I love my Taurus SHO, but I convinced myself this summer that it would be a smart choice for me to have a second vehicle. Being from Ohio, it needed to be good in the winter, be fun in the summer, and be reasonably priced. I decided that I would fulfill a dream I'd had since high school. I had always wanted a Jeep Wrangler.

People who have read my previous stories will recall the various hilarity and heartache that ensued last summer when I spent less than three grand on a another high school dream car, a 1988 RX-7 Convertible, with the intention of having it be my summer beater / second car. Instead, I kept it for four months, then sold it to pay for an engagement ring. Good news is, she said yes.

With the fiance onboard for the Jeep idea, I turned to our old pal Craigslist with a much more responsible budget of five grand, mostly because I was tired of electrocuting myself in parking lots trying to get the turn signals working. This search resulted in two good candidates, both under budget, both from 1993, both in red. You can see where I'm going with this. I was going to make myself a little Jurassic Park replica, because I'm a shameless fanboy. You can then imagine my disappointment when the first one was sold by the time I found it, and the second was, as I loosely termed it, "about as structurally sound as a broken lawn chair".

On the way home, however, I saw a Wrangler sitting in front of someone's house with a sign on it that read "$5,000 obo", and went to take a look. It was a 1997, four-banger, five speed, with the heavy duty axles, and only 110k miles. My initial excitement turned to hesitation when I accepted that this particular Jeep was painted in Bright Jade Satin Metallic (really freakin' teal), half of a roof, and had four mismatched tires.

I was also desperate, which I never suggest being when spending any kind of money on a car. I'm sure if Tavarish ever read this read any of my used car adventures, he'd probably cry himself to sleep that night.

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I met the seller, who wasn't more than a few years older than me, had a Focus ST in his garage, and after about 30 minutes of arguing which tuner for EcoBoost motors is better, he produced a set of keys. It took one test drive before I realized that the color was that weird kind of endearing awesome that the 90's did very well, like Toad the Wet Sprocket, and that I was going to buy this thing unless the frame was also a variation of broken lawn chair.

I was excited to learn this little teal Wrangler had an original title from Florida, service records for the first eighty thousand miles, and a full ownership history, and everything on it worked. It was as basic as it could be, no options, vinyl steats, an AM/FM radio, no frills. The body was solid, save a bit of bondo on the quarter panel, but half the rust that my RX-7 had. The underside was remarkably tidy, and the interior was clean. There were few issues I could find. Off the cuff, I blurted out a number; $3,500, and he said yes. Sweet!

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I babied it home, full of regret and panic, realizing that this dude took two thirds of his asking price for a car without flinching, thinking I'd made the same mistake as the RX-7 again.

And I'm happy to report I was wrong. Because after ten years of wanting one, I can jump in and drive my TJ, knowing I've busted my ass through school and work and that I can now do random things like go buy old faded-blue convertibles or teal-beyond-tasteful Jeeps, work on them, and make them into something I can enjoy.

There's still some work to be done, but I'll follow up to this article with two more - how I took my near 20-year old, $3,500 Jeep and made it reliable, and how I made it awesome on the cheap. In the meantime, here's a hold me over glamour shot.

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theandysho : My name actually is Andy, by the way - I am your typical dorky late-twenty-something, and I travel the United States for work during the week. On the weekends I mess around with cars, videogames, and a dozen other hobbies I try to find time for. I occasionally author posts on Oppositelock and usually they're kinda cool... follow along and see where I wind up.