The Scramber

The biting smell of gasoline fills the air as I pour five more gallons of unleaded into the tank. Never did I think the gage was that far off! Something seemed wrong. Previously, this Scrambler made it to town and back three times on three quarters of a tank of gas.This week, it made two trips and ran out while warming up in the driveway! Then I, in my ignorance, flooded it after pouring in the first four gallons.

It takes a long funnel to feed the tank on an AMC Jeep Scrambler. The fill port is located between the passenger tail light and the bumper. Both stick out three inches and more. Filling it with a pump nozzle is no problem, but from a can, it takes tenacity.

Maybe the Scrambler just likes Buck better. After all, he is the CJ Guru. A single pump of the pedal, a turn of the key and the engine roars to life. Both of us stare under the hood and see the cause of the vehicle’s ravenous appetite. A loose hose clamp on the fuel line allows a steady drip of gas off the side of the carburetor. Buck tightens it with a screwdriver, and life is good again.

The Scrambler rolled off the assembly line in 1981, one of 8,355 Jeep CJ8s built that year. Powered by American Motor Company’s 258 straight 6 engine, it was “perfect for hauling a bicycle or a few sticks of firewood.” Stylish, convertible, and solidly masculine, it cost more than the average rural farmer willed to pay for a light duty pickup truck. Hence, the Jeep Scrambler failed to catch on in agricultural communities. This one counts among possibly four in the entire state.

A few years ago, Buck got creative and fitted it with an AMC 304 V8, giving it 10 more horsepower and roughly 20 more foot pounds of torque, dual exhaust, and the appetite and roar of a beast!

While some people frown on beasty, classic vehicles, many people wave when I drive this thing down the road. Jeeps bring out smiles.

Nothing clears up a stressful day like climbing behind the wheel of a lifted, narrow axel hotrod with off-road tires! Turn on some classic hard rock and just enjoy the experience. The narrow stance combined with the large tires and the overall design of the steering meant for off-highway use, CJ Jeeps handle like a spirited, squirly horse. Cruise control was never an option on these rigs, and no driver would want it. When you drive a CJ, you must handle the CJ.

The 1980s era of the CJ stands as the sweet spot between ruggedness and comfort. After Chrysler picked the jeep name off the scrap heap left by American Motor Company, they started a steady progression toward comfort with the YJ model. Now, with the design changes by Fiat, Jeep is a straight luxury car both in the interior and the handling.

One good thing they did was widen the axles an additional four inches. In 1982 AMC widened the axles four inches, making the 1981 models the last year of the narrow stance rigs. Newer rigs are more stable and handle better on highways, but they are less of a challenge to drive. While the Wrangler maintains the overall look of its great great-grandparent, the Willys, it is not the same flavorful, mind-clearing ride of its grandparent, the CJ.

When you drive a classic CJ, like the Scrambler, you don’t kick back, zone out and set the cruise. You feel the road with all its peculiar bumps and ruts. It tosses and pulls you playfully as the grooves worn by the big, wide-stance vehicles reject one set of tires or draw the other. It takes a skillful hand to make it look effortless. There’s just you, the CJ and the road. No human games or drama belong in a real Jeep, just the seamless unity of human and machine.


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