San Juan Scenic Jeep Tours, the oldest and largest of the 4x4 tour businesses in Colorado. They offer Jeep rentals to explore the hundreds of miles of trails in the Ouray area, and guided tours in their custom-built open Jeep vehicles. "We drive, you look" has been their motto for over 50 years, and most of that driving has been in Jeeps.
The photos seen here are my colorized versions of a couple of black & white (60K JPEG) archival photographs.
According to David Fetherston, in Jeep: Warhorse, Workhorse and Boulevard Cruiser, the tour business was started as Davis Scenic Tours in 1946, by Buddy Davis. The company was bought in 1959 by Francis "Bernie" Kuboske, who renamed it San Juan Scenic Jeep Tours, and modified a CJ-5 as his first new vehicle.
These photos show that Davis Tours were using stretched CJ-3Bs before 1959, although I don't know whether they continued in use after the firm was bought by Kubeske. The portholes in the side of the hood are possibly vents, or just a decorative touch inspired by Buick. The hood blocks also appear to have been modified.
Since the photos above were black & white (70K JPEG), I'm not certain the 3Bs were actually red, although most of the later San Juan Jeeps were red (until rival companies started painting their vehicles red, and San Juan switched to yellow.)
That first CJ-5 as seen in Fetherston's book was green, so maybe I should have colorized the 3Bs in green (40K JPEG).
This 1960s postcard shows a modified Willys wagon posed at Ooh Aah Point, one of the most famous scenic lookouts in Grand Canyon National Park. This spot is no longer open to vehicles, but you can hike there on the South Kaibab Trail.
Here's an earlier color postcard showing a CJ-3A, on a trail above the historic Revenue Silver Mine, southwest of Ouray. This picture suggests that the flatfender Jeeps used by Davis Scenic Tours were in fact green. The 3A has the same vents in the hood, and a rear body extension to accommodate luggage and lunch.
I'll have to keep looking for a true color photo of a Davis Tours CJ-3B.
Some of the grayscale archival photos I have seen are poor reproductions, but still the breathtaking scenery is obvious. And travellers today see the same scenery, although from slightly newer, stretched Jeep vehicles. Jeeps modified by the company have included station wagons, FC-170 and J-20 trucks, Scramblers, and a Ford Thunderbird on a Jeep chassis.
The mountain trails around Ouray, Colorado are now also travelled by other 4WD tour companies. The original San Juan Scenic Jeep Tours is at The Historic Western Hotel lobby in Ouray, Colorado.
Thanks to the former online Jeep magazine JJournal.net for finding the archival photos. -- Derek Redmond
See also Craig Brockhaus' restoration of a San Juan FC-170 Forward Control Jeep.
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