Willoughby: Family vehicle loyalty challenged by new choices | AspenTimes.com

Willoughby: Family vehicle loyalty challenged by new choices

Tim Willoughby
Legends & Legacies
Midnight Mining Company Jeep at the mine after a storm, 1940s. Willoughby collection/Courtesy photo

It does not seem that in today’s car market family brand loyalty is as prevalent as it was in the 1950s-60s. My family is an example of the previous proclivity. My parents and three pairs of aunts and uncles all owned Buicks. It was not just local availability as it extended to California relatives.

Other Aspen families had similar loyalties. Some favored Chevrolet, others Dodge-Chrysler. Mercury, Lincoln and Ford rounded out the choices. The car dealerships were in Glenwood. Dyer Buick handled Buick sales in the early1950s but was replaced by Lincicome-Wood Motor Company that also sold Pontiac, GMC and Jeep. Osborne Motors featured Dodge, Chrysler and Plymouth and Mountain Motors handled Ford. Elliott Equipment Company sold farm equipment but also represented Lincoln, Mercury, Renault, Citroen and International Harvester vehicles.

Aspen had satellite dealerships. J.V. Rose in Glenwood that sold Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Cadillac partnered with Herald Motors in Aspen. Roaring Fork Motor Company sold Jeeps in Aspen.

Vehicle loyalty broke down when it came to four-wheel drive vehicles. Users had very strong opinions but they had more to do with the large differences among the choices. Most favored Willys Jeeps, mainly because they had a local track record. They seemed to be made for Aspen’s roads and off-roads. With mostly dirt and gravel roads, Jeeps held up and since you would not want to go more than about 35 miles per hour on those roads a Jeep met the task. If you wanted to drive to Glenwood, or beyond, you took your car, traveling above 40 mph in a Jeep was scary.

Heading into the mountains Jeep dominated. Its low-range gearing, high clearance and short turning radius could get you anywhere you wanted to go. If you could afford two vehicles most Aspenites second vehicle was a Jeep for winter use. With high clearance and four-wheel drive you could navigate any weather condition. Many added snowplows to their Jeeps to plow their driveways.

Jeeps were easy to maintain. Their motors seemed to last forever. There was little to go amiss. The oldest ones did not even have a keyed ignition, just a button to push to start it. The fanciest ‘accessory’ was the windshield wiper that was not as good as reaching around and wiping by hand.

But, Jeeps had their limitations. They were small, they had canvas tops that wore out, their brakes only worked effectively at slow speeds, and they were COLD. So in the early 60s many locals experimented with alternatives.

The International Harvester Scout offered a small four-wheel-drive vehicle that was completely enclosed with more seating than a Jeep. Locals liked it because it handled winter and it was warm inside. It did not fare so well off-road. In 1961 the Toyota Land Cruiser was offered by Mountain Motors and developed a strong following because it also was larger than a Jeep and could be purchased as a contained unit, warmer in winter, and eliminating the maintenance of a cloth top.

In 1960 Herald Motors in Aspen offered “the worlds most versatile vehicle”, the Land Rover. It was more expensive than the other alternatives, but much larger and quieter on the road. While it could handle Aspen’s most challenging Jeep roads most owners used it like a car, year-round transportation eliminating the need for two kinds of vehicles.

In the mid-1960s Ford came out with its off-road vehicle, the Bronco. With so much competition Jeep developed new models, upping the horsepower from four cylinders to six, cab-covered models with a heater that sort-of worked, and a larger size. Unfortunately, most owners who had owned the original Willys deemed them shoddy, and wished they had kept their old Jeeps that never seemed to wear out. The end of vehicle brand loyalty.


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