I have spent a considerable chunk of my life driving very presentable cars. To be sure, I've never owned a new Jaaaaaag or Cadillac (or even a used one), but it's been a while since I was able to park fearlessly. I bought a brand-spanking-new Civic Si sedan in 2008 and am proud to say it remains free of door dings and general exterior wear 5 years later. People who don't know cars assume it's new when they ride in it, which I take as a huge compliment. You guys know what I mean.

I moved to beautiful Northern California 4 years ago and discovered two things: mountain bikes and Yosemite. I love riding and I love camping and hiking. Of course, partaking in any of these activities is hard on a Civic. Muddy mountain bikes, filthy camping equipment, and dirty boots are all hard on the little guy.

I had to do something, so I bought a used-up 1991 Jeep Cherokee.

Falling for a BeaterS

It was ugly as sin with it's flat red paint and rims only the lowest form of mouth-breather would love. The seats were stained, the interior rattled, it leaked everything (it's a Jeep thing, you wouldn't understand), it had a super light rod knock, and the tires were mismatched. I loved the hell out of it.

I justified the purchase by promising not to invest any money into it. Drive it as-is until it dies. That promise was broken on day 2 when I bought a set of stock Wrangler rims. Then I replaced the shocks. And all the bushings. And the tires. But all that pales in comparison with what I did last weekend: I painted it flat desert sand. Yeah.

So here's how that happened: Friday I was drinking beer with my buddy and we were talking about how friggin' ugly the Jeep was. He jokingly suggested we rattle-can it to look like an African adventure truck. We laughed for a while... and then we ordered a case of spray paint. The next day we sanded it, taped it up, and went to town:

Falling for a BeaterS

Falling for a BeaterS

Falling for a BeaterS

Falling for a BeaterS

The finished product is far from perfect, but it it actually looks respectable-ish. Best of all, it's not so nice that I'm worried about parking it fearlessly. I park it where I want. I forgot what that type of freedom felt like! It's liberating!

The best part of all this is that I can choose what car I'm in the mood for. Want to make noise, park fearlessly, and stand out like a sore thumb as I rumble through Palo Alto? Drive the Jeep. Want to blend into the background in a comfortable, reliable, quiet car that rides nice and has working air conditioning? Drive the Honda. They compliment each other so well!

So what's next for The Rommel? I'm starting to plan out a bottom-end rebuild, mild lift, locking differentials, and a major brake upgrade. Really, then I'll be done. I promise.

EDIT: I wanted to point out that without my buddy in the pictures, I would still be sanding or masking this thing. Huge ups. Hell, he even named the damn thing. Thanks, B.