It’s one of the slowest vehicles on the market. It has a ride rough enough to rattle your fillings. And at first, the top leaked worse than my nose after Thai food. Yet there’s not a vehicle I’d rather be driving.
Ever since I can remember, I have wanted a Jeep Wrangler. In my youth, they were simple, rugged, and only made with the correct number of doors (two). In the years leading up to my purchase, my time spent on Jeep forums could be called unhealthy, and my search for my JK (the most recent generation of Wranglers) was in full force. In 2009, after finally finding the perfect Deep Water Blue 2 door Sahara, I purchased it and never looked back.
The past five years have flown by. There’ve been no accidents and no speeding tickets - just a few recalls. First, I had to take it to the dealership so that they could install a light in my dash – a light which will illuminate if my transmission fluid catches fire. Next, I took it in so that they could trim my fender liners. Apparently, there was a chance that the fender liners could sever my brake lines sending my two-ton brick on wheels on an unforgettable ride. Based on the jagged, “fixed” fender liners that I was returned, the recall seems to have called for trimming the liners with a butter knife.
Yet in those five years, I learned that the culture surrounding Wrangler ownership is an amazing thing, unrivaled by anything else out there. Here’s a look at Wrangler ownership 101.
First, Wranglers should never be called cars. It’s a Jeep – simple as that. According to the forums, a kitten dies every time you call a Wrangler a car. If it’s on the Internet, it must be true, right?
Next, Wrangler owners wave to each other as they drive by. As tough as you think you are, your first Jeep wave will probably be quite the spectacle. Caught up in the excitement, my first wave looked much how I imagine Richard Simmons waves to his adoring fans, and yet I didn’t care. The incredible feeling you get as your first wave is returned will make it worth it. Over time, you will learn to do a nonchalant flick of the wrist over the steering wheel, but I assure you that the feeling accompanied by a returned wave never leaves.
Wrangler owners are also quite the friendly breed. On multiple occasions, I have pulled up to a red light only to find another Wrangler next to me. In the summer, top down, conversations with complete strangers can last until the light turns green. During cold Michigan winters, a subtle head nod will do.
What else have I learned?
“Wranglers are big toys. They’re like life-size Tonka trucks.” Thinking back to my youth, my dad couldn’t have said it better. Two bolts secure the removable doors. Six latches secure the Freedom Panels (think T-tops). Six bolts secure the rear hardtop. Assorted bracketry, a few zippers, and some Velcro secure the soft top. The word “modular” comes to mind here. Just like the toy cars and trucks of your childhood, you can easily configure your Wrangler as you see fit. Whether you want to go “fully naked” (doorless and roofless) or just want some fresh air on your way home from work, it only takes minutes to reach your desired configuration. It’s no surprise that the modular nature of Wranglers makes them somewhat vulnerable. However, insurance companies don’t seem to mind. Plus, exploring the absolutely massive Wrangler aftermarket scene to find products like door locks eliminates a lot of the risk.
If you were infatuated with The Fast and the Furious series (like adolescent me) and went through a phase where no vehicle could be left stock, you probably learned a great deal about the automotive aftermarket world. I can confidently say that Wranglers (especially JKs) have one of the largest aftermarket scenes out there. Heck, you can’t walk fifty feet without seeing a modified JK at SEMA. Whether you desire an extremely capable trail rig or a pretty, pavement princess, someone somewhere makes the parts you want.
A Wrangler article with no mention of off road prowess? I have by no means wheeled my JK enough. On the one hand, this is because I keep very busy
and like making excuses. On the other hand, it’s hard for me to accessorize my childhood dream car vehicle with pinstripes, artfully painted by Mother Nature’s abundant trees lining Michigan’s infamously narrow trails. In all seriousness, my mild JK build is in the works, and the trips to The Mounds, Silver Lake, and Bundy Hill are coming up fast. Considering how much I love my Wrangler without even doing any serious wheeling, I can’t imagine how much more I’ll enjoy it once I use it for what it was originally intended for.
Frankly, I adore my Wrangler and think that every Jalop should own one at one point in his or her life. Sure my JK is a 2-ton brick on wheels powered by an anemic v6. And yes, I could write a whole article about all its quirky flaws. But truthfully, none of them matter. Owning a Wrangler affords the opportunity to participate in one of the most unique ownership experiences available. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another vehicle that works well as a daily driver no matter the weather conditions, has one of the most tight-knit owner communities out there, a modular hard and soft top for every season, one of the biggest aftermarket scenes available, and the ability to take you places you never thought possible. Wranglers are such amazingly fun vehicles to own – so much so that I vow to never sell mine. If you’re willing to put up with some quirks in order to experience one of the most unique ownership experiences out there, go find yourself a Wrangler. I couldn’t be happier I did.
Photo Credit: Matt Kirsch