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XJ tire-kicking & trip report

I drove 2 hours each way tonight to check out a manual XJ.

This is the only photo I took of it, which tells you everything you need to know about whether I purchased it.

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(Not the photo itself, but the fact that I only took one. As anyone who’s been around for the last couple of years knows, I’m a bit obsessive about taking photos of my Jeep, although I’m no CarsofFortLangley.)

Illustration for article titled XJ tire-kicking  trip report
Photo: Moi
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Like the last manual XJ I drove hours to see, this one was a trail rig, not a comfortable street machine. This one not only didn’t have cats, it didn’t have a muffler.

As the owner said, someone before him had “teenager-ized” it.

So, between the cost of a whole new exhaust, a new windshield, new tires, and the hassle of fixing up a half dozen other things that are currently undone, getting an out-of-state title changed over (something the current and previous owners hadn’t bothered to do)...no.

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I will say, however, that the AX-15 5-speed transmission charmed me. I think when I find a second vehicle I’ll send my LJ somewhere to have an AX-15 swapped in.

Anyway, this post isn’t really about the XJ.


First, or I guess second, I need to give a shout-out to Rusty Vandura. He stepped up and made my visit to see the XJ possible, by pretending to be me on Facebook...or by making it possible for me to pretend to be him, or something.

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Oppo is a great community; if for no other reason, you put up with my obsessive posts about Jeeps.


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Photo: Moi
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Anyway, this post is really about the trip there and back.

The first sign that I probably wasn’t going to buy the XJ was a different XJ that trailed me on the highway during rush hour.

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Besides the gunmetal color that I like so much despite generally preferring bright colors, it looked clean, or at least the front looked clean. Never got another angle on it.

I’d wager it’s an auto, and there’s probably no lift on it, but it (probably) hasn’t been thrashed, and it struck me that despite my strong desire to have a manual, it’s probably time to accept the fact that there are too few of them out there to find a clean one that isn’t $8k.

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(Think I’m exaggerating? Here’s a clean one with nearly 300k miles for just under $7k. Were it not 3 and a half hours away, I’d probably be checking it out.)

So, anyway, I looked longingly out my rear-view mirror as much as I could safely do so and contemplated settling for an auto as I drove almost to Ohio to see a manual.

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Interlude the 1st: a golden hour pic of one of my favorite courthouses in Indiana, in Rushville.

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Photo: Moi

Interlude the 2nd: a CJ-7 for sale on the highway home. The sign reads: “Needs new home by wife”. Thankfully I didn’t call the owner to find out just how desperate he is; he covered up the asking price and just left “OBO”.

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It’s a stick.

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Photo: Moi
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If the fates tempted me down a dark path with the XJ I went to see, and the CJ-7 I didn’t, they also gave me a ray of hope.

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Photo: Moi
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Photo: Moi
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This XJ is nothing to write home about. It is, of course, an auto. It has, of course, the inescapable (for this region) rocker rust, and the muffler has enough rust to let me know I’d have to replace it. The tires are just meh. It may have the factory Dana 35 rear axle, which is notably sub-par.

But it has the straight 6 engine I’ve come to trust, it has four-wheel drive, and it’s not $7k.

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So, I’ll think about finding a local shop to do a PPI, ask the owner to take it there, and cross my fingers that it’s as relatively clean as it looks. Rocker panels are cheap, although I’m not confident in my non-existent bodywork skills, so I might have to outsource that.

Dunno. I can’t get excited about it, but it’s far more sensible than an XJ that’s already been thrashed, and robust enough to make sure I can do my southern Indiana Oppo meets as scheduled even if my LJ is stuck in the shop as it too-often is.

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Or maybe I’ll grab a Commander with the 5.7L Hemi, if I’m going to settle for an auto anyway. But whatever waffling I do, I’ll be sure to bore you with it.

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