if you follow me on twitter or instagram, or if you've ever bumped into me in real life, you know i have a deep, lifelong love for the xj-generation jeep cherokee. over the summer, i finally found the cherokee i'd been searching out for years: a two-door model with the 4.0-liter straight-six and a five-speed stick, for sale in rural texas. i bought it sight unseen with the help of a trusted friend down south and shipped it to my home in brooklyn, new york.
it was, to put it lightly, a mess. the jeep had sat neglected in a field for years, getting baked in the texas sun and gathering all kinds of crud and debris in every crack and crevice. the white paint had fried to a dull, hazy sheen; the black plastic trim had faded to a chalky gray. the interior was disgusting. mice had made a home in the xj, building a palatial nest of insulation and upholstery padding under the rear seat and using the cupholders as latrines. coffee stains and unidentified goo marred the seats and carpets, and layers of trash, candy wrappers and home-burned cds drifted in piles on the floor. a cloud of dust kicked up every time i shut the door, and the car carried an aroma i can only describe as "wet basement."
there was a gem of a jeep under all that trash and grime, but unearthing it was beyond my meager skills. so i enlisted the help of a top-tier professional: larry kosilla, founder of the car care product company ammo nyc and the ultimate expert in automotive detailing. you know larry from his amazing youtube channel, where he finds the most neglected, abused, frankly disgusting cars in the world and brings them back to showroom condition. if you're learning the art of car detailing, larry's videos are a masterclass, showing you the tools, techniques, and tricks you need to get your car looking its absolute best.
when i got my jeep, i sent a few photos to larry. i expected him to tell me this was a lost cause, too far gone. he was actually excited by the sorry state of my xj. "it's disgusting," he told me, with glee in his voice. "it's perfect." so i got the cherokee in driving condition, cleared a spot among the trash, and drove it up to larry's gorgeous new shop in connecticut. there, larry worked through a hurricane and a week-long power outage to get my jeep in tip-top shape.
he put in hours of work, scrubbing, polishing, soaking, vacuuming, agitating, and extracting 26 years of grotesqueness out of my xj. larry threw his most powerful cleaning products and his years of expert knowledge at my decaying cherokee, and he even unearthed some ancient artifacts in the process. like this love letter, addressed to krystal—perhaps one of the jeep's past owners?—from someone going by the name "pd. n. ful," wrapped in the august 26, 2005, issue of the dallas morning news.
when larry opened the garage door to show me the final result, i was shocked. my chalky, hazy, dull old jeep was shining like it was brand-new. the interior was sparkling and smelled great. i asked larry to leave some of the patina undisturbed—i like the look of the faded bumpers, which highlight the fact that this jeep has been through a full and unforgiving life—but every piece of the car that larry touched was gleaming.
watching larry unveil my freshly cleaned jeep was the culmination of a long journey. as i mention in the video, my love for the two-door cherokee goes all the way back to my childhood. when i was eight years old, the teenage son of the family next door drove a two-door cherokee. i thought he was the coolest guy on earth—he could drive, after all—and the boxy silhouette of that xj lodged into my mind forever.
i'm amazed at what larry was able to achieve with nothing more than some elbow grease, technique, and the right products and tools. i was convinced this jeep would need new paint and upholstery to look good again. now it's shining bright and ready for adventure.