Lolly the Jeep

Lolly looks like a curious kid's dream come true.

The jeep, driven by Curtis Gruninger, is absolutely covered in items from around the world, all stuck with silicon to the hood and outside of his car.

It all began with a fun joke from some old co-workers. As Gruninger decided to take a sabbatical from the corporate world, his friends secured a gargoyle to the hood of his jeep to keep him safe during his trip to visit old friends.

Little did he know they also called ahead to all those old friends and challenged them to add something to the jeep. Now, 11 years later, Gruninger estimates he has more than 1,000 items stuck to his truck. Needless to say, it gets some attention.

"The general reaction from everyone is it's good and fun," Gruninger said. "People laugh and giggle. I get very few negative comments, and if I do it's just from an unhappy human being who won't be happy no matter what you do. Almost every person's reaction is: ‘Fun,' ‘Cool,' ‘Nice job,' ‘Where did you get this?' A little whimsy in life is not bad. For the cost of some silicon to hold it on, and some free items, you get a lot of happy smiles from people going down the road who might be having a bad day. It's just my way of putting a little happiness back on the road."

I don't know how you cannot smile taking a look at Lolly. It's an instant trip down memory lane with Scooby Doo characters, colorful fish, Gumby, and some sculptures from artist friends on Gruninger's.

Gruninger said he's gotten items from family, friends, and even strangers who may leave items on his seat when they see the jeep parked somewhere. Some items have meaning to them, some are just random.

Lolly the jeep has traveled across the country. She's been in every state in the U.S., except Hawaii and Alaska, and she's seen a lot of Canada and Mexico. She has traveled 377,000 miles and still has the original engine.

To put his entertaining car to good use, Gruninger does charity work where possible. He's made stops at local elementary schools and the Ahwatukee Transportation Day. Some of the items on the jeep make it possible to give a history or geography lesson to kids. He even has a whale vertebra on the back of the jeep.

Gruninger works full time in Chandler for a software company, but he also does photography on the side. He said Lolly makes it easy to break the ice with kids when he wants to get a good portrait.

"As they say, the best things in life just happen organically," Gruninger said. "That's what happened with Lolly. I was not planning on having an art car. I thought the gargoyle was a cool idea for my road trip. I thought, ‘OK, it'll protect me, it'll be a good trip.' Next thing I know I've got 1,000 things on my truck and I've turned into this. I never planned it, but it's been a great accidental blessing."

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