Welcome to Jeep-Journey, an online resource for Jeep Wrangler owners and for those considering a Wrangler of their own. While there are some really great blogs out there that cover a wide range of topics, we'll take a little different approach to getting some ideas and experiences out for your consideration. Before we get started, let me tell you how I became a proud Jeep owner.

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Back in the mid-1980s, I was still working on a flight test program in the high desert of California which involved some extensive driving between George AFB (Victorville) and Edwards AFB. My vehicle of choice then was a Toyota Corolla GTS, essentially a rear-wheel drive Corolla with an MR2 dual overhead cam engine under the hood. We could easily run 120 mph between George and Edwards and cut the transit time significantly. While the roads between the two sites were excellent, there was no way I was taking that GTS out onto the desert trails on the range complex. I needed a Jeep for that mission…

When my project ended and I returned to Albuquerque, NM, I started to experience some problems with Toyota's service departments. The one in Albuquerque was responsive, but expensive. The few I had to use in Texas were just rude and unprofessional. It was time to change brands. It was 1993 and I wanted a new car, but I was torn between the Saturn (which had a nearly identical engine to my GTS) and a Jeep Wrangler. As I chatted with the Saturn dealer, I told him of my dilemma between the Saturn and the Jeep and he wanted to know how I could have selected two completely different vehicle types. The answer was simple – both were US-made but one appealed to my adult psyche and the other to my child. When he learned that I'd never owned a four-wheel drive vehicle before, the Saturn salesman told me to go buy a Jeep to appease my child need and come back to them for my Saturn when I'm ready. Yep, I bought a brand new Jeep Wrangler YJ that was set up similar to what would later become the Rubicon for New Mexico desert operations. 4.0 liter engine, manual transmission, Dana 33s, limited slip differential, hardtop and air conditioning.

In 2003, my wife wanted an SUV that could haul a horse trailer and off to the GM dealer we went. We'd moved to northern Indiana a few years earlier and I was enjoying one of the local realities – women don't buy cars, their men take care of such details. The salesman kept talking to me about the different SUVs and I kept redirecting him to my wife. I finally had to walk away from the conversation so he would engage my wife in the sale, but I watched from a window in the show room and when he patted her on the head at one point, I figured that conversation was going to end with a gunshot. Fortunately when it was all over, the salesman lived and my wife had her new SUV. Unfortunately I'd been left alone in the showroom too long and I started eyeballing a Pontiac Grand Prix GTP with a heads-up display. I bought that car six months later. Did I trade my YJ in for the GTP? Heck no, but I did park the Jeep for about four years – big mistake.

Last year, I decided to restore the YJ. The engine and drive train were all sound, but the brake system was pretty much corroded. After a completely new brake system was installed, my YJ was back on the road for the winter and I parked the GTP. When spring came this year, I kept driving the Jeep. When I did finally pull the GTP out of the garage, I realized just how uncomfortable the Pontiac was for tall people and still drove my Jeep.

Someone up the road had bought a new Wrangler Unlimited as it would drive by the house each day. I wondered what was different about the JK series (I hadn't been impressed with the TJ) and decided to test drive one. Then I wound up test driving a number of different configurations and taking notes. In the end, I bought a new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon and I am definitely having fun with it. Did I trade my YJ in for this Jeep? Heck no, but I will miss that GTP…

In the pages that follow, I'll share the findings from my various test drives which might help with your own decision. I'll also walk through the various modifications I've done to the Jeep so far, what they were supposed to accomplish, and how they are working out. I'd like to open this conversation up to other owners who'd like to also share their experiences with different Jeep models, what you've done with them, what you've done to them, and how those modifications worked out.

Welcome to my Jeep Journey

Michael Benolkin

Proud Jeep Owner & Publisher,