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The Yellow Submarine
By Bill E. Branscum   ©2003
(Click the Pics to Enlarge)

As we intended, we have added to our Jeep collection. This time, we bought a Wrangler Sport model for Jeremy and Luz to fight over which works out very nicely for me -- now I have my Jeep all to my self!

Perhaps, but you'll notice that they took my roof rack. That is one handy thing to have on these little Jeeps - I've ordered another one just like it.

If you "double click" the pictures they enlarge

As part of our purchase deal, we negotiated to replace the tires that came on the Jeep with Good Year MTR's like the ones on the Rubicon - exactly like them. As it turns out, although the wheels on the Sport Wrangler are 15," the 10.5 x 31 x 15 inch tire is exactly the same diameter as the tires that came on the Rubicon's 16" wheels.

The guy in the background is Mike - he has done all the work on our Jeeps and we thought it would be fun to have his kids see him on the net.

The 10.5 x31 x15 is significantly taller, wider, and more aggressively cut than the Good Year Wrangler GSA's, but we knew it would fit perfectly since it is the same size as the stock tire our Rubicon came with. More importantly, it meant that although the wheel sizes are different, our spare tires would be interchangeable, which could be important if one of our Jeeps had two flats on a trail somewhere.

Back in the day, when I was trying very hard to survive the Mechanical Engineering curiculum at the University of Kentucky (my Criminal Justice degree didn't seem to be in demand), I learned something important - you cannot "out-engineer" Detroit. The guy who survives Statics, Calculus, Thermodynamics, Fluid Mechanics . . . will get a job, but the guy who masters them will make it to the "big three" in Detroit.

When the shade tree knucklehead down the street starts telling you what the engineers did wrong, and how he proposes to improve it, ask yourself why he's hanging out under that shade tree.

Now, I did not say that we cannot customize the factory offering, and make it more suitable for our purposes, that's a totally different thing. I'm just saying that neither you, nor I, nor anyone else, is going to take any vehicle home, whip out some wrenches and beat them at what they were trying to do.

For example, I put a factory selected tire on a factory wheel because I wanted a factory package. I personally don't like the look of tires sticking out from under my vehicle - those deep lugs pick up rocks and I don't want those rocks being slung at my paint.

On the other hand, some people may prefer the wider stance you get by offsetting the wheels outward - if you look close you can see why his tires stick out. Look at the center tread of the tires and notice that the center of his tires is two or three inches farther out than the center of ours. The tires are the same size, the difference is the way the wheel is made. It's called "offset." For those who may not be familiar with the term, the pictures below illustrate it pretty well.

See how the center of the wheel on the other Jeep is further in?

How does that effect steering geometry, spindle load, caster, camber . . . I don't know, but I do know that some bright young man with a slide rule figured everything out for me, and I'm a lot more comfortable with him making the decisions than leaving it up to the pimply kid at Tires-R-Us.

For those who choose to pursue the wider track option, the paint exposure problem is easily corrected - the same way the factory corrected the problem when they designed the Jeep to be used in the Tomb Raider movie. Change to a wider fender flare that will cover the tires.

The factory nerd intended that my Jeep be able to do this without anything rubbing, or ripping off my fender flares. Looks pretty good to me, and not so much as a squeek. What do you suppose is going to happen if the other guy gets in this position while using the factory flares? It won't be pretty.

Some might argue that it isn't fair to use such extreme examples, and such harsh terrain. "Hello," this is a Jeep we are talking about . . . and it ought to be able to survive a lady driving it around in her front yard! That's Luz - see the house in the background of the picture below.

And that brings me to point number two. My wife never drove a Jeep before and, as I suppose is the case with most people who have never been in one, "had no clue."

Furthermore, my son, who thinks he can wrestle alligators, approached the whole thing with more trepidation than she did. Thirty minutes of driving around the yard, putting it in 4WD, putting it in low range, crawling downhill, backing uphill, getting a little sideways . . . why don't Jeep dealers do this with new owners?

Once she felt like she could get it in and out of four-wheel drive, and got comfortable with it, Luz wanted to go everywhere. She can be a bit reserved, so I expected that it would take some coaching to get her to get out off road, but . . . Picayune Forest, here we come

Admittedly, it's not that risky to do this sort of thing with your husband standing by with another Jeep, especially the Rubicon with a winch capable of lifting two Jeeps up into a tree, but I find myself noticing how many young ladies are driving these things to work, and wondering how much more they'd enjoy them if they fully understood their capabilities, and felt like they were really in control of the machine.

We traveled all thru Picayune Forest, Jane's Scenic Drive, down by the T Canals, out Miller Blvd. Extension (what a mess!), and some out of the way little places where we could let Luz sling some water around.

It wasn't long before the kids decided they preferred to ride with her. Now that's loyalty for you -- nasty little traitors!

If you're local, and into this Jeeping thing, e-mail us and let us know when you're going to be out there and we'll join you.



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