Jeep vs. Jeep

31
2060
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Jeep can’t legally sell Jeeps the way they used to make Jeeps. Simple, inexpensive Jeeps, like the old CJ Series. Because of Uncle and his mandates. Jeeps like the old CJ didn’t have air bags and designing it to have air bags – and all the rest of it – would mean redesigning the CJ into something neither simple nor inexpensive.

Which is just what Jeep did.

You can’t buy a new CJ – but you can buy a government-approved Wrangler that costs twice as much.

Enter Mahindra – the Indian manufacturer of trucks and Jeeps like they used to make them. Mahindra makes new CJs – without the air bags, back-up cameras, tire pressure monitoring systems or the mechanically perplex direct-injected/cylinder deactivated engines – and all the rest of it.

What they do come with is a 2.5 liter turbo-diesel engine that is capable of averaging better than 50 miles-per-gallon, paired to a five-speed manual transmission and lock’-’em-yourself 4×4 hubs. No digital dashboards, no climate control AC.

Just a Jeep.

They’re called Roxors – but one look and you’ll recognize the Jeep DNA. Which isn’t surprising given that Mahindra has licensed rights to build the old CJ (aka Willys) since the 1940s through to the present. But the understanding was that these Roxor-Jeeps would not be sold here and thereby tempt the Jeep inclined with a simpler, less-expensive and arguably more Jeep Jeep than the current government-approved Jeeps.

Mahindra did just that – even to the extent of opening a U.S. headquarters in Michigan – and now a very unhappy Jeep (technically, FiatChrysler, which owns the Jeep brand) is beseeching Uncle for relief, claiming (accurately) that Mahindra has copied “…the iconic Jeep design.”

Indeed. They have.

Because Jeep no longer makes the “iconic design.”

The irony is  . . . depressing.

Technically, the Roxor-Jeep is “for off road use only”- which is how the company skirts the DOT and the EPA. But Jeep is worried that people might take these Roxor-Jeeps on-road, which would be easy enough to get away with – and we can’t have that.

But why not?

In the first place, much as FCA’s complaint about the Roxor being a “near identical copy” of the old Willys/CJ is inarguable – Mahindra has the literal blueprints – it’s also inarguable that Jeep no longer makes Jeeps like the old Willys/CJ.

So why not let Mahindra make them?

The answer of course, is that allowing Mahindra to make a simple, inexpensive Jeep – and allowing us to buy such a vehicle, especially to use (gasp!) on road – would be to risk people doing exactly that. In which case, it would become obvious that people prefer simpler, less expensive vehicles to the Uncle-approved ones.

It could upend everything. Most alarmingly, it could expose the lie that people really do want the government to design their cars – as opposed to the car companies, responding to buyer demand instead of complying with government fatwas.

The larger tragedy here is that FCA is fighting Mahindra rather than directing its ire at Uncle. A much more moral argument than bellowing about Mahindra copying the “iconic” Willys CJ Jeep would be to argue that Uncle ought to get out of the business of designing Jeeps – and everything else on four wheels – as it’s none of the government’s legitimate business.

Particularly insofar as saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety is concerned. Even the choice of words is despicably misleading.

And immoral.

The old Willys Jeep and other banned-by-regulation simple, inexpensive cars were not “unsafe.” They just didn’t provide the degree of crash protection in various testing scenarios concocted by the government that modern, government-approved cars do. If you didn’t crash – an event largely under the control of the driver – then an old Willys Jeep was every bit as “safe” as a brand-new S-Class Mercedes.

Uncle’s “safety” mandates are almost entirely about dealing with crash scenarios that are hypotheticals and no different, really, than government ordering people to not eat “too much” butter or bacon because it might result in atherosclerosis. Well, what of it? Isn’t that our business?

On both counts?

And besides, it is very hard to understand the reasoning behind allowing (don’t you hate that term?) us to ride motorcycles without even a single air bag and zero crash protection while outlawing the much safer (if you happen to wreck) Willys Jeep and others like it.

