I bought my first Jeep Wrangler in the early ’90s. It was a 1988, a YJ, the color of a white t-shirt stained with grape jelly. It sported sweet square headlights, tan decals, and a host of electrical problems that kept me in near-constant contact with Triple A. It came with no bells or whistles, no hard top, no warranty but I loved it.
By far, though, the best by-product of owning a Jeep was automatic membership into the Jeep Wavers Club. Overnight, other Wrangler owners, of whom there weren’t many back then, acknowledged my Wrangler and me on the road. Some would liesurely raise a couple fingers from the steering wheel when we passed in traffic. Others would flash a peace sign. And still others would funnel all their enthusiasm into a whole-hearted, full-handed wave. But everybody participated. It was exhilarating. It was, as Jeep touted, a lifestyle. I had found my people.
Over the years, though, as I retired first the ailing YJ and then a bought-new-and-eventually-wrecked TJ, more and more drivers opted to use the Wrangler as a vehicle first, lifestyle second. Still others, “enthusiasts”, sunk more dough into aftermarket additions for their Wranglers – beefy off-road tires and rock-crawling accessories – and suddenly there was a Jeep hierarchy. Waves were fewer and farther between, and even those wavers seemed to be from drivers whose Jeeps were more similar to mine, that is to say older, slightly beaten up, and unaccessorized.
Now, as my ’01 TJ and I travel the countryside we trade waves with maybe 25% of the other Jeepsters we see. I don’t know if that’s because newer Jeep drivers don’t know about the wave, don’t care, or simply compare their shiny new vehicle to my dented (but-still-totally-awesome) rig and decide we’re not the right caliber. I admit, I’ve gotten jaded to the point that now I’ll only initiate the wave if the other Jeep looks about the same vintage as mine. Whether that means I’m being snobby or playing it safe is up to you. Just know, though, that I wish it were different, that just like humans of all shapes and sizes are members of the same human race, Jeeps of all models are still instruments of the Jeep lifestyle and afford membership into the Jeep Wave Club. Even if the person behind the wheel doesn’t know it.
P.S. While surfing Youtube I found this video that shows there’s not only a Jeep hierarchy, there’s a point system!