‘Cars on Campus’ column: To Jeep or not to Jeep


Earlier last semester, I reviewed a fairly new lifted four-door Jeep Wrangler. To bring around my former statement of the Jeep being the perfect car for college kids, this week, I reviewed two Jeeps that were both bought for under $1,500.

But don’t let that “pocket money” give you any skewed ideas of what these Jeeps really have to offer their owners. Through labor and love, these older cars can bring more to the table than just off-roading capabilities and classic styling.

Will Bridger, ’16, and I drove his older ’89 Jeep Cherokee on the road this past weekend for a short period of time. We drove up and over the Hill and on some back roads, so rock crawling this geezer was out of the question.

Contrary to my previous articles, this one is not about performance, handling and/or ride quality because that has been thrown out of the window in pursuit of a cheap, reliable and durable vehicle.

The first Jeep, the ’89 Cherokee, was a sight to behold when I first saw it. It wasn’t in pristine condition, with cracks in the fender that were sewed and fiber-glassed over, and the bumper caps had been removed, giving it that classic, rugged look. It was one of those old boxy Jeeps that no one really pays attention to because they have been around without any major style changes. At this point, the classic boxy styling has become a cult classic at Lehigh.

The second Jeep I reviewed this week was senior Alex Courouble’s 2000 Jeep Wrangler. Courouble bought the Jeep a few months ago as a used car off Craigslist for around $1,550. It was a basic Jeep with rust all over the frame and little things here are there from the wear and tear from over the years.

With Bridger’s older Jeep Cherokee came the same six-cylinder motor that Courouble’s Jeep Wrangler had, which, in my opinion, is the only Jeep motor worth getting. When you open the hood to see the engine bay, you can see every little bit and bob that makes the engine work from the wires and cords to the bare motor itself. You can even see through to the ground there is so much space in the bare engine bay. Try doing that in your new Mercedes.

If you recall, I wrote an article on a Jeep back in November that was newer, lifted and had huge tires on it. In that article, I said that Jeeps were the perfect car for students on campus. Reviewing these two older Jeeps justifies that statement.

Both Jeeps were bought by each student, respectively, while they were in college, and both said they wouldn’t trade their Jeeps for anything. They both lasted through the winter without a hiccup with their four-wheel drive systems, ensuring their survival on the Hill.

Through the wear and tear of everyday use, with the Hill adding even more, this did not stop either 15-plus-year-old Jeeps from chugging on. Don’t let this rugged, do-anything, go-anywhere persona fool you, though. Both of these Jeeps have become a labor of love for their owners.

For his Jeep Cherokee, Bridger says has about $2,000 worth of repairs on it to make it run. Courouble has also had to put in a few dollars as well to keep his Jeep on the road, with more repairs to come.

Courouble’s rocker panel, the thing that keeps the underbody of the car together, had completely rusted, as well as its bolts. This, in turn, caused the bolts to break clean off, leaving the transmission to support its own weight. He lamented that he needs to get his Jeep repaired yet again.

Some people may call these inconveniences a hassle, but what we car lovers like to call it is “character.” Both of these Jeeps have immense character that no new car could ever replicate. For instance, Courouble had to give his Jeep’s dash a whack in order for his gauges to start working, and before we went on our journey, he had to tighten the straps that were holding the bottom of the car together where the old piece had broken.

Like I usually do, I could start rambling off horsepower numbers, tested lap times, drifting characteristics and all sorts of car-worthy information, but all of that is thrown out of the window when buying these old used Jeeps. Courouble and Bridger don’t care about how fast they can go around a corner or how supple their suspension is (because it’s not). They care about having a car that fits them.

With Courouble’s top down and the doors removed, we cruised around from town to town, going down roads we had never heard of and had no knowledge of where they would lead. We didn’t care. We were having a good time in a fun car. It also didn’t matter how fast we got there or how comfortable it was. What mattered was that we were having fun, and lots of it.

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