Even more bizarre – and arguably just as immoral – are the fatwas which on the one hand insist that new cars (this includes new Jeeps) average 30-something MPG or else their manufacturers get socked with “gas guzzler” fines, to be passed on to buyers – while on the other hand proscribing 50-MPG diesels such as the Roxor’s, on the grounds that it emits .03 percent more oxides of nitrogen than the maximum allowable (there it is again) arbitrary number pulled out of a hat by a bureaucratic ayatollah ensconced  – but never elected – within the bowels of the EPA.

The problem, of course, is the FCA has joined hands with Uncle and thus might as well be Uncle. And FCA isn’t the only one spooning with the goateed degenerate. Every car company has decided it is better to give seedy old Uncle a hug rather than the finger. They have invested in Uncle-approved cars and to go back now would cost them money. And to let Mahindra or any other car company that hasn’t invested in everything Uncle-approved would be “unfair”…

Just not to us.

. . .

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31 COMMENTS

  1. I can imagine that if it became profitable to restore old Darts, Valiants, Barracudas (what the cute old Jewish Lady from the TV commercials of yesteryear called the “Banana-Cuda”), etc. to like-new for use as DAILY DRIVERS, Fiat Chrysler et. al would get upset as hell for having to compete with their own vintage iron. Likely they’d use the heavy hand of the applicable DMV or Air Resources Board (or EPA) to regulate such renovated iron in the name of emissions and/or “s-a-a-a-a-f-t-e-e-e-e…”. It’s what’s gone wrong with “Murica” today…too much “Crony Capitalism”.

  2. I saw these recently in a North-Western State being sold at a popular motorcycle/ATV dealer. At the time, Roxor was doing a big promotion at this dealer with a nice big-rig marketing display. In some states, you can get a ‘restricted plate’ which means you can drive/ride anything with wheels anywhere as long as the posted speed limit is under 45mph. Pretty awesome freedom compared to the urban states DOT-only restrictions. So these Roxors will sell there for sure, and I’m sure that’s why Roxor was there.
    Pretty great idea. And yes, you can easily spend the same money on a large side-by-side, but for me, I’d rather have the Roxor.
    And yes, availability of parts and service will be huge, and I’m guessing most folks won’t attempt ownership until they see them sticking around for a while. They will buy the name-brand side-by-side first for now.

    • Oh for sure, I’d rather have this curry flavored jeep clone than one of those sissy looking side-by-sides that the city folk buy to haul their fat asses around on hunting trips.

      Just need an antique faux-rust paint job to make it look like a 1940’s survivor!

  3. This seems kinda pricy for a barebones model you can’t legally drive on road. About $15,300 if you add rear view mirrors and a soft top. Dunno if there’s any destination charges or other hidden mandatory fees.

    The cheapest Jeep you can buy is the Patriot for $19K including the mandatory $1K destination charge.

    Not sure why a car built in India is so pricy compared to one loaded with the fed’s fatwas.

    • Side by side ATVs run about the same amount of money, though still too much which is why I don’t have one.

      “Jeep” Patriot is a cheap ass AWD car dressed up in a fake jeep-like body.

    • That’s why after the ’48 Dodge Power Wagon (based on the WC 214 chassis that helped win WWII on all fronts, hell, we gave the Soviet Union over 100,000 of them!), with it’s flathead six that generated gobs of torque, 4-speed with “Grandma” low, and a 2-speed rear end, which could just about climb telephone poles, there was no further discernible improvement in off-road vehicles.

  4. “And besides, it is very hard to understand the reasoning behind allowing (don’t you hate that term?) us to ride motorcycles without even a single air bag and zero crash protection”.
    Won’t be surprised if they are working to change that situation.

  5. Eric those look great and it is a good price if they were road legal. You have to wonder, it seems the makers are all on board with Uncle so the profits must be good. Other wise why wouldn’t they rock the boat? Imagine the money Chrysler could make it they brought back the 1970 cuda and challenger and the 1968 charger, they could make them for peanuts and people would line up to buy them.

    I would argue if a car ever passed safety then it should still be allowed to be sold.

