David Westerberg’s 2010 Jeep Wrangler JK: BFGoodrich's What Are You Building For? Contest Winner for October
David Westerberg’s way to get away from it all got him right to the point
When David Westerberg bought a Jeep, he did it out of the pure satisfaction of owning one. “I always wanted a Jeep and I bought my first one in 1998,” he begins. “It was a brand-new TJ, ordered it just the way I wanted it.” He’s had one ever since—in fact he’s had eight, from a ’41 Ford GP to this, a 2010 JK. “I absolutely love Jeeps.”
But like so many people, David suffered an intense setback during the Great Recession “I got laid off,” he laments. “I did some soul-searching and went over some aptitude tests that I took.” The results pointed to social work. “I found a position that I could fit into so I’ve done that for the last six years now. It’s a lot of fun.”
Fun as it may be, working for nonprofits isn’t without consequence. “My wife is a youth director so we’re both in the not-a-lot-of-money fields,” he says. But David hasn’t let the reduced income interfere with progress; he just got a little more creative.
“Most everything that’s on there is second-hand,” he admits. He modified a used LoD rack to fit the OffRoadOnly tire carrier (another low-dollar score). A friend gave him the LED light bar and he found the mounts on Craigslist. The Bushwacker flares came by way of a TJ owner who won them in a contest. David’s rig included a budget-boost lift kit, which made the stock-dimension tires look a little puny. But the cost of 35-inch-tires to fit 17-inch wheels and the spacers to restore clearance with the stock wheels proved costly. So he’s rolling 15” MB-72 wheels. “It was cheaper than 17s on the stock wheels with spacers.”
The JKS anti-roll-bar disconnects were an Amazon Black-Friday special. “Through a friend I got a good deal on an Engo 9,000-pound winch and I put it on a used Rough Country hybrid stubby bumper,” he says.
In fact David admits paying full retail for only two parts: the Rock Krawler track bar and the Spohn tie rod. “Otherwise everything has been second-hand.” Even the Bestop Trektop was a recent want-ad find. And he’s far from done; when a friend lifted his Unlimited Rubicon, he donated his stock springs that will ultimately replace the sacked ones under David’s Jeep.
Naturally these modifications go towards David’s avocation: wheeling on weekends. And even that has a charitable angle. He belongs to Twin City Off Road, a club that, along with H.T.R. 4x4 Club, sponsors Crawl 4 the Cure. “We do a charity event every summer up at the Iron Range Off-Road Park for the MS society,” he says. “We give away a Jeep every year.” Dakota Customs in Rapid City built the latest one, a Hemi-swapped Wrangler. “We sell raffle tickets—last year we raised about $110,000,” he says (in fact the event raised more than $900,000 since 2005) “We’re the largest private-party fundraiser in the country.”
But the modifications give David’s Jeep an unlikely role in his vocation. “Every year the federal government mandates a count of homeless people in January,” he reveals. “So I’ve been able to get out to more remote areas where homeless people tend to congregate.” Even in Duluth, a city on a hill, occasionally suffers some severe flooding. “I could get to places that others couldn’t,” he says. “In fact the first time I used the winch that’s on there I pulled a guy’s shed out of a creek. It washed down in there and was damming up the creek and flooding his lawn. My boss always says that I have no reason to call in because the roads are too bad!
“Depending on what paperwork it is, I’m either a social worker or a case manager,” David continues. “I run The Salvation Army’s emergency-assistance programs and the food shelf. I also work with people who are in crisis for whatever reason, whether it’s a disconnection of a utility to evictions. These are people who are in extremely stressful situations. So it gets to be a stressful thing. You take a lot of that on.
“So during our short summer months here in northern Minnesota, I have the top off as often as I can. I relish those drives home from work because I let the wind and the hum of the tires blow my cares away. I call it top-down therapy; put the top down and go.”