OXFORD >> Country Chrysler was the place to be on Friday for folks who consider Jeeps and ATVs to be part of the family.
The evening of country music, fireworks and displaying their adored vehicles was the idea of Gordon Atkisson, president of the company. He said he knew lots of customers and other members of the community are fond of fixing up their wheels and riding around on rugged territory, so it was only natural to offer them a pleasant night together at no cost to them.
He included a country music talent contest that involved a sing-off with the off-roaders voting on their favorite and sending that person to a Daneille Bradbury concert on Oct. 11 to perform as the opener.
He also topped off the evening with a fireworks display.
By 5 p.m. the Jeeps started driving in, pulling into the parking lot and parking alongside one another. With each arrival, the wheels seemed to get bigger and more rugged.
They settled down on lawn chairs next to their beloved vehicles and talked about their adventures with friends.
Randy Kubek of Elkton, Maryland, said he enjoys taking his souped up Jeep to ever increasing challenges. He said there’s a waterway that’s as deep as his vehicle’s hood at Rausch Creek, an off-road park in Pine Grove. He is able to drive through it because he has installed a special snorkel device that provides air for his engine when it is partially submerged in water.
The Groths came as a family — Bob, Vicky and son Randy. They take pleasure in joining with other off-road owners even when they’re not riding. Bob Groth said there are plenty of clubs for off-road owners, and there are even get-togethers called “wrench parties” where they get together and help each other soup up their Jeeps.
And the souping up gets pretty extreme.
Vince McMahon from Maryland has his Jeep built up to almost twice its size with monster wheels, padded roll bars and lots of fairing along the sides. The logo on the back says, “I run with the big dogs.”
McMahon said his tires, which are about waist high and a foot thick cost between $500 and $600 each.
Probably the largest vehicle to arrive early in the evening was constructed by Alan Williams of Nottingham. He calls it “My Little Buggy,” but it reaches a good 10 feet in the air and is made of welded metal tubing. It has huge tractor wheels that are almost 5-feet high, and he said he’s done most of the work on it. “You don’t get one of these unless you make it yourself,” he said. HE loves it so much, he said, he made a miniature version for his 9-month-old child to be pulled around in.
Atkisson said he likes giving back to the community with events like the off-road evening. On Memorial Day weekend he has an antique car show that includes fireworks.
Country Chrysler also sells Jeeps and had a $30,000 model on display on Friday night. Atkisson said business has been good for him this year, with sales increasing by 20 percent. He attributes that to a growing economy and pent up demand.