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The best driving Jeep ever

A Jeep Wrangler is an icon, but it drives like a completely different icon: a wokkel. That makes the challenge that Sam's Garage took on enormous: the company of Samuel van Vollenhoven and Bernhard van Oranje did not just want to build a nicer Wrangler, but also one that can compete with the best driving SUVs on the market. Surprisingly enough, that was also successful.
Luuk van Kaathoven

“I actually wanted to work with a Mazda MX-5,” says Samuel van Vollenhoven in an unguarded moment. “My parents asked me if I had gone completely crazy.” He looked at the MX-5 for a special reason: he was looking for an icon of the automotive industry to improve. The young entrepreneur – he is eighteen – wanted to get started; he is studying entrepreneurship and of course you don't just learn that in school. But he doesn't have to reinvent the wheel alone: ​​he works for Sam's Garage together with his father, who has been an entrepreneur and a car enthusiast for many years. His name? Bernhard of Orange. Of course the first thing we ask him is what he had against that MX-5. “Actually nothing, but of course we now looked at it from a business perspective. And then with such an MX-5 you see that a significant portion of owners do not have the money for rigorous adjustments, while for the portion that does have the money for it, everything is already available.” Why did you choose the Wrangler? “It is an icon, its history runs in a straight line from the legendary Willys MB to today. In addition, it is a car that people want to give their own touch to, with different bumpers, different wheels, you name it. That is also possible with us, but we have taken a more rigorous approach. With a purpose, because we wanted to make the best driving Wrangler you can imagine.” Yet it was not just about driving, because personalization is also an important part of what Sam's Garage offers.

The feeling of metal

To show what is possible, Van Vollenhoven and Van Oranje built two cars, both based on the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392, the first Wrangler with a V8. They were looking for partners for this construction: Sam's Garage works with Niels van Roij Design in the field of external adjustments, while Bas Koeten Racing is responsible for the technical adjustments. “The design of the Wrangler is good, everyone recognizes that car,” says Niels van Roij. “Only in the US it is an affordable car, while that is not the case here. If you buy a Wrangler here, it means that the level of finish is different than you are used to in its price range. Logical, because it is designed for a completely different price level.” The adjustments Van Roij made are more drastic than you might think at first glance. You still see a real Wrangler, but better: with different wheels, different bumpers, a different grille and a completely reupholstered interior. Van Roij: “We are off to a flying start by installing the bumpers of the 392. Here, every Wrangler comes with plastic bumpers, but the 392 has nicer bumpers that are made of metal. We actually do that throughout the entire car: use nicer materials. We also completely repainted the green Wrangler in a new color. Green, because that has a long tradition within the family, but of course also at Jeep.” The nicer materials Van Roij is talking about are used, among other things, on the edges of the taillights, tow hooks, side vents and door handles; The cheap-looking plastic of the Wrangler has been sprayed here with Magic Metal, a type of paint that - as the name suggests - creates the feeling of metal.

Zandvoort edition

The Wrangler has also received a complete makeover in the interior. Doors, dashboard, armrests and seats of every Jeep from Sam's Garage are covered with special soft leather or Alcantara, handmade in the Netherlands. The green Jeep we drove is even equipped with completely new sports seats. Customers can personalize their Wrangler down to the last detail: different types of ventilation grilles are even available. Van Vollenhoven: “We really wanted to give the Jeep a more luxurious feel throughout, with a focus on on-road performance and a high level of material quality, both inside and out. We offer customers bespoke materials, unique wheels, upholstery, colors and sound systems and we make everything with the highest level of craftsmanship.” What distinguishes Sam's Garage from other companies is that the Wrangler is also technically tackled: anyone who wants can even have the Jeep's power increased to 840 hp. Van Vollenhoven is confident about the quality of the adjustments, as is evident from the cars that are ready for a short comparison: the Mercedes-AMG G63 and the Aston Martin DBX 707. The green Wrangler has even been given the name Zandvoort Edition. We ask Van Oranje, co-owner of the circuit, whether another car would not have been a more logical choice as the basic material for such a Zandvoort Edition. “Not at all. Brands such as BMW and Porsche already make fantastic cars themselves. We don't have to start working again with a CSL or GT3 RS. With a Wrangler you can make enormous progress. In addition, Zandvoort of course has more than one circuit, and this Jeep is very suitable for that.” Van Oranje once had a Land Rover Defender adapted to his wishes. That of course raises the question whether he was dissatisfied with the Defender. “Not at all, it's rather the other way around. That Defender was actually the inspiration for this Wrangler. There are many companies that do something with Defenders, whether it is technical or optical or both. But for really good Wranglers it was different. We saw a market for that, but I wanted to have the best driving Wrangler in the world. That is why, for example, we had a special wheel made that fits the Pirelli P Zero, because in my opinion that is the very best tire.” Not only in his eyes, because in a recent test by the British magazine EVO, this tire came out on top.

MASTERS Magazine

Curious about the rest of the article? In the spring edition of MASTERS, three entrepreneurs shed light on the future: Raymon Pouwels (GO Sharing), Merel van Helsdingen (Nxt Museum) and Tim van der Wiel (GoSpooky). According to the latter, ever-accelerating technological progress offers enormous opportunities. “There has never been a better time to have a good idea. The technology is in your pocket!” Sports journalist Jaap de Groot outlines the contours of the new playing field of international sport after the resounding success of the World Cup in Qatar. And futurist Adjiedj Bakas also sheds light on the future. According to him, next year will be all about the search for the economy of happiness. “We are not just going to look at what makes us money, but at what makes us happy.” Perhaps this edition will contribute to this, with a look back at MASTERS EXPO, a road trip with the new Range Rover and interviews with horse pope Jan Tops, Red Bull Racing team boss Christian Horner, chef Margot Janse and visual artist Spencer Tunick. Luck!