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Here's What Happened to That Tesla Engineer's Jeep Crushed Under 10 Feet of Snow

Jalopnik logo Jalopnik 7/11/2019 David Tracy
a van parked on the side of a road: All images: Anonymous Tesla Engineer All images: Anonymous Tesla Engineer

Back in May, I wrote about a Tesla engineer whose 2000 Jeep Cherokee had been buried under 10 feet of snow in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. The column of crystalized ice crushed the roof, windshield, and hood. Here’s what happened to the Jeep after the snow thawed. 

Back in January, a Tesla engineer took his beautiful 200,000+ mile Jeep Cherokee on a ski trip in the Lake Tahoe region of California, but got stuck after driving down an asphalt road covered in snow that wasn’t quite as compacted as it appeared. Not long after, the skies began unleashing an absurd amount of snow, and the engineer had no choice but to abandon ship and catch a ride home with a friend. The result was not great for the Jeep:

In my previous story, I wrote all about how the anonymous engineer and his friend drove back to the scene and managed to discover the Jeep under 10 feet of snow by using the vehicle’s alarm and long PVC pipes. More than four months later, they went back again after much of the snow had melted, and began digging the vehicle out, though there was still too much on the ground to recovery the Jeep.

But just a few weeks ago in June, Mr. Tesla Engineer drove back once again, this time with friend’s Lexus GX470 hooked to a U-Haul auto transport trailer. Upon arrival, he and his buddy found the XJ sitting quite normally on asphalt, not far from other parked cars. Aside from a bit of slush left over, you’d never guess based on the scene shown below that not long ago, this very area now occupied by an extremely boring Toyota Highlander and someone walking their tiny dog was a snow-covered hellscape where a boxy Jeep fought desperately for survival.

a car parked on the side of a road

Luckily, with only a jump-pack, the engineer fired up the XJ, and drove it onto the trailer. “It didn’t sound too good, but it drove,” he told me over the phone. The Californian taped up the windshield to prevent small bits of broken glass entering the defrost duct, and then he and his friend drove the Lexus four hours back home with the Jeep in tow.

a car parked on the side of the road

When I spoke with the Jeep owner back in May, he seemed unsure what to do with the damaged vehicle. “I’m at a loss for what to do next,” he told me. “I’m pretty sure insurance will consider it a salvage, but it seems like there’s a lot of potential.”

“I’m down for a project car,” he continued.

Recently, though, after having his insurance company look at the vehicle, and after looking at some numbers, the Jalopnik reader’s thoughts on the situation changed. “Per [Geico’s] adjuster, the only damage is hood, windshield, mirrors, paint, and roof, but for a total repair cost of $6,700 [before the $500 deductible],” he wrote over email. “The payout to scrap it is $5,930 and the payout to keep with a salvage title is $5,500 (minus salvage value),” he wrote.

a truck is parked in front of a car

Adding in additional fees, he found that the difference between giving up the car to the insurance company and keeping it was about $900. Between that figure, and the heavy repair bill, keeping the Jeep just didn’t make sense, especially since these expected repairs didn’t account for other possible damages.

“It would effectively cost $900 to buy the Jeep back, and that’s just to get the [Jeep as is],” he told me. The insurance company would pay him $5,100, which he could use towards fixing the Jeep. And though he told me he could have gotten the vehicle fixed for less than the $6,700 quoted by the shop that gave the initial estimate, he’s worried that other repairs would cost lots more, since his mechanic was “worried about water ingress to the transmission and differential.”

“Is it worth sinking that money into the existing jeep, or is it worth putting that money into a new one?” he asked rhetorically.

So in the end, the insurance company hauled the Jeep away, a sad ending for what was a gorgeous example of one of the finest SUVs ever built.

a small truck parked on the side of a road

“The gut feeling is like, I’m glad it had a resolution,” he told me, expressing how thankful he was that nobody got hurt. “I’m pretty happy with how it turned out,” he continued, before admitting that he was “kinda disappointed that I couldn’t do more with the Jeep.”

As for what he drives now? It’s a 2016 Subaru Outback. “There’s not quite as much personality as the Jeep, but the fact that I can just sit comfortably and cruise is so nice,” he told me.

He did say there’s a chance he could wind up behind the wheel of another XJ sometime. “I bet I can find a non-salvage XJ for about $900 and eliminate the hassle of fixing this old one up,” he told me.

“It was a tough choice (see: sunk cost fallacy) but I think going down the road with the snow jeep is too unpredictable.”

So as it stands now, RIP white Jeep, a white rectangular prism that may soon end up as a white cube.

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