As we gear up for winter, the drivers on Lehigh’s campus are all thinking the same thing: How hard will it be to drive up and down the hill this season? For some kids on campus, that question almost never comes to mind.
This week I got the opportunity to drive one of those trucks that will inevitably be one of the most capable trucks on campus for the Lehigh Valley snowy hills, Garren Fritts’s, ’15, 2011 four-door Jeep Wrangler.
I have known Fritts for about three years now, and I can now see why he owns this Jeep. Both he and the Jeep are very similar characters. What I like about both of them is that they are very unique and grab attention wherever they are. He added a suspension kit to raise the truck by a few inches and bought custom black rims with huge, knobby off-road tires. This only confirms my hypothesis that people buy cars that represent themselves.
To say the least, while I was driving it around the Lehigh-Allentown area, I got a lot of looks at stoplights. It’s a car that people aren’t used to seeing, and it intrigued them when all they saw were a set of tires rolling up next to their window
The Jeep Wrangler has been a hit with the college community for years now, and Lehigh is no exception. It is still a coveted “fun truck” not only for the sorority girls, but for any college student. People buy Jeeps because their tops come down, their doors can be removed and they have all-wheel drive for when the weather gets rough. It’s a great all-around truck that offers reliability and functionality while fitting within most college students’ budgets.
Fritts’s truck was a huge attention-grabber, and that’s what I loved about it. It is an in-your-face kind of truck, but it does so in a civilized manner. He left the exhaust stock so it’s not loud, and the engine doesn’t make any noises it shouldn’t. He installed a K&N high-flow air filter, so when you hit the accelerator, the truck whistles and whooshes.
Living with a truck with this much “character” might be hard, though. On the highway, it wanders from side to side and needs to constantly be brought back to the center of the lane. The big, knobby tires add a lot of road noise, and the boxy shape of the car creates a lot of wind noise if you’re traveling any faster than 25 miles per hour. But that doesn’t matter because it’s so cool.
Lehigh has its own car culture on campus that goes unnoticed by the majority of students, and I am here to bring you inside that community. Being a “car guy,” I notice a lot of cars on campus that most people would pass off as ordinary.
Some of the cars Lehigh students drive on campus that I believe create this car culture include a Ford Raptor pickup truck, a brand-new BMW X4, a Mercedes CLA250, a Ford Focus ST,an Audi S4, a BMW M3, a few Subaru WRX STIs and a few others. Not only are some of these cars and trucks uncommon but they are rare, so the next time you’re walking around campus, take some time to look at these cars and see what they have to offer.
All of those cars and trucks I mentioned are owned by people who care about their driving experiences and who, in their own ways, are a part of that Lehigh car and truck community. Whether that experience is luxury, sporty performance or off-road performance, each one of those cars has a purpose. It’s the cars that offer purpose that are the cars worth looking at. When you see an unusual car parked on the side of the road or a car that is lower or louder than usual, try to think of what purpose that car has.
Fritts’s Jeep is one of those cars with purpose. Its sole purpose is to climb over big rocks, run through mud and tackle any weather Lehigh has to offer. It doesn’t just do all of those things; it does all of those things well. The six-cylinder motor it has produces plenty of power, also known as “torque” for the engineers reading, to pull this truck up and down the hill, and the four-wheel drive capability allows this car to crawl its way in and out of any situation.
Next time you’re driving and it’s raining, snowing, or even hailing and you’re having trouble getting up the hill, watch as the Jeeps and Subarus walk right up the hill with ease. As Andrew Garrison, ’14, said in my last car review of his 2015 Subaru STI, “I’ve been waiting for winter to come.” He didn’t see winter as burden, but more as a challenge and, to say the least, his car is up to that challenge.
Remember to be careful this winter season, and even if you don’t have a lifted Jeep or a world-class rally car, a set of winter tires can go a long way. For me, with a set of winter tires on my Jetta, I can go up and down the snowy hill of Lehigh with relative ease. Even without all-wheel drive, my front-wheel drive car is the next-best option. For those of you who have a rear wheel drive car, unless you have winter tires, it would best for you to find a parking spot on campus while it snows and just keep it there because you’re going nowhere fast.