I fear that some of you may be a little upset with us over hear at Hooked Up Films when you learn that we have parted ways with our 1977 Toyota land cruiser FJ40…………and replaced it with a JEEP! Now, wait a minute. Before you assemble the lynch mob, let me explain.
First of all, as most of you know, last winter we converted our 2006 Nissan Titan LE into a permanent and dedicated overland travel and expedition fly fishing rig when we added a custom built carbon fiber, hard side, pop-up camper with all kinds of cutting edge expedition equipment built in. This essentially made the Titan Expedition Vehicle a perfect short and long range multi-day exploration and fly fishing rig, but at the same time a not-so-great day trip vehicle for those trips to our favorite local fishing spots.
Second, the ol’ FJ40 had some issues. It only got about 10-12 miles to the gallon thanks to the Ford 302 under the hood and has a nasty habit of giving me mechanical issues when I was at the apex of some of my outings. I love spending time at remote lakes in the Cascade Mountains, but don’t want to have spend 2 unplanned days there.
Third, Winter were just a little too cold in the FJ40.
So, we started doing our research on possible (more modern) replacements. This was a pretty scientific process with some specific criteria.
1. It had to get around 18-20 mpg on the highway.
2. It did not have to have a ton of power, but needed to have the juice to pull the drift boat up long grades without feeling like a horse and buggy.
3. It had to have plenty of room for gear, but not be a road barge.
4. It had to have 4X4 (we get a ton of snow).
5. It needed to have off-road capability so that Hooked Up Films could get back into those remote, pristine fly waters that see only a handful of anglers each year.
Really the options were limited and we boiled it down to three possablities. The Toyota FJ Cruiser, the Land Rover Defender, or the Jeep Wrangler JK Rubicon.
The Toyota FJ is simply too much of a ruined version of its former perfect self. No soul. The top doesn’t even come off. Plus it has some fairly significant shortcomings in the off-road ready category as well as an awful blind spot in the rear. The Land Rover Defender scores perfect in all categories…..but starts at around 50K, so that was out for us.
This left us with the Jeep Wrangler JK. This rig comes in three models. The Sport, which is the basic trimmed down version. The Sahara which is as close to a grocery runner as a Wrangler can get. And the Rubicon. The Rubicon is THE BEST off road production vehicle there is. It comes stock with Dana 44 axles, coil over springs, electronic front and rear locking hubs, 4-wheel drive with gear ratio 4:1 in low range, Electronic release stabilizer, three sections of removable hard top, onboard navigation with USB connect for device or computer download, SIRIUS Satellite, Bluetooth, and a totally reinvented interior.
Under the hood there is a 3.8 liter V-6 engine putting out 202 horsepower. All of that with 17-20 mpg.
The next big decision for us was 2-door or 4-door. Because we wanted as much room for our fly and video gear as possible we had to go with the Unlimited (4-door). This adds 24 inches to the wheel base which would also be better in the snow than the much shorter 2-door. We opted for the tow package so that we could get the drift boat out and about without having to add this aftermarket. We also liked the feature of the fold and tumble back seat to essentially double the cargo space.
Color was less of an issue for us, but whatever it turned out to be it had to look good with a Hooked Up Films logo on the side somewhere . We are pretty happy with the “Mango Tango” that we wound up with.
Long story short, we pulled the trigger and haven’t looked back. The Jeep Wrangler JK Rubicon Unlimited was absolutely the right move. This thing is a pleasure to drive (unlike the older wranglers that would rattle your teeth out). Not only that, but it really comes into its own off road. Only a few days after driving it off the lot we had an early season snow in the mountains and so we headed up and over the jeep trail passed Broken Top Mountain and over the Sisters, Oregon. This isn’t the toughest road around, but has its rough spots. The Rubicon made it almost too easy with it in 4 high and the stabilizer disconnected. Next we planned a day trip on the Middle Deschutes River and hooked up the drift boat for a test pull. The Wrangler had plenty of power and it never flagged pulling the boat and gear up over the grade heading toward Sunriver, Oregon and literally jerked the boat out of the water at the end of the day. Next we wanted to see just how much gear this thing would handle so we planned a trip out to the Crooked River with 3 anglers, all their gear, film equipment, and lunch. It offered plenty of room for all of that and still had room for my trusty fishing buddy Rascal.
All in all we are thrilled with the Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited and while we will be making some custom alterations to meet the specific needs of the fly angler it is nearly perfect as is.
To sum it all up, if you are considering a Jeep Wrangler, we highly recommend it. And that is coming from someone that drove a classic FJ40 for years!
Special Thanks to Ian Slovis and the gang over at Jim Smolich Motors for such a great car buying experience. You all made it easy!