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July 4th Special: The Most Original American Vehicle. Ever.

Can a national holiday fall on a worse day than on Wednesday? The entire work week is disrupted, and there's absolutely no chance whatsoever of a 3-day weekend. But the 4th of July may be the most patriotic day of the year, and it deserves a very patriotic vehicle.

Jeep beautyThe vehicle that gets my vote here is the original Willys Jeep. And this vehicle is so legendary... where is the place to start?

They were actually called the Willys MB Jeep; there was the Willys MA Jeep, which was an early production run model. But most of us just call them Jeeps. And the 60-hp "Go Devil" engine got all of them through the war.

And though many folks think that the name "Jeep" was derived from "GP (possibly "General Purpose);" others suggest it came from the cartoon character "Eugene the Jeep," from the Popeye series. The debate will continue forever.

But the Jeep was/is truly original, has remained popular to this day, and even with updates, remains true to its original form and purpose. Basic, rugged, simple on- and off-road transportation. They say that, if a Jeep with chains on its tires can't get there, then nothing can. And I can't argue with that.

Jeeps
They were so popular with soldiers during World War II, many Jeeps were sent to their custodians when they came back to the USA; their car/Jeep lust did not end with V-J Day, V-E Day, or any time after the war ended. The first CJ-1 (Civilian Jeep) Jeep prototypes were almost identical to the military versions, except that they had a tailgate, drawbar, and a civilian-style canvas top. Several pre-production models followed until the first model, the 1945-1949 Willys-Overland CJ-2A, was offered for sale.

Jeep White XmasIn "White Christmas" (My favorite Holiday movie), the Jeep makes two appearances, both as a military personnel carrier (shown) and later as General Waverly's personal civilian ride at his Vermont ski lodge. So I guess he, too, liked the vehicle so much that he decided he'd get one after the war was over.

The Jeep is the star of way too many movies to list in this post, but you can catch up on them here at the IMDB. And on TV, where would M*A*S*H have been without their trusty Jeeps?

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Jeep flags

Jeep 2012 2-doorThis is the 2012 Jeep Wrangler, the most current Jeep I could find. And at 71 years young, it still looks pretty much like the first one. But instead of 60 ponies, the new one has 280 coming from its 3.6-liter V-6.

Yes, they make a 4-door, but you know what? This is the Jeep I'd get; the classic 2-door. Let the folks in the rear climb over. Better yet, take the back seat out (Or never buy one) and let them get their own ride.

But I'd get a hardtop for the winter months. Maybe some slightly larger wheels and tires to fill in some of that wheel arch space. And I'd get A/C, just so the defroster works better. Like a roadster, a radio is almost useless in a Jeep, so I'd buy a cheap one which would probably eventually get stolen anyway.

OK, this post is over. Now let's get back to the barbeque, enjoy the watermelon, and right after dark, go see some fireworks. And what better vehicle is there to watch them from than a trusty old (or new) Jeep?

--That Car Guy (Chuck)

Jeep logoImage Credits: Our first Jeep image is from Willys-Jeep-mb. The 3 Jeeps image montage was found at AllPar.com. The "White Christmas" frame image is from IMCDB.org. The 2012 2-door Jeep photo is from AutoFigures.com. The final Jeep logo came from StationBay.com.

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Quick language note: the four-axle "road switcher" diesel locomotives built by GM's "Electro-Motive Division" have been designated as "GP" followed by a model number since 1949. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GP7) These are commonly referred to as "Geeps"--spelled with a soft "G" but pronounced the same as "jeep."

As a child, a Jeeop was the first vehicle I ever drove.
A neighbor had a surplus M38A1 (1950s military CJ 5) and he'd let me drive it on the back roads. He did the shifting, I steered and worked the pedals. Great fun...and what kid doesn't like Jeeps?

As to its all-American status, when I moved to west Texas, I decided a needed a Jeep. I sought out the town's old Jeep expert, a retired Air Force NCO who rebuilt Jeeps for friends. I found a nice stock (hard to find) 1977 "Levis " Edition CJ 5 powered by the AMC V-8. He restored it for me with new seats, paint and top, It was white with blue Levis seats and top. I replaced the red "Levis" sticker above the Jeep side emblems, but left off the garish hood decals. The only other modification I made was painting the stock steel wheels argent instead of leaving them white. White wheels on a white truck reminded me of a 80s "Miami Vice"-era BMW.
When finished, it was the nicest looking CJ 5 in town. I drove it for 7 years as my work vehicle, and had fun every day. It was the perfect all-American vehicle to drive in the Lone Strar State

My grandmother drove a jeep after World War II, as it was a very commonly available car.

And the Jeep Wrangler is about the only product that tempts me from anti-bailed-out auto company stance.

I like the new Wrangler a lot. I don't like the current styled steel wheels or the available upgraded rims either. So I'd probably find some others to put on.

I love the classic Jeep: tall skinny tires, no doors, a folding windscreen, and a 60-horse four, all bolted together and bone-simple to fix. It's out-in-the-weather motoring in its purest form, not seen since the first decade of the 20th century. In recent years, Jeeps have gotten too civilized, and have lost a lot of the raw fun.

I've heard that the removable roof panels are problematic on new Wranglers. Take 'em off and if you're unlucky, they won't seal correctly when mounted back up again and water will leak in. Anybody know about this?
And I highly disapprove of the lack of a collapsible front windshield.

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