CLEVELAND, Ohio - There's a noticeable dearth of mountain trails in Northeast Ohio, so Camp Jeep brought its own to the Cleveland Auto Show, running through March 5 at the I-X Center.Riding the rugged trails of Camp Jeep at the Cleveland Auto Show
The exhibit showcases the capabilities of a vehicle that first showed its rugged chops during World War II, yet nowadays is tame enough to be driven by soccer moms and cross-country-wannabes.
But deep-down, the Jeep still has its mechanical mountain-goat stuff, as amply illustrated at Camp Jeep.
The test course features a variety of potentially vertigo-inducing, spine-jarring obstacles in 30-degree banks, a 35-degree incline and descent on an 18-foot-tall mountain, speed bumps from hell, uneven track surfaces and a vehicular staircase.
The Jeep smooths them out, or at least, makes them rideable.
"It's like the perfect San Francisco vehicle," quipped Jeep driver Casey Washington as he piloted a Jeep Wrangler up and down the steep mini-mountain.
Professional drivers handle the hard part. Show visitors, who sign up for the experience at the exhibit, sit back and enjoy the free ride.
The entire Jeep line is run through the track. None have been modified, according to Ryan Quick, Camp Jeep track manager.
"I think it gives people a surprise, especially when you get Jeep owners out here, they're surprised at what their vehicle can do. . . straight out of a showroom," he said.
"So people get a good chance to see that their vehicles, or the vehicles they can pick up from their local dealer, can be pretty extreme things," he added.
Bus driver Eugene McCurdy, 57, of Columbus, who brought a group of students from the Delaware Career Center to the auto show, took a test ride and became a Jeep believer.
"It was great! With that wide wheel base, it stayed on the ground, it didn't feel like it was going to flip over," McCurdy said.
He doesn't drive a Jeep, but his daughter does. When asked if she ever drove like they do at Camp Jeep, McCurdy frowned and said, "She'd better not."
McCurdy has been looking to buy an SUV and noted, "normally I'm a Ford man, but that (test drive) just might change my mind a little bit."
Monica Brown, 51, of Cleveland, was similarly impressed.
"The Jeep was wonderful," she said. "When we went over the paths that were two different heights, I didn't feel any difference. It's a completely different experience. It's not your grandfather's Jeep."
And, it was fun ride, she said. "It'd do it again," she added.
An amusement-park aura was enhanced by the availability of photos of visitors during their Camp Jeep experience offered at the end of their short trip, just like the roller coaster people do, except these are free.
For Tiffany Lieberth, 47, of Stow, the exhibit offered her first-ever ride in a Jeep.
"It was pretty awesome," she said. "We had a very smooth ride, even when we were going over the bumps."
She did have one suggestion for Camp Jeep, though.
The simulated mountain trails and rocky terrain were fine, but she said they should add one test feature more applicable to Northeast Ohio driving . . .
For those interested in attending the Cleveland Auto Show show, here's a few details:
* Hours: Monday - Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sundays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
* Cost: Regular adult tickets are $13; seniors (62 plus) and preteens (7-12), $11; children 6 and under free. Parking is free. Tickets are available at the box office or online at secure.interactiveticketing.com/1.15/98bbe4/#/select.
* Ride 'n' Drives: Indoors, the Ram Key track has a hill climb up a 13-foot high, 30-yard long, 30-degree Ram Mountain.
Outdoor test drives are being offered by Chevrolet, Ford, Kia, Mazda, Subaru, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep and Ram.
* Millionaire's Row: For those with a champagne budget, this exhibit presented by Bernie Moreno Companies may feature a Porsche Macan GTS, Aston Vulcan, Rolls Royce Wraith Black Badge, McLaren 570s and Aston Martin DB11.
* The 18th annual Classic Car Competition is being held in the Classic Concourse.
- Take a realistic virtual reality test drive in a 2017 Honda Civic Si. Drivers are able to experience how the car feels, accelerates and stops on a stretch of highway in Monument Valley, Arizona.
- A LEGO Batmobile is featured at the Chevrolet display. The creation is 17 feet long, almost seven feet high and over nine feet wide. It took 222 hours to design, and 1,833 hours to build, using 344,187 LEGO bricks of 17 different colors.
Celebrity appearance:* Indians baseball legend Kenny Lofton will be in the Buick display on Feb. 28 from 6-8 p.m. Autographs will be limited to the official signing cards available on site.
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