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The Value of Old Jeeps

Nena Knows Jeeps

Nena BarlowPhotographer, Writer

Ask any Jeep owner what the best Jeep ever made is, and the usual answer is the model they own. Some of us are lucky enough to own more than one. At last count, Rick Péwé owned 30. Owning old Jeeps can become addictive. I can’t keep count of mine, because new and old ones come and go every month. Though most of my Jeeps are late models for my business of renting and guiding, there are what I call “special-teams” rigs—ladies (all my Jeeps are girls) that aren’t expected to work for a living, but rather just put on special appearances. They’re not for day-to-day transportation. These special-teams girls range in vintage from 1942 to 1991, but I have been ogling TJs lately with a nostalgic eye.

None of mine are show cars—never have been, never will be. I prefer to bring them back to a state of being able to move on their own power in a mostly non-life-threatening manner. It is no secret that I giggle with glee just doing laps in the parking lot with many of them. For the ones that have V-8s, just starting them up gives me goose bumps. Some are even somewhat safe and legal to operate on public roads. Some exist strictly as art, like Rosie, my 1942 Ford GPW WWII-era jeep. I bought her to cut and paste the small body onto a JK Rubicon chassis and make a rockcrawling animal out of her, but an emotional encounter with a WWII veteran who saluted her changed my mind. She is parked up front as our official greeter at the Sedona store forever. No body chopping or rock abuse for that old girl.

All of them have taught me many things or reminded me of things I had forgotten: The tricks to fire up a carbureted motor, the joys of manual hubs and drum brakes, how to gap points with a matchbook cover, or simply to remind me of how good we have it now. All of them have revealed glimpses into the past, like parts receipts in the glovebox from businesses gone for decades, well-used monogrammed tools found under a seat, or certain smells that remind you of family camping trips long ago. All of them have sparked wonderful stories from visitors whose dad/grandpa/cousin/uncle/sister had one just like it about the fun things they did with it. Some are very sobering stories from wars and near misses. Some, like the WWII veteran who cried as he walked around Rosie, have changed my life.

I look at my JLs now and wonder what families will remember this Jeep for the rest of their lives and the experiences they had with her. Decades from now, what stories will my kids tell about their childhood when they get a chance to sit in an “old” TJ or JK? So many of my friendships, memories of great trips, and hilarious stories revolve around Jeeps. So when people come to me for advice about what such-and-such Jeep is worth, I usually just shake my head and say, “I couldn’t even tell you,” because the value Jeeps have brought to my life can’t be measured in dollars.