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Keith’s rides, Part 1: My first ‘status symbol’ was a Jeep Commando

[This is the first of several blog entries on the cars and other vehicles I have driven so far in my life. It may or may not be of interest to anyone other than myself. Enjoy. Or not. It’s your choice. – KM]

Far too often a car is seen as a status symbol, a measure of the total man or woman driving the car.

An expensive car denotes success. Or, at least, it symbolizes money, whether it be old money or new.

A compact car, economy car or one that is broken down denotes failure, hard times, a lack of resources, when perhaps it really should symbolize a concern for the environment or thriftiness.

An expensive car denotes confidence and financial freedom.

A compact or economy car denotes insecurity and frugality.

An expensive car denotes virility.

A compact car … well, doesn’t.

Far too much weight is put on the type of car or vehicle a person drives.

I have had a couple of cars and other vehicles since the time I took driver’s education at Ashland Community High School in the late 1970s. None are particularly spectacular and most were either hand-me-downs or used vehicles.

But they are the rides I have had over the years.

Here’s a multi-part drive down the memory lane that are the rides of my past.

Jeep Commando

The first vehicle I was able to claim as mine was a Jeep Commando. So, I suppose the Jeep Commando – descendant of the vehicle that helped the Allies win World War II and took generations of woodsmen into the backcountry – is my first status symbol. I’m not sure what that says about me, but there it is.

OK, I really couldn’t “claim” the Commando since it belonged to my parents. It was used for plowing the driveway in the winter and woodland excursions in the spring, summer and fall.

Living in the Deep Dark Woods of Northern Maine means long, dark, cold, snowy winters. The driveway to my family’s home was a fairly long piece of gravel and shale, especially if you were using a shovel or snow scope to clear it after a significant snowfall.

Add to that, fairly steep front and back stairs from the house to the driveway, and you have some pretty significant snow removal going on.

You can imagine how pleased I was when my father brought home the Commando, complete with a small plow on front. I don’t recall where he purchased it or even if my mother had a say in it. All I know is that seeing that rig meant a little less work for me and my aching back.

It also meant I had a ride to various extracurricular activities – soccer, baseball and basketball practices and games, mostly. It is about 11 miles from Portage to Ashland and trying to catch the activity bus was a large hassle, so I was allowed to use the Commando from time to time.

I don’t recall the model year of the Commando, but it had a removable hardtop – in other words, it was a convertible – and pretty fun to drive around. I recall that my Dad ended up getting a broken down Commando for parts for the one we actually used, which he painted a metallic gray and added a blue softcover for the summer. He also added a rollbar, which was pretty cool.

According to Jeep-Commando.com – yes, there is a website – the Commando was manufactured from 1966 to 1971. Here’s a bit of what can be found at http://www.jeep-commando.com/.

Because of the short time of production, the Jeep Commando is a rare, hard to find Jeep. A lot of people say the Jeep Commando looks a lot like the International Scout and the Ford Bronco.

In 1966, Jeep, then owned by Kaiser, launched the Jeepster Commando to compete with the Bronco and Land Cruiser. The Jeepster Commando was available only in three models: a convertible, pickup truck, and a wagon (like the Jeepster, this was a really cool looking vehicle in my opinion). The (Kaiser) Jeepster Commando stayed in production until 1969. In 1970 AMC bought Jeep from Kaiser, and then in 1972 AMC shortened the name to just Commando and changed the grill design to look more like that of a Bronco, but it didn’t catch on. The Jeep Commando was taken out of production in 1973. Check out The American Jeepster Club for more on these cool Jeep spin-offs.

I don’t recall when or how or why my parents got rid of the Commando. All I know is that I enjoyed driving that thing.

Rides of My Life … so far

Part 1: Jeep Commando

Part 2: VW Bug

Part 3: Dodge Duster

Part 4: Chevrolet Caprice Classic

Part 5: Nissan pickup

Part 6: Suzuki Sidekick

Part 7: Isuzu Rodeo

Part 8: Honda CRV