Saturday, 9 December 2017

Why a Baby Jeep?

Why a Baby Jeep?

Anyone who has a vehicle that they take pride in has a thing. That one thing that stands out about their vehicle. For some it is a stock Honda Civic with jet black perfectly clean tires, others have a really loud rumbler, or it is just a really unique vehicle. For me, it is the stunned look on the faces of people who watch me climb a steep hill or crawl a rock cropping, or squeak through a mud hole that reaches my door handles. I love saying “yep, that’s a Patriot”. It gets more complicated when people ask; “why did you go that far with a Patriot?” The confusing, enlightening, frustrating and endlessly rewarding adventure that the actual build process turned into is a topic of its own. The reason and motivation behind the build are to inspire.
The SUV market has changed in a big way. The flooding of the auto market in the mid and late 90’s with SUVs sporting refined interiors and style paved the way for the CUV. Where we have ended up is a demand for roomy vehicles that are a bit more than a car but less than a truck and make us feel like we can plow through snow and whatever else could show up. To any purists it can be summed up by the fact that Jeep has more AWD vehicles with fully independent suspension than they do a true 4x4; they have one. This has caused a higher demand for SUV style vehicles but has decreased the demand for their capability. Or has it?
Perhaps we in the offroad community have just overlooked these new vehicles or we as a consumer base are not demanding enough capability in the small SUV segment anymore. Or Both?

I bought my Patriot because my Chevy Colorado gave up. I loved my truck; I started a construction business in that truck. Once my business outgrew a compact truck, I lifted it and put a tent in the box, it brought a lot of fun to my life as a single guy who worked too much. I was recently married with three adopted kids and a mortgage; overlanding did not get a huge priority so when I needed a new vehicle the criteria were different. It didn’t take a lot of shopping to decide on a Patriot; the price tag was tiny and the warranty was great and it had “4wd”. I didn’t plan on more than getting to a few campsites, the cottage and to work in the Canadian Winter.
My Patriot had proven a great choice with my initial goals in mind. It wasn’t long however before I couldn’t help but see what it could really do. I took it on a real “trail” not a gravel road but a trail with real demands.  I was blown away, I spent the whole time hoping and praying and my Patriot never showed a sign of stumbling. Testing turned to playing and soon I realized I was foolish to leave my offroad/ overlanding passion behind.
First came the lift; at the time there were two, I chose a spacer lift because my dealership said they would warranty everything since mopar had used it on concepts. It helped a lot, enough to get my confidence up to attend a trail run by a local offroad club. After some convincing my wife and I were allowed to attend in the baby jeep and despite making it through the entire trail with ease it was clear; baby jeeps were outsiders.
As is the case with everything these days I soon found myself on the internet looking for ideas and like minded people. Obviously Patriot groups were a big help; my favorite being Jeep Patriot Around The World, and overlanding groups seemed to be encouraging of most things. Offroading and Jeep groups had a lot of negative things to say. This showed me that offroad driving at its core was stuck, devoid of any new truly useful technology, the mindset that older is better and the refusal to be a part of the new market means that when all the XJ’s and TJ’s are gone; we will be limited to 8” of ground clearance, limited flex IFS and long base pick-ups. The offroad world needs to embrace new vehicles and maintain a demand for capability and an Aftermarket.
          A purist mentality was not the only issue I wanted to shake up when I decided to build my “car” for offroad travel. The fact is that many vehicles have held onto offroad capability, in my opinion Jeep is still at the forefront with their aggressive AWD systems especially in the trailhawk series but many AWD vehicles have very capable limited slip programing and can be vessels of exploration. There are too many people that do not believe their vehicles can handle any offroading, and they are wrong! I must admit I was the same reluctant CUV owner on my first trail but I am now on a mission to inspire more people with less traditional offroad vehicles to use them, to their full potential and to experience the natural beauty of our world.
          Why a Baby Jeep? First and foremost because it’s my Jeep and I love it, it has renewed my family’s sense of adventure and brought us to new and beautiful places. Frankly however, an XJ or 4Runner or JKU could do the same thing and honestly get to more places that the baby jeep can’t get to. The point of such an elaborate build on a Jeep patriot comes down to three things for me. The first is to help shake up the opinions of some die hard “real Jeep” fanatics and the offroad community; I have always viewed the Jeep lifestyle as being about inclusion and adventure. The second is to be at least a small part of progress in the offerings from manufacturers of SUV/CUVs and their aftermarket parts. DO we need more affordable small body on frame, solid axle vehicles again? Or do we need low gearing, stiffer unibodies and a proper offroad aftermarket for the new AWD offerings? I don’t know but I’d love to see more choice for those of us that want to get off of the beaten path.

The most important thing I hope to achieve from Baby Jeep Overland is to give inspiration. I hope we never stop exploring on small scales. I hope people see what I am doing and where I am going and realize they can go too. I hope you follow our adventures in our little Jeep and go out on your own. No matter what you drive; there are places you can go. You will be pleasantly surprised by what you can bring into your life with even the most understated means.

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