COAL: 1983 Jeep CJ7 – Chapter 4, A “Modern” Jeep

It’s January 1984.  We got back from the Med just before Christmas.  I went on leave over New Years and now I’m back on the ship missing my Jeep.  I go down to the dealer to look at the new small Cherokee that Jeep had introduced for the 1984 model year  and they offer me a deal on a leftover 1983 CJ7.

It’s still a soft top.  Which means it’s just as cold at sub freezing temperatures on the highway even with a good heater.  It has the Iron Duke 4 and a manual transmission and I can afford the payments so I say goodbye to the Rampage and drive home in my second brand new car 🙂

It’s a fun vehicle to drive, especially when camping with the Boy Scouts.  It looks like a Jeep and with a longer wheelbase rides better than the CJ2A.  Those all season radials are quieter on the highway than the NDT mud & snow tires the 2A had.  It’s a reliable vehicle and the Iron Duke 4 makes enough power.  In the year and a half I owned it it got scheduled maintenance and a minor accident repair.  About 8 months after I bought it I got rear ended at a stop light and the spare tire (& wheel), spare tire carrier and and spare tire cover had to be replaced.  A Toyota shoved a newer Chevy Nova into me.  I had some space in front of me and released the brake as the Toyota hit the Chevy.  They were both totaled.

In December 1984 I took it cross country  to bring my sister home from her failing marriage in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Driving across central Kansas the temperature was in the low single digit’s (F) overnight and the snow drifts on either side of the highway were a good 15′ to 20′ high.  We followed a plow for most of the night.  We taped over the zippers on the top and the gaps from the doors with duct tape.  The heater kept the windshield clear and our hands and feet warm.  At one gas stop we bought a couple of warm soda’s and put them on the (uncarpeted metal) floor to chill.  Fifteen minutes later they were slushies.

Headed west out of Denver on the morning of Christmas Eve towards the Eisenhower Tunnel the sign said snow tires or chains required.  The State Trooper looked at the all season radials, asked me if I’ve ever driven in snow and waved me past.

As we were coming down the pass west of the tunnel in 1st gear it was snowing so hard I had to stop and clean the snow off the nearly vertical windshield every 10 to 15 minutes.  Nearly 3 hours after clearing the tunnel we’d covered the 8 ½ miles to the first exit.  When I went inside to pay for my gas the clerk told me that they closed the tunnel 3 hours earlier.  I’m glad I didn’t sleep in that morning.  The tunnel was closed for three days.  I was the last car that made it through.

It’d been snowing heavily in Grand Junction that day for the first time in many years and the city had put out a call out for people with plows. I rolled in after the local dealer has closed for the evening.  If I’d made it there a couple of hours earlier I could have bought a plow and made enough money to pay off the loan on the Jeep.  Other then my sister panicking when she hit Kansas City and her first real traffic in three years the trip back east was uneventful.

In the spring of 1994 I bought my first motorcycle (next weeks COAL).  An accident on that led me to a medical discharge from the Navy in May 1985.  With plans to go to college and knowing that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the payments I sold the Jeep a few weeks before my discharge.  Unknown to me at the time there was a real Jeep in my future.