“It’s in rough shape,” my mechanic said when I asked about the old Jeep with a for-sale sign in the window. I’d just paid him for an oil change.
“It’s OK,” I said. “I don’t want to buy it, I just want to photograph it.”
But I have to admit, I did dream a little about rolling over some rough terrain in it, top off, wind in my hair.
That’s the allure of an old Jeep, isn’t it? I mean, the newer Jeeps are probably plenty capable. And I gather that Chrysler figured out how to make these things ride a lot less harshly, making new ones better choices as daily drivers. But these AMC Jeeps? Rough beasts the lot. It was part of their charm.
I had a boss 20 years ago who bought one. His teenaged sons immediately crowned him Coolest Dad Ever and extracted promises from him that he would keep it well past the time they got their driver’s licenses. But one winter morning as the boss drove to work he had, shall we say, a defining moment in his Jeep. “It had snowed, and the road was a little slick. I was tooling along down this back road and I looked down at something for just a fraction of a second. When I looked up, I was watching the scenery pass by out my windshield – the Jeep had turned 90 degrees sideways. There was nothing I could do, so I decided to enjoy the ride while it lasted, which it did for what seemed like a mile. Then it started to slide off the road and into the snow, where the tires got a little traction and I was able to get it going the right way on the road again.”
We didn’t see him in the Jeep very much after that. I thought it might reappear when spring rolled around, but instead he rolled into the parking lot in the boring gray LeSabre previously driven by the company owner. I asked about the Jeep. “After that one day last winter, I realized that there’s no way I want my boys driving it. I sold it so I could buy the LeSabre.”
My mechanic said, “This thing is a lot of fun on a sunny day.” My mind filled with delightful imagery. But then I thought of my 16-year-old son and contemplated my former boss’s wisdom. I got back into my boring gray Focus and drove home.