  6. Does Mahindra sell parts? Seems to me an end run would be to find an old rust bucket Jeep and being “replacing” all the old body parts. Oh sure it would take a few years to get the project finished, but that’s one way to get one on the road.

    Of course that would be mostly an exercise in stupidity just to take advantage of one of those evil “loopholes” in the law.

    • The parts do fit well enough but the Jeep aftermarket is extensive enough that the part supply won’t change things much. Now what may be more viable is getting the Mahindra and bringing over just enough from the old wreck to legally make it the old Jeep.

      • Hi Brent,

        In my area, one could easily drive one of these Mahindras on road and “get away” with it. Just buy an old CJ carcass and register it; hang the plates on the Mahindra. Who is going to know the difference? I have done this with old motorcycles several times. Even if you get pulled over, most cops don’t know a ’74 Kawasaki from a ’79 Kaw by sight and if the paperwork seems right…

        No smog testing here so all you have to pass is state saaaaaaaaaaaafety and if you have friends in low places…

        • Another good thing about Virginia is that you can do without the inspection sticker with a $3.99 Farm Use plate from your local feed store. The fact is that LE goons don’t really give a shit about the title as long as the proper boxes are ticked. People register trailers all the time with the title to an old destroyed trailer.

        • I thought about buying another car nearly identical to one I already have. Then it crossed my mind… they could share registration since they wouldn’t be used at the same time… like a cop would know without comparing VINs and who’s got time for that?

          • An old CJ is not going to have a VIN in any sort of expected location – certainly not right under the FOLDING windshield. IIRC back then they might have had a frame # and an engine # and everything could be pretty much mix and match like an erector set or tinker toys!

            No clue where Mahindra might put a VIN ???

            What year is it? Well, it’s a 49, 50, 51, 52 ….

  7. Actually these look pretty nice inside, more than just a Willy’s re-make. I’m glad to see someone offer something useful, affordable, and, hence, competitive! The US car makers have been acting like crybabies ever since Honda hit the west coast in 1959, that’s not about to change anytime soon, either.

  8. Mahindra has some ancient contract that says they can make these things. I would not doubt Mahindra’s lawyers researched well before opening up shop in the USA. It will be lawyers fighting it out over what means what.

    • Hi Brent,

      FCA probably has a legitimate legal argument – I just wish FCA would build these Jeeps themselves, which would solve the problem. And not just this problem. The industry’s problem. VW had a chance to tell Uncle to piss off – but squandered it. Some other major player needs to step up and do it – else the industry is going to be a homogenous conglomerate purveyor of anodyne crossover-shaped automated electric-hybrid transportation appliances within ten years.

      But maybe that’s what they want.

      • “But maybe that’s what they want.”

        Exactly. Just like the two halves of our one-party system in the U.S. of A. A few spats between them via ads (“he supports NAFTA….” “their truck rusts…..”) but in the long run they all rake in the bucks because they can keep any entry-level companies (parties) from playing the game.

  9. I do not know much about Jeeps and Jeep history, but I used to work on the Army’s M151A1 back in the ’80’s. I detested them back then because they had disposable side draft 1 barrel carbs on a tiny 4 cylinder engine, drum brakes with a single chamber master cylinder, bar lug tires, a gas tank under the drivers seat, and thin a frame bushings.
    I wouldn’t mind having one now if I could get it pretty cheap because I would fix all those defects. The bushings would be replaced with modern high performance onces. The tires would be much better. I would consider putting a fuel injected V-6 in it, or perhaps keep the same engine in it and add fuel injection, a header, and other performance parts to it, etc.

      • You are right geoia. I got the version number wrong. I was actually an M-60 tank hull mechanic, but I also worked on Jeeps and Duece and a half trucks from time to time. Thanks for reminding me.

        • “Track Vehicle Mechanic” was really just a suggestion. I doubt there were any track mechanics that didn’t spend the majority of their time working on trucks.

