Jeri is our new-to-us Jeep CJ7 with a colorful history before becoming a part of my small meandering family. She was born in 1979 in the US and made her way down to Panama some years later to serve the canal. Not sure how many owners she passed through before reaching Playa Venao in the Azuero Peninsula, we found Jeri one day on Encuentra24.com back in August.
Encuentra24.com is kind of like Craigslist for Latin America. You can list things for sale and search for things you want to buy. Although Craigslist is available in Panama, many locals use Encuentra24.com instead. We called the owner of the Jeep and were surprised to find another gringo and his Panamanian wife on the receiving end of our inquiry.
After a lovely chat, we took a drive down to Playa Venao with the in-laws and immediately fell in love with the Jeep. We didn’t drive her back with us since the fuel pump wasn’t functional and the CJ7 only has 3 gears. Instead we had her shipped to us in Gorgona via a flatbed trailer for $250. I’m not sure if that’s a “gringo” price, but $250 to go from door to door over a 5 hour period seemed much better than driving a 3 gear Jeep across Panama that’s older than the hubs!
Since we had the Jeep shipped to us, the couple took care of all the transfer paperwork in the Las Tablas province…well, almost. It turned out that a copy of my passport wasn’t enough for the transfer. The local government office in Las Tablas wanted me there in person to sign in front of their eyes.
Rather than take the 4 hour bus ride and immediately return to Gorgona after signing, we traveled to Playa Venao to stay in the beautiful beachfront home of our new friends for few days to make a vacation of the “ordeal.” The mini-vacation was incredible and we finished it up by heading to the offices and getting the Jeri’s temporary papers. We were told we would receive our tags by October, but have yet to receive them. Now keep in mind, all this happened in August (and it’s now October 9th).
In the meantime, I have replaced the fuel pump and got Jeri up and running. We drive her around Gorgona with her massive offroading tires but have decided not to leave our little beach town in her until we have the proper tags. I have lots of stuff planned for Jeri the Jeep, like changing her from a 3 gear to a 5 gear standard, replacing the speedometer, fuel, and temperature gages, getting the steering adjusted, among other things.
I’ll post updates on mechanic costs, what should be expected price and time wise, and what it’s like to overhaul an old school Jeep in Panama. I plan on doing some of the work myself and will also being posting my adventures in this arena.
One thing I can say is that Jeeps are incredibly undervalued in Panama. We got Jeri for $4,600 and looked up her value on a few websites providing values on Jeeps of all ages. As it turns out, she’s worth a minimum of $9,000 in the states in her current condition! Talk about an amazing deal.
Who knows, if I can easily fix her up the way I want, fixing up other Jeeps and shipping them off to the states might be a money making hobby, which is always a good thing for this non-pension having expat!