Friday, April 4, 2014

Granville King: The World's Best Shade-tree Mechanic

I grew up around Jeeps. When I was a kid, Wranglers didn't exist and wouldn't for a long time to come. Even the CJ-7 didn't exist yet. CJ-5s were new Jeeps that some people used as daily transportation, but lots of people had an old flat-fender Willys Jeep out back for hunting and exploring the backcountry. You could pick one up for anywhere from a hundred to a few hundred bucks, and keep it running indefinitely with basic hand tools and very little money. There was pretty much nothing that could go wrong with one that you couldn't fix well enough to limp back home with a pair of Vice-grips, a roll of baling wire and perhaps a flattened tin can. Then when you got paid again, you could fix it as good as new, right in your own backyard. New Jeeps are nothing like that. In the entire history of the Jeep, only one man has understood what Jeeps are really all about well enough to convey the idea to the rest of us in the form of books and articles. That man was the late Granville King. "Granny" as he was known by some, began working on WWII jeeps in 1944, and continued until his death in 1989. The last decade or so of his life was spent as a hermit/ beach bum in Baja on the Sea of Cortez with his best friend "Superdawg." Granny lived in a small travel trailer and had a makeshift shed where he tinkered with his many Jeeps, a Honda ATC110 and several other vehicles, and once a month he would drive to San Felipe to mail his monthly article to Four Wheeler Magazine and pick up the check for the previous month. In those days I subscribed to Four Wheeler, and Granville's articles were my favorite part of the magazine. King also wrote the definitive Jeep manual, linked below. I noticed that some reviewers didn't rate the book very highly because they were expecting a detailed service manual. The "Jeep Bible" doesn't replace a factory service manual for your specific Jeep, but it is a must-have for any serious Jeeper. A service manual won't tell you how to effect a backcountry fix that will get you back home. This book will.


woodsrunner said...

As a teenager I was given a subscription to Pickup, Van & Four Wheel Drive Magazine, which later became owned by Four Wheeler. At that time I was introduced to Granville King and super dog. Their monthly antics had to be part of what made me the man I am today. They truly lived the Possum Living lifestyle. I still have a box with about six years of those mags in it. You've inspired me to go find them and read again. Hopefully the mice haven't found them.

RIP, Granville. You were a friend and mentor to many a young man.

Anonymous said...

I bought one of the last of the CJ7s in 86 and with it a copy of the Jeep bible signed by the old man himself and his dog. I long ago sold my beloved CJ, having 157k miles she began to die but I still have my bible. That book helped me out a lot. If i had the cash Id buy a used model. No Wranglers for me, they're for women.