhere right around here that Cappa did, in fact, leave the Jp building to go to Four Wheeler, so he won’t be weighing in on any of the rest of the voting!)
Trasborg: I like Comanches. I like camping. I’ve seen this thing in person. It is like my Comanche with my Truck Tent, but it is what mine can only aspire to be when I have the tent in the bed. I’m sure Hazel will poke fun at me for my Comanche fetish and probably complain that this thing has no third row seating, but he’ll probably come around.
Hazel: “Yeehaw, weez a gowin’ caympin!” Actually, that’s just how I imagine all Comanche owners sound. I remember spotting this thing from across the parking lot at the 2010 SEMA show and knew Trasborg would be dry-humping it like it was a stripper’s leg. I’m really on board with the whole self-contained camper Jeep dealio, but it’s still only a two-seater. Still, it was a well-executed build.
Trasborg: Give us a diesel JK here in the U.S. already!!!! ’Nuf said.
Hazel: There’s just something about the overall vibe of Sarge that gives me an old-school, warm-and-fuzzy chubby. Maybe it’s the radio-delete dash, the exposure to the elements, the lack of refinement and niceties, or all the military trinkets. Droolio, baby. I’d probably feel the same way about it even if it had a 3.8L gas-powered wart under the hood instead of the the VM Motori diesel—but it doesn’t. Yeah, sign me up to daily-drive Sarge for the next year or so. I’m all over it like stink on a monkey.
Trasborg: If you put me to it and asked which I liked more, a Comanche or a Scrambler, I’d be really hard-pressed to answer. I think both models tie for my number one spot. A Scrambler with a V-8 on 40-inch tires is pretty cool in my book. Even cooler is that the owner did the exact opposite of what most vintage Jeep searchers do. He bought it in the rustbucket east and took it west. It kinda reminds me of my cross-country swap meet to bring my Scrambler from Kentucky to California. But this one runs. D’oh!
Hazel: Trasborg is just saying that because his vehicular A.D.D. is so bad he doesn’t realize he already owns this vehicle. He’s got an injected V-8 and 40-inch Goodyears on his YJ, big axles under his M-715, and a Scrambler in his garage. His problem isn’t coveting other people’s builds; his problem is assembling all the cool parts he has into one complete, running vehicle.
Trasborg: See the above diesel JK comment. Then add an awesome M-715-esque front clip and a bed. Wait, an M-715 that gets good mileage, could be built today, and looks as good, if not better than the original? Hmm, how many Camaros, Mustangs, and Chargers are being sold right now? Seems like green-lighting this project should be a no-brainer to me. That’s why we’ll never see it.
Hazel: The NuKizer pisses me off. Aside from the truck bed conversion out back, a chopped windshield frame, and a bolt-on carbon-fiber front clip, there’s not much bodywork involved in getting that look. So why can’t Mopar have a “Nuke” front clip manufactured in fiberglass and sell it through your local Jeep dealership, or a bolt-on conversion that mimics that look? I think that’d be pretty cool. They’d better get on the stick before somebody beats ’em to it!
Christian’s M-715—aka The Evil Truck
Trasborg: Yeah, it last appeared in 2011 as part of a story about Jeeps we hate. See, I don’t count the M-715 as a Jeep really. I clearly like the things. I scoured high and low to find one over a decade ago. I’ve owned the one I have longer than Hazel had his and moved it 3,000 miles across the country—but it is a truck first and a Jeep second. That said, Hazel’s 715 had more power than mine, weighed about 2,000 pounds less, and looked like a blast to drive. I still wish mine was as fun to drive today.
Hazel: I still wish I was the one driving mine. I sold it to a guy who, I can’t even bring myself to say it, painted it. Ugh. At least they didn’t pull the Ranger Overdrive and SM465 to put an automatic tranny in it. Oh, wait…yes they did.
Trasborg: The WJ “aka Bubble-J” is arguably the best Grand ever. Solid axles, decent engine options, and non-cheesy comfort. Build one like Chris Stoner did and you have what could be the one Jeep that does all things.
