How Our ‘Scruffy Jeep’ Became A Reality

by Lynnette

Connecticut Jeeping, Jeep Stories, Massachusetts Jeeping, Tennessee Jeeping, Wrangler, YJ

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Jim has wanted a Jeep Wrangler for years. But, his desire to own this fun convertible had rapidly progressed from a “want” to a “whine” in recent months.

Much the same way we used to shout “Slug Bug!” as kids whenever we spotted a Volkswagen Beetle, Jim was constantly calling out “Jeep!” every time we passed a Jeep Wrangler. Day in and day out… And as the weather got warmer, all the Jeeps came out to play and the chant became more frequent. Until… it actually became a whiney drone that lacked emotion and was full of regret. Jim clearly had Jeep Envy, and this wasn’t helping with his impending “Mid-Life Crisis”!

He said that a Jeep was the only thing that could cure his ills…

Fact is, I too have wanted a Jeep for years. In one of my pre-Jim scrapbooks, where I have a page devoted to all of the vehicles I’ve owned, I listed “Jeep Wrangler” on my wishlist even way back then.

So, while both of us have known that a Jeep was definitely in our future, we decided to kick things into high gear June of 2004.

…The hunt was on!

We started by searching online classifieds (Auto Trader, Jeep Classifieds, and others). We were pretty naive, willing to travel anywhere across the country to obtain our new Jeep. After all, we had 2 free round-trip tickets on Southwest from Jim’s frequent flier miles, so there would be little expense for us to take a few vacation days to fly somewhere on a whim in order to bring our Jeep home.

Problem #1… We don’t recommend buying a vehicle from a different state. It can be done (and leave it to us to test the process!), but the minor logistics could possible turn into major ones if not careful (travel expenses, license tags required to drive the vehicle home, the possibility that the vehicle won’t pass your state’s emissions inspection once you get it home, and the ultimate disappointment if the vehicle isn’t as you’d imagined once you actually see it in person).

Problem #2… We weren’t realistic about our price. Since we just wanted this Jeep for a 3rd vehicle, we didn’t want to spend more than $2,000. But that price range (for Jeep Wranglers) only gets you junk. At first we thought “junk” would be okay… cuz it would be OUR junk… our fixer-upper. But we quickly realized that we’d want to actually DRIVE it sometimes, so we opted to double our price range to get a Jeep that would look halfway decent AND get us around town safely at the same time.

Problem #3… We jumped the gun. We quickly realized that Jeep Wranglers (which hold their value VERY well) were few and far between in the under-$4,000 range. We’d already experienced “losing” one that looked perfect online and in writing, but we couldn’t get there (Connecticut) fast enough before it sold. Most others we called about had already sold. It seemed you had to jump on it the DAY it hit the papers, or someone else would swoop up your good deal.

Realizing this, we decided to fly to Cape Cod, Massachusetts for a GREAT deal we found the day after the ad hit the paper. The guy was in his 70’s. He’d just lost a few members of his family in a boating accident. It was his injured son’s Jeep and he needed to sell it for a measly $2,800 for funeral expenses. Thought we’d happened upon the deal of the century!

Turned out, it WAS in great condition! …Compared to what it USED to look like… after being Stolen… and Run into a Tree… where it had the entire ROOF sheared off… and was left there to Rust and Rot in the woods for 7 years until recovered and sold at an auto auction for $300 to our “poor old man Jeep seller”!

In all honesty, this guy truly thought it was a great Jeep and it was his pride and joy, since he’d done all the “restoration” himself. But it was more like a Skeleton of a Jeep, with slashed & ripped seats, no dashboard, it started without a key, the choke was on backwards, the “green” color he stated was actually more like “bondo gray”.

Our dreams were crushed! What we Thought was going to be the spontaneous, full-of-adventure, fun weekend… Flying for free to beautiful Cape Cod, and Driving home peacefully with the wind blowing through our hair (…I mean MY hair!), and proudly bringing home our bundle of new Jeep – turned out to be one of the most disappointing “vacations” ever!

By the way… Cape Cod itself… HIGHLY over-rated.

(…it’s an island with NO Beach!)

A-hem… back to “reality”…

Problem #4… Under the guise of “educating ourselves” on Jeep Wranglers and with the aim of honing in on exactly what features we wanted in our “future” Jeep, and as a way to decide whether we REALLY wanted one or now… we attended Jeep 101 — an event hosted by DaimlerChrysler where they let you test drive any of their Jeeps (both on- and off-road).

We drove across the state line to Kentucky – where the event took place on the military base at Fort Campbell. By the time we left, Jim was more hooked than ever on wanting his very own Jeep.

Recommendation: Unless you’re willing to shell out the money on the spot, don’t do anything that will only increase your desire to have “said” vehicle.

He immediately started actively looking every single day for Jeeps under $3,000 that he’d find online. (Notice that he upped the amount by $1,000 without thinking twice?!)

He even put his friends on the hunt for us! One friend, Steve from church had recently subsided his own bout with Jeep Envy, and since he had a job that required him to travel all over Tennessee, he was willing to phone Jim with locations and phone numbers of Jeeps he found day to day.

Finally, one of those panned out. One weekend we drove 2 hours to Clarksville, Tenn. to check out a 1990 Jeep Wrangler YJ – black – 5-speed – hard top, soft top, doors – the works! It was at the top of our price range ($4,000 …did I mention that we had upped our “range” yet another $1,000?!?!) and it was only a 4 cylinder – two things that held us up (…for about 3 seconds!).

The inside was immaculate. The outside was freshly painted & looked really nice. Plus, it had a few nice “extras” like bigger tires, and a CD player. We contemplated it overnight & closed the deal the next morning.

In the end, we got a Jeep that was way more than we thought we wanted (in terms of look, shape, and condition) for a 3rd vehicle. It’s now Jim’s daily driver, it’s such a great ride! We call it the “Scruffy Jeep” cuz we already have another Jeep (a Grand Cherokee) that I drive, and Jim’s Jeep has a tire cover with a big yellow smiley face that is unshaven and wearing a red, white & blue bandana on its head.

Here it is, nearly a month later, and we haven’t looked back. We haven’t regretted our decision for a minute.

Hmmm… wonder what I should start “whining” for. My mid-life crisis should be hitting just about any day now!



What I Learned Today:

Just about any big-ticket item can bring Jim out of his “funk”.
When we couldn’t find a Jeep right away, he switched gears and wanted a high-dollar digital camera ($1,000). When I diverted his attention from that (and managed to steer him clear of electronics stores for about a week), he was willing to settle for a new patio. Fortunately we got the Jeep, so he wasn’t able to get started on the patio project yet!