I Wouldn’t Understand

Mud Jeep Liberty

It’s a Jeep thing.  You wouldn’t understand.

And I guess I should, but I just don’t.  I joined the cult of Jeep in 2002.  I bought a “pre-lifted” ’02 Jeep Liberty.  Jeep quickly realized that all that extra clearance and height made them more tippy, so they cut the springs in half made a mid year adjustment to reduce the ride height. The extra height I had (vs. the ex’s 2wd 2003 Liberty) was key.  Hers was a grocery getter; I had dreams of something beyond crawling down dirt roads, afraid of a scratch.  Something more like a Jeep Wrangler. Something like this:

Jeep Liberty Coke Ovens run
3 foot tall speed bump on the way to Coke Ovens

At the time, I only had three choices: Liberty, Grand Cherokee and the Wrangler.

Only the last two had any off-road credibility; the Liberty was a joke to Jeep purists. They missed the solid axle simplicity and capability of the Cherokee. I spent $5 grand trying to come close to one of the hallowed true Jeeps. Great fun, except for doing it to my daily driver. Minimize risks, avoid scratches and dents – anathema, heresy to a real Jeeper

Jeep Liberty Box Canyon run
Another speed bump. this time in Box Canyon

Fast forward to 2014. there are now 5 models (6 if you count Wrangler and Wrangler unlimited separately).  Two, Compass and Patriot are the mutated survivors of the wretched Dodge Caliber experiment.  That is their base – the successor to the Neon in all its “trail rated” FWD glory.  The Grand Cherokee has been tweaked again for 2014.  It had off-road credibility a few generations ago.  Now it’s about as serious as a Range Rover.  Yes, it will go off pavement, like driving onto the polo fields.  Yes it will handle some high clearance forest roads.  But that’s it, unless you ditch the fancy pants and throw four figures of suspension mods, tires, and armor on it.

The new kid on the block is the “Cherokee.”  WTH, Jeep?  This is not the small light high clearance solid axle Cherokee you killed to give us Liberty.  This is an Alfa (i.e., FIAT) sedan-based “soft-roader.”  It’s no more a “Jeep” than the Patriot/Compass devil spawn.  The only trail you’ll see one on is the tracks in the snow of the mall parking lot in winter.

I’m sure they’re all quite capable in their suburban niches.  The one true Jeep, all that is left of 70+ years of history is the Wrangler.  Butt ugly, with a few nods to modernity like coil springs and air bags, but otherwise basically crude, unapologetically purpose-built.

Manufacturer Plate?  Long Wheelbase?  Black wheels?  Windowless roof?
the Scrambler pickup variant that never happened

This is the standard-bearer. This is what a Jeep is. Not a grocery getter by design. Not a fashion statement that won’t go sideways in a storm.  Brutally capable. I don’t know what the others are. Those are not Jeeps. This is a Jeep.  Kinda like this:

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