Hazel: I like this Jeep, but it’s a boring story unless somebody plays Devil’s advocate, so here goes: Unibody Jeeps are a pain in the ass if you off-road ’em. First the squeaking starts, then the cracking, then the doors stop opening smoothly. Eventually you’ll wind up having to gut the interior and strip off the seam sealer to weld up the cracks—that is, unless you spend a ton of time tying the chassis together with stiffeners. And if you’re gonna go through that much trouble, why not start with a full-size Cherokee or Wagoneer from the ’60s, ’70s, or ’80s?
Trasborg: This big-tired, underpowered truck was my initiation into magazine-editor-type wheeling. I still haven’t gotten the hang of it, but hopefully I’ll be able to wheel my big YJ the way Cappa wheeled this vehicle. Then again, maybe not, ’cause I hope to hang on to my Jeep for more than two years.
Hazel: I didn’t like Hot Dog as much as I liked the trip to Washington with Cappa to buy it. I remember sitting in our old offices on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles late one night searching Craigslist for a manual-transmission-equipped FSJ pickup for him. By some miracle, I talked him into buying this one from some old dude named George, and we left the next day. The trip home was hilarious and you can still read about it at http://www.jpmagazine.com/project build/154_0311_ 1000_mile_j_truck_ recovery/viewall.html
Trasborg: A ’79 Wagoneer that belongs to a chick who hates wood grain stickers and likes to go fast in her V-8-powered Jeep? The awesome photo doesn’t hurt either.
Hazel: Mmmm, narrow-track Wagoneer on slot rims—mmmm! I really like the look of slot wheels on an FSJ, especially if it’s got the narrow-track axles. The dull black paint, red racing stripe, and moderately effective camera pan blur make it look like it’s about to break the sound barrier.
Trasborg: I was so primed to hate this thing. We’ve been teased by that Gladiator concept for how long? And this is what we finally get? If I didn’t see it next to my own MJ, I’d probably still hate it. However, it does solve many of the day-to-day things I would like to change about my Comanche, and there is no denying the solid-axle goodness underneath. It is available now, but no diesel. Hmm…decisions, decisions.
Hazel: I’m over it. We’ve been clamoring for a Jeep pickup for years. They finally give us one and we’ve got to assemble it ourselves? Yeah, beggars can’t be choosers, but if I just bought a $25,000 four-door JK, I’m not gonna be too thrilled about cutting and chopping it up. I’ll go buy a TJ, an aftermarket fiberglass half-cab, and mimic AEV’s Brute conversion. Or at the very least, I’ll go build an older Comanche, build it, and pocket the extra $20,000.
A Little at a Time
Trasborg: Nothing like watching a Jeep grow up. I bought my trailer from Keith four years ago, and I remember this thing on 35s. Like so many owners, he had plans for how it would someday be built. But unlike so many, this Jeep made it thanks to Keith’s perseverance and likely empty bank account. The fact that it works great and doesn’t have a ton of unobtanium in it is cool, too.
Hazel: I’m normally not down with fancy multi-link conversions on older Jeeps. I’m a big leaf-spring fan. But the relatively low-slung suspension and work-hardened vibe of this owner-built rig is all right by me. I still think the T-case guard looks like a cow catcher on an old 1880’s locomotive, though.
Trasborg: A bright yellow lovingly abused Wagon with a screaming Chevy V-8? Sure, sign me up. The wagon is what one day I hope my daily-driver Cherokee and project Jeepster can be: a smog-exempt, reliable, fun-to-drive wagon that I can take anywhere. Go wherever you want and when you’re tired, roll the sleeping bag out in the back.
Hazel: There’s patina, and then there’s crusty, boogery rust and rot. This one walks the fine line between the two. I think if you pulled the Boggers off and added less-aggressive tires this Jeep wouldn’t hold quite as much favor with me. But lots of stock suspension and axle parts poking out, the Cutlas Power Lock hubs, and the wrinkly bumpers make me want to hop in, turn into the rising sun, and keep driving.