Driving This 1995 Jeep Wrangler Is ‘Like High-Fiving Somebody’

Jonathan Baker, 40, marketing director for Sid & Ann Mashburn, a renowned men’s and women’s clothier in Atlanta, on his 1995 Jeep Wrangler (YJ), as told to Mike Jordan.

I’d always wanted a Jeep. They just appealed to me—the look of them, the Spartan element, the utilitarian type of vibe. I just thought they were cool.

One of my best childhood friends, Chris Hannah, was a junior when I was a freshman at Collins Hill High School [in Suwanee, Ga., a northern suburb of Atlanta], and a mentor of sorts to me. He had one: A 1993 Wrangler (YJ), cherry red, with a lot of chrome and a great sound system. We’d go tooling around suburbia after school, before our drumline practice, listening to rock ’n’ roll.

Photos: Driving This Jeep Feels Like Dancing

Jonathan Baker shows off his 1995 Jeep Wrangler (YJ)

Jonathan Baker, 40, learned how to drive a stick shift in his 1995 Jeep Wrangler (YJ). ‘It reminds me to take risks. In so much of the things that you do in life, taking risks is where the secret sauce is.’

Audra Melton for The Wall Street Journal

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And to be hanging with an upperclassman in a Jeep with no top? It was like heaven. It was an introduction to independence. There was this levity that it brought—a lightness, excitement, adventure. My affection for the car started there, and that was 1995. There’s certainly some synergy there that I own a car from 1995.

In 2017, it was a time in my life when I was trying to think of something to improve myself—a new skill or hobby. I was trying to cope with [a divorce] and trying to think of creative ways to better myself as a man and as a dad. So I started looking on Craigslist, researching [Jeeps].

Some Jeep purists look down their nose at the YJs because they had rectangular headlights. I didn’t want the yuppie Jeep in a Wham! music video at a ski resort, but I really liked that the interior still felt like a military vehicle. It’s the last of the Wranglers that still felt old-school. And I didn’t mind the headlights. I liked the left-of-center design and it was an entry vehicle for me.

My dad taught me how to drive it in his sleepy little neighborhood, Peachtree Hills. He was great; patient, kind. I don’t know how I’d have ever had my dad teach me to drive a stick shift if it hadn’t been for me going through a hard time. He gave me the basics, I would come home from work and practice, and it was hard as hell. But there was an element of like, “Oh man, maybe I’ll take it on Peachtree Street for a few blocks tonight.”

Driving the vehicle is like playing a drum set, or dancing. You’re moving with the road, and all limbs have to be harmonious for the thing to work. It’s fabulous. And the waving of other Jeep owners is totally amazing. It’s like high-fiving somebody if you’re running and they’re running. It’s great every time, and it never gets old.

My son, Oliver, loves it. He likes getting in and climbing around. I want to go to the ice cream shop with him, or take him to a soccer game. All of that went into the intention of buying it.

Even driving in Atlanta, with the slopes, the hills and traffic, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Going no-doors on a nice day driving around Atlanta, I know that doesn’t seem like an adventure to many Jeep owners, but for me it’s like an adventure everywhere you go.

Write to Mike Jordan at myride@wsj.com

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