Seventeen-year-old Griffen Rhodes stands next to his recently restored 1976 Jeep Renegade at the gathering of Oklahoma Jeepers in Sapulpa before they set off for Arcadia, by way of Route 66.
Rhodes’ Renegade—which he affectionately named Rene—is something of a spectacle because of its age, but that doesn’t stop the others from admiring his handiwork and commenting on the cool factor for having a restored Renegade in the first place. “He doesn’t deserve it,” said a smiling William Briggs, a leader in the Oklahoma Jeepers group, who takes care of their Facebook Page and let Sapulpa Times know where to be to see this cacophony of bug-eyed beauties before they hit the road to the Big Red Barn.
Brigg’s comment was completely in jest, but it’s not hard to tell how jealous he is. “I’ve wanted a Jeep all my life and when I was a teenager, this was the one that they came out with. I couldn’t afford it then, and then I had a family and you know, they’re not very sensible for children, and then finally, my kids were grown and they said ‘dad, you’ve always wanted a Jeep, get yourself a Jeep.’ and so I did.”
As for Rhodes, he won’t actually be joining the caravan of Jeeps down the Mother Road, (“not on those tires,” he said) but he hopes to have his first road trip to Tahlequah in the not too distant future.
Rhodes said his dad found the Jeep for him—”junked up in a barn,” as Briggs had said—and that they had spent the last year or so restoring it to get it running.
And run it does. The V-8 engine in the Renegade is the talk of several who stop by, checking out each other’s Wranglers or tires, and talking shop and parts. One person eyes Rhodes’ Renegade approvingly, mentioning something about how Fiat’s new take on the Renegade is an embarrassment to the Jeep community.
Briggs walks us around the parking lot, dishing out factoids about Jeep history, like how the square headlights were part of the 80s and early 90s versions of Jeeps, and that Jeep intentionally only changes their body style “about every ten years or so” in order to let Jeep enthusiasts be able to buy market parts for at least a decade.
Briggs said Saturday was “National Go Topless Day” for Jeep lovers and “we just had to do something to celebrate.”
The cloudy skies loomed overhead and we asked what the drivers would do if it began to rain on the trip? “Well, we asked them, and most of them said they’d just pull the plug”—turns out that Jeep has literal water drains in their floorboard for just such occasions. With details like these, it’s not hard to see why Jeep has had such a loyal following—a following that looks like it might gain a newspaper publisher in the near future.