Apples and anvils

by Brian Keaney

My new baby

I don’t often update my Facebook profile.  I’ll occasionally check it to see what other people are up to, but I can’t imagine anyone besides my mother actually cares about what I’m up to, and she stays off of Facebook (unless baby and/ or wedding photos have been posted) in order to sleep at night.  She says she is too afraid of what she might see.

This weekend, though, an event of such immense joy took place that I could not keep it to myself.  I made a special stop to take photos, and then put one of them up online as soon as I could with the following commentary:

And the heavens opened, and a choir of angels rang out: Glory to God in the highest, and Jeeps to his people on earth.

The universe makes sense again. I’m back in a Wrangler.

Yes, finally got a new Jeep, and she’s beautiful.  (And yes, this qualifies in my life as an acceptable occasion to pervert a Biblical quotation – even one that announces the birth of the Christ child.)  She has 10,000 miles more than my old baby, of late and beloved memory, but is two years younger.

When I set out looking for a new Wrangler, I knew I didn’t want a new Wrangler.   That is, I didn’t want a brand new, fresh off the assembly line model.  I didn’t want anything from 2007 or on, actually.  Like many Jeep enthusiasts, I have nothing but scorn for the JK model.  I set out in search of a four cylinder TJ, and hoped that I could find one closer to 2006 than 1997.

After an initial broad search, I narrowed it down to the 2005 and 2006 models.  Beginning in 2005 they made changes to the seats, which I liked.  They look better and are more comfortable.  They also went from a 5-speed to a 6-speed, but aside from that the few other changes are cosmetic and too minor to mention.  I probably would have taken one of any color, but secretly was hoping to find one in either Flame Red or Detonator Yellow.  I nearly pulled the trigger on a Patriot Blue model, but am glad I held off.  The one I ended up with was cheaper, newer, and in better condition.

There is no used car factory, and I had a fairly specific list of criteria that it had to meet.  Once I found what I was looking for I was willing to drive an hour to Haverhill to get it. Actually, they drove to me.  Ed from Dreamworks Motorcars was a pleasure to work with throughout, and his level of customer service set a new bar for me.  Once the deal was set and I had a check in hand, I told him that I was having trouble finding a ride up there to pick it up.  He then offered to come get me.  Haverhill to Dedham isn’t exactly around the corner, but he got in his car and drove all the way down anyway.

It wasn’t always a sure thing that I would buying another Jeep.  I test drove the new Honda CR-Z twice, and I have to say I liked it a lot.  It’s a hybrid car, which was appealing, but with a sport element to it.  When I told the salesman that it was either the CR-Z or a Wrangler, he looked at me like I had two heads.  “That’s like comparing apples and anvils,” he told me, and he was right.

One has enough ground clearance to trek through a craggy ravine and the other would have serious trouble with a raised manhole cover.  One is sleek, has great pickup (when in sport mode), and handled very nicely.  The other is like driving a refrigerator.  The gas mileage isn’t even close.  Only one can take me through the dunes, though, and it also happens to be the one that stands any kind of chance of being drivable in a New England winter.  Honda has also sold too many hybrids for new owners to get a tax credit, so using that to purchase a beach buggy was also out of the question.

In the end, it wasn’t too difficult of a decision.  I wanted to support what is going to be an increasingly important segment of the auto industry, but the CR-Z wasn’t practical, and I’m not going to drive a grocery-getter like a Prius.  Buying a used (but still better than brand new) Jeep also makes a lot more sense financially.  I’m getting it on the cheap, for less than Blue Book value and for less than what the insurance company paid me for my old one.

I’m still getting to know my new baby –  the new transmission in particular is taking some getting used to.  I have to come further off the clutch now than I am accustomed to before the engine picks up, and the 6th gear is where reverse should be.  I nearly ran into a stone wall while trying to back up yesterday.

It’s like being on a third date – a mutual attraction has been established, but we are still learning each other’s ideosyrancies.  Still, I think I’m in love.

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