For anyone not familiar, Toledo, Ohio has been the main attraction for Jeep enthusiasts for years. Jeeps have been built in Toledo since 1941. This was when Willys Overland was awarded a contract by the U.S. government. The contract specified that Willys Overland would build the American Bantam design of the MB. The trademark for the term Jeep was not filed until 1943.
Since 2016, Jeep enthusiasts have flocked to Toledo for Jeep Fest. Droves of owners come to participate in a large parade, car show, and a multitude of other festivities, all aimed at the celebration of all things Jeep. Vendors sell the newest products; food trucks make sure you don’t go hungry; live music rocks the night away, and the total history of Jeep is on display. Here are some of our top five favorite Jeeps of the 2019 Toledo Jeep Fest.
5. Bob Weber’s 1981 Scrambler
Bob and his ride stole a place in our heart. Not only is the Jeep a pretty awesome looking machine, but it also has a unique story. Bob is not the actual owner. Instead, he is showing the ride at Jeep Fest to try and hook a buyer for a friend. The Jeep is 90-percent restored and is available for less than you would spend on even a modern economy car.
Unfortunately, the original owner and Bob’s brother, Carl, passed away recently and the family is ready to sell. Bob explained, “It’s almost complete. Carl came down with cancer at the age of 81. He only lasted 30 days, and he never got to finish it. We had to dig it out of six inches of dirt to load it on a trailer. The parts came in several boxes.” The family’s desire is that the Jeep goes to someone that is as passionate as Carl was.
4. David Gamble’s 1990 Grand Wagoneer
David has a clear love for his ride. While it isn’t the cleanest or the most rust-free specimen, he loves the old Jeep and that is what drew us to him. David admitted, “A couple of times a year, I’ll just mask off the bad spots and hit it with a white rattle can. It gives me a little time until I can fix up the body the right way.”
David has already invested in going through the engine, and soon, the whole Wagoneer will be ready to shine. Not that any amount of sparkle will keep David from taking the Jeep off-road. He said, “I have some tracks near my house that I just love. I love the nostalgia of it. We can’t drive it anywhere without people coming up and talking to us about one that either they or someone else they knew owned. It’s kind of cool how many people have been in contact with them over their lifetime.”
David’s wife, Laura, also loves the Jeep and never misses out on the fun. In fact, when the decision to attend Jeep Fest this year was made, she didn’t waste any time getting the center caps ready for the event. She painted them to portray the same patriotic spirit that was embodied by the whole event. The Wagoneer gets driven every day and even after the full restoration is complete, it will still be a daily driver.
3. Steve Chinni’s 1977 J-10 Honcho
Steve got the Honcho about 12 years ago. It was a Colorado truck then. A friend that lived in Colorado was moving to Toledo and Steve was nice enough to help in the move. After some hijinks on the way back to Ohio, Steve told his friend that if he ever got rid of it, he had dibs.
Then came the day when Steve had the chance to own the Honcho. “He probably had 10 people deep ready to buy it. We are both into AMC vehicles so maybe that helped,” Steve explained. He also considers this truck to be “just plain cool.” So he scooped it up, and the rest is history.
When you’ve got a cool retro rig, then there are a lot of things to love about it. For Steve, it’s all about people. He shared, “It’s meeting people that have stories about the one they had. The guy that said he built my dash. The guy yesterday that told me his dad worked at the plant when it was built. There are also the kids that wave at us because a monster truck just drove by them. Those are the coolest things about owning the Honcho.”
For us, it’s the fact that someone has taken the time and energy to keep a cool, old Jeep both on and off the road. Steve admitted with a smile that, “It doesn’t really drive all that great.” However, the plan is to keep the original patina and add some sound deadening to make it a little quieter. Other than that, the Honcho will get passed down to his son when the time comes. That kind of generational Jeep off-road love gets us every time.
2. Larry Godie’s 2000 Cherokee
If you have a Gatling gun and a couple of propellers on your Jeep, there is a pretty good chance that there is a story behind it. Larry does boat repair for a living, and when he sees something about his Jeep he doesn’t care for, then he just makes the effort to change it. His sister originally owned the Jeep and when she decided she was ready to get rid of it, Larry jumped at the chance.
He explained, “I was looking for a Jeep already when she decided she was ready to part with it. By then, I had looked at a 1947 Jeep and a Forward Control Jeep, but they were both asking too much money at the time. I was ready to negotiate for this one, but my sister and her husband just signed over the title. It was quite a surprise.”
Over the last two years, he has changed the differential gears to 4.11:1. He also increased tire size by two inches from stock. He reported with a smile that, “I don’t baby it.” The Jeep gets used for everyday driving, moving boats around with the winch, and off-road. I asked what his favorite thing about the Jeep was and he shared that, “I love the snorkel. I made the mold for it myself. I also made the fenders by hand. The caps on the end of my rear bumper were made by me, too. I even used a lathe to turn grooves into the end cap so I could use rubber rings to seal it.” The fun appearance of the XJ really drew us in. The great story and the fun conversation is what made us pick it for our top five.
1. Mike Stewart’s 2007 JK8
Mike Stewart’s build sheet will make you jealous, especially once you see the top-tier parts used to create such an amazing rig. The Jeep was built by Dakota Customs and really is in a class by itself.
We chose Mike’s Jeep because it stands out from all others at the 2019 Toledo Jeep Fest. Everything from the half doors opening into a cargo compartment to the massaged bed and lengthened wheelbase is unique. The JCR bumpers and inner fenders set the tone while the Warn winch stands ready. The Hemi power plant also turned more than one head. If you want to stand out in a sea of Jeeps, then this is the ride you would want.
As you may be able to tell from the previous picks, our top five are not necessarily based on price point. They are also not necessarily based on the ability of the vehicle to conquer every obstacle put in front of it. We could have thrown a stone and hit 10 or even 20 Jeeps that were running 40-inch rubber. One-ton or larger running gear, massive bolt-on armor, and every brand of LED lighting available were all on full display.
For us, it’s all about the story behind the build. Beyond that, we don’t really focus on rides that have every new part available on them but never go off-road. We like vehicles that get used and when we are talking about Jeeps, that means used off-road.