          • Actually, M-60 tanks broke down auite often. If I remember correctly, each platoon had 4 tanks, and we had 4 platoons of tankers (tank operators). We also had one APC, 2 Jeeps, 2 2.5 ton trucks, and a M-88 full tracked recovery vehicle which I drove. The previous Carter administration hadn’t spent the money to maintain those tanks. I joined shortly after Reagan became president, and he spent the money to get all needed repairs done. This meant that I worked a great many late nights fixing deadlined tanks. Being stationed in Germany really sucked for me.
            It probably would surprise most people the amount of veterans that became anarchists. Lew Rockwell and STR have several columnists who are veterans.

            • Hey, a fellow cold warrior on the front line. On The Rock (Kirchgoens), ’78 to ’80.

              Commanders in Germany lived and died by that deadline report. Back in the World, it wasn’t nearly as critical. There I had a track (113) with the driver’s hatch completely broken off. It was never fixed.

      • Talk about reviving old memories! I was in a Transportation Co in Worms in 1962/3 when the first 151’s got to Deutschland. Four of our drivers went to Mannheim to drive them back, and three crashed on the (as I recall)50 clicks journey. Seems Ford hadn’t reviewed the problems of the first Corsairs, where the combination of a hard turn in tandem with hard braking would result in the outside front wheel snapping under, and an immediate inversion of the platform and all of the embarrassment (and physical pain) that usually resulted. The only one that got back to our Kaserne motor pool was being demonstrated ( in terms of acceleration, agility etc.) and ended greasy-side-up, 90feet from launch, still inside the building! Oh the good old days…thanks for the reminder!

        • Hi geoih and Mike Moore, I came in the Army later than either of you two; especially you Mike. I joined in 1982, got Basic Training and AIT done, went home for Christmas, and arrived in Friedburg, West Germany a couple of days later. I just loved the beer there, the fraulines, and how fast people were able to drive there. I didn’t bother trying to get a drivers license there because I, being a single guy, had to leave my ’73 Monte Carlo at home.
          Yep, the M-151s were crap. I never saw one lose a front end like you have though. When I joined, I was not aware of the brand new M-1 Abrams tank, or I would have chosen to become a 63 Echo after being told that they wanted me to be a mechanic. Instead, they trained me as a 63 November M-60 A1-A3 Tank Automotive mechanic and tracked vehicle recovery specialist. It is funny how diesel engines last for many years and in the neighborhood of a million miles of travel; yet those tank engines probably never lasted for more than 2-3 years and less than 1500 miles. They engines were Continental multifuel air-cooled V-12 engines rated at 750 HP.

  10. The big 3 used to fight the govt at every turn, until they started taking subsidies to bail their asses out for not making models competitive with the Japanese. Once your on the govt dole it’s like signing a contract with Satan, there’s no going back, unless you give up the bailouts, tax breaks, and whatever other political gain they may have won. But it sure is costing them in the long run with all the nannyism and fatwas, which they had planned to just pass on to the buyers. Well, that only goes so far, as in, how far the banks will go, or the loan payments, etc. By joining the govt bandwagon in the mid 70’s the car manufacturers set the stage for their, if not demise, at least economic diminishment. Prolonged Govt. dependency ruins everything and everyone, and sucks even on a short term basis. Now, like a spoiled child, “the parents” are the only playing card they have when it comes to dealing with pure, unadulterated capitalist competition. Looks a lot like the way the USSR did business for 75 years, that worked out real well, didn’t it?

    • I was going to say that myself gtc. Had they all stood together to defeat uncle sam back then, they would not have had so many problems as they have today. They now have to lie in the bed they made, all by themselves.

      • Well said guys. I dont just think its cars though, every time business gets big enough they try to use Uncle to protect their advantage and prevent newcomers. The way say banks have used regulation to prevent new tech from changing them too much. Or the way now tech companies are trying to get government to stop more efficient foreign companies. An example is huawei- one of the worlds biggest tech manufacturers….. but i was shocked to hear its banned in the US!! Now before people start thinking its protecting US companies/jobs…. look at the names of the US establishment billionaires who have invested in the IPO….. at the end of the day, any benefit of more efficient production will be had by those in power, rather than normal people who should….

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