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Last week, I took my last ride in the old Jeep Wrangler: a 1,400-mile trip to deliver the Toledo-made vehicle to its retirement home in Colorado Springs.
The 1993 Wrangler ragtop has been a good friend, especially in the harsh winters in the Great Lakes region, and it has done its share of work, not only as basic transportation but also as taxicab, delivery van, and work horse.
For the last couple of years, it looked a bit like a flat-bed truck, thanks to my do-it-yourself customization.
But the Jeep is nearing the end of its life it s about 105 in dog years and I wanted to turn it over to one of my sons and his two teenage boys in a part of the country that s appropriate for a four-wheeler.
I m happy to say the Jeep performed admirably on the way out West: It easily got up to 80-plus miles per hour on the interstates and delivered nearly 21 miles per gallon of gas. Not bad for an aging rust-bucket.
Over the years, the Wrangler has been a costly toy, but perhaps not much more expensive than most other cars. In the last 15 years, the vehicle that sold for $14,120 brand new (plus $883 for Ohio sales tax), ended up costing more than $45,800.
That included about $9,100 for gasoline, $9,200 for insurance, $6,900 for repairs and maintenance, $2,930 for finance charges, $650 for oil changes and lubes, $680 for license plates, and $950 for tires, batteries, and accessories. Oh, and about $500 for parking tickets in downtown Toledo.
Gasoline costs include the $235 spent during the 26-hour drive to Colorado Springs, at prices well over $3 a gallon, compared with just $1 a gallon or so years ago. Among the repair bills are $940 for a new clutch and $900 or so to rebuild the front frame after the steering-gear box almost fell through a rusted frame member.
Overall, spread over 109,500 miles, costs work out to just under 42 cents a mile. A bargain, perhaps, if you consider that the IRS business mileage rate is now 50.5 cents a mile.
I never spent any money on new mufflers. Didn t have to. The original one works just fine, even though it has holes that cause it to whistle during deceleration and is held to the exhaust pipe by a length of coat-hanger wire.
On my trip last week I did not carry any chewing gum or baling wire, but I did take a roll of duct tape, just in case. And it came in handy to keep a fabric-and-plastic window from flapping at high speeds. The duct-tape roll also served as a cup holder, a convenience that s missing in the old Wrangler.
During my trip across seven states, I saw parts of the country you ll never see doing 75 in the interstate. I traveled about 850 miles on old U.S. routes, truck routes, and state roads. I came to realize how much you miss a cell phone when you re many miles away from cities and how convenient satellite radio is in newer cars.
My biggest scare occurred in Nebraska, after I left I-80 to drive hundreds of miles on back roads through Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado. I was low on gas but didn t want to buy an unknown brand and so took a chance that one of a half-dozen or so towns on the map would have a gas station.
Not so (one only had about 100 residents, for example). But, with the Jeep coasting on fumes, I finally found a station.
The last leg of my journey was into Colorado Springs on U.S. 24 the same road that goes through Toledo along its 1,540-mile length. A couple of the other routes I followed out west U.S. 6 and U.S. 30 also cross through northwest Ohio.
I must admit that after the Wrangler performed so well, I had a bit of donor remorse when I got to Colorado. Why am I giving this jewel away? I asked myself.
But a deal is a deal, so it passed into the hands of the younger generations, and I got on the California Zephyr train in Denver for a 19-hour trip to Chicago to meet the missus on her birthday.
So long, old friend. (The Jeep, I mean, not the missus.)