Part 7 - Final Touches
With my Jeep reassembled, I could call it finished. It wasn't really, as my wheels needed paint and my lamps needed to be painted and reinstalled, but I was happy with it. I felt accomplished. I had painted a vehicle myself, in my garage and it didn't turn out half bad. It wasn't perfect, but it was clearly a Jurassic Park Jeep and one that I could enjoy sharing with the world.
My first chance was immediately after tightening the last bolt. "Cruisin the Coast" is one of the larger classic car events in the country, with enthusiasts from over 37 states and Canada arriving to Biloxi, Mississippi to show and cruise over 8,000 antique, classic, and hot rod automobiles along the Gulf Coast. I'd feel overwhelmed at such an event, instead entering into a smaller, similar one hosted at nearby Keesler AFB, a major Air Force training base housing many junior Airmen without the privilege to leave base.
Most adults were unimpressed at my 12 year old Jeep, with its mediocre paint and stickers, but the kids loved it! Seeing the smiles it brought to others made me forget about the flaws. Some kids would scream "Jurassic Park!" as they ran over to it. Another's jaw dropped once he realized his mother was pointing him towards. "It's from the movie!" he exclaimed, his attention on the door crest. The Jeep did look the part, and over the next several days, I drove the Jeep to various spots for photo opportunities.
Even though my wheels were still the same brushed aluminum as always, I'd regularly see people taking photos in front of it.
Being happy with something the way it is, is no excuse not to make it better. While I liked my Jeep, it needed painted wheels. I pulled into my driveway and propped the Jeep onto jack stands, one for each wheel. Within a few moments, I had each wheel off and laying in my makeshift paint booth. This was also the best opportunity to paint the new light bar.
I took the same approach to the wheels as I did to the body. A quick wash and scuff to prep the surface, masking areas I didn't want painted, then spraying down a couple of coats of epoxy primer followed by the same shade of red as the Jeep's striping.
After all of the paint had dried, I reassembled the Jeep once more. I took a step back, impressed with the work. It looked like the movie.
Now the Jeep was finished, and just in time for a Halloween "Trunk-or-Treat" event. Trunk-or-Treat is similar to the standard "Trick-or-Treat" except, rather than children going from house to house, people decorate their cars and meet children in a parking lot. So much safer! With my very own movie vehicle, it was obvious the theme I would choose. All I needed was a costume, and conveniently an inflatable T-Rex costume had just come on the market earlier in the year. I ordered immediately from Amazon, and it arrived quickly. I zipped it up around me and turned on the air pump, letting the costume inflate around me. Dressed as a Tyrannosaur, I lumbered into the Jeep, and drove the 1.3 miles to the Keesler Marina to hand out candy.