People connect with their cars on different levels. For many, their car is a means to get from Point A to Point B with little or no fanfare. For others, an emotional bond is created between person and machine. This bond can be made because of a fond memory associated with the car or maybe it is the style, color or even the tone of the exhaust that got their heart pumping.
I am always curious what causes people to connect with their cars, especially when it might be a quirky or unique vehicle. Weekend car shows are a great way to learn what makes people tick with their cars, but that is not always practical, safe or timely.
If you think about a fast food drive-thru, a lot can be shared during a brief interaction. That’s why I developed the Drive-Thru Interview as a means to learn more about a car owner’s experience in a quick, easy-going way.
Let’s see who is pulling up to the window this month!
Approaching the Drive-Thru Window
Name: David Smith
Current Residence: Southgate, MI
Occupation: DTW Maintenance
Current Fun/Project Car: 1982 Jeep CJ8 Scrambler
David Tells His Story
What caused you to buy this Jeep?
My CJ journey started a couple years ago, but it really started way back in my days at Michigan State and my friend’s 1984 CJ7 Laredo. It was such a blast to cruise around with no top and jamming tunes. One time, we drove back from his parents’ cabin on Higgins Lake with no shirts on and we ended up with seatbelt sunburns.
I always wanted my classic car to be a summer cruiser and a convertible, but as you all know, convertible classics aren’t cheap. As they say, “When the top goes down, the price goes up”. Old CJs are still affordable, but their value is climbing. I really wanted to get an EB (Early Bronco) with a “3 on the tree,” but those are waaaaaay out of my price range. My old college friend had one of those too, but that wasn’t until after college.
As I have found out in my limited time owning a CJ Jeep, I have come to realize that the CJ community is a great one with a lot of honest people who are willing to help.
Did you make any modifications to this Jeep? Do you have any planned?
I have yet to do too much to her yet. First thing I did was swap those ugly aftermarket wheels. To me, nothing says CJ like OEM wagon wheels. My Scrambler is an SR (Scrambler Renegade) trim, so I am trying to get her back to her factory look. It should have the white wagon wheels, but the chrome ones are much sharper in my opinion.
Next are the graphics. You can see the faded stripes on the one fender from where the decals used to be. I believe it had a fender bender, because the tub paint doesn’t match the fenders and hood, which I believe are original paint. The beautiful thing is that it must not have been that bad, because the factory spot welds can still be seen on the sides. That is a big thing in the CJ crowd, because you know it’s original steel when you see them.
It amazes me that those glaring imperfections were accepted back then. Before I put on those awesome 80’s graphics, I am going to have to do some painting to get her looking good for her new decals. She is a 1K AMC paint code, Deep Maroon Metallic.
Through the awesomeness of Facebook, I made friends with a man who owns and operates a Jeep junkyard. He is a great guy and has shipped me many parts, like a hard-top half cab, rear bumper (very hard to find for the CJ8), OEM rocker trim, and power steering just to name a few.
This summer I am loading up the Scrambler and going to meet him at his place and swap out my 4 cylinder “Iron Duke” for a 4.0L six cylinder, fuel injected Jeep engine that was developed after Chrysler bought AMC in 1987. The 4.0 is a great engine and has a lot more get up and go.
So many CJ people go with the SBC (Small Block Chevrolet V8) swap, but I really don’t need that. The new engine will mate with my existing and orginal T176 4-speed manual transmission too, which is a big plus. By the way, I am a HUGE fan of manual transmissions. I always have been. To me, the driving experience is so much more enjoyable when you are shifting gears. Automatics are just boring to me.
I also want to add some origjnal white oak bed rails and a set of Marchal 850 fog lights.
Do you have any other fun or unique vehicles in your past?
I have been a lover of old cars ever since I can remember. When driving around with my dad, he could always tell me what make, model, and year as we drove by it. I always knew I wanted to get an older classic when I “grew up”. It took quite a few years, but I finally got one. I bought a 1985 CJ7 Renegade (picture below, right) about 3 years ago and a 1986 CJ7 Laredo last year (picture below, left):
I sold them both so I could get my Scrambler. My intent was to sell my ’85 when I found my ’86 last year right at the start of the pandemic. Then, when I came across an ’82 Scrambler for a very good price and in GREAT shape, I had to sell my others. I don’t have space for more than one, so the CJ7s had to go to make room for the CJ8.
(Side note: David sold the 1986 Laredo to Dennis Collins of “Fast N Loud” fame, and whose YouTube Channel has over 240k followers)
I bought it from a nice couple in their 80’s up in Cheboygan, MI. They had it for the past 28 years and used it as their summer run around town vehicle while keeping it in their garage in the winter. It was a twist of fate that I ended up with her. I was just searching for Scramblers on Facebook Marketplace by going around the midwest and happened to run across the ad.
The ad was taken down quickly, because the woman had her account hacked, but I had gotten her info before the ad was gone. They had a lot of interest and one man offered to send them a check, but the guy was “old school” and wasn’t having it. Somehow they chose me out of all the people that contacted them. I felt honored. I still keep in contact with them via email to update them with photos and what I have done.
What’s next? Is this a keeper or do you plan on getting something else?
I plan on keeping her, but you never know. I think old Jeeps are perfect summer cruisers, so I don’t think she will be going anywhere. Now, maybe if I get more space, I might add another classic. If I win the lottery, I just may have to give Tim Allen and Jay Leno a run for their money with my collection.
No top and no doors is the only way to roll!
Leaving the Drive-Thru
I love David’s story, as you can really see the connection he has with his Jeep. He has the courage to follow his vehicle dreams and it will be fun to see the Scrambler after his upcoming modifications. I hope he wins that lottery so he can build a collection that rivals thoe other car guys!
In addition to sharing stories like this, I am providing ongoing support of automotive programs designed to inspire and educate young car enthusiasts through the sale of items in the Vehicle Nanny Merchandise Store. All proceeds go directly to automotive youth programs like those run by Hagerty Insurance, so I hope you can find a fun item for yourself that also supports our budding car enthusiasts.