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Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. On behalf of myself and the crew, we’d like to welcome you to flight 5504, nonstop from Phoenix to Ft Lauderdale. Normally, I blackout at around 10,000 feet or so, but I will try not to let that happen…

Haha, I am joking. My captain never said that, but there is truth to the fact that I am currently on a flight to Florida so I may get more training to properly do my job. That has nothing to do with the little flat rod, but I figured while I have some time (3 hours and 40 minutes, to be exact), I thought I would give you an update on what we did yesterday (Sunday, 29May16).

It has been quite some time that I have been talking about bringing home this small block Chevy 400. Well, you should all be pleased to know that I finally did it. YAY! I called up Ziggy and asked would he mind if I came over to get my engine. He had no objections, so Tony and I made our way to get a heart for the little flat rod.

One might think that after all of the simple-gone-catastrophic projects we have taken on over the years, we would know this not to be a quick snatch and grab. Let us just say that is a hard lesson Tony and I have to learn every time we get together. Let me tell you what…

I will start off by setting the scene:

Ziggy lives on just over an acre and a quarter of land. The place has vastly cleaned up over time, but there is still plenty of other things going on around there. The Pirate Ship, some CUCVs here and there, a few military trailers scattered about, a couple of parts trucks… and two boats.

Now these are just bass fishing/water skiing style boats (I really don’t know. I could not tell you the difference; because where I come from, there are only two kinds of boats – submarines and targets), but the whole point is that one of these boats was being used as a storage facility for my engine.

When I say I had to get my Chevy 400 out of a boat, do not get excited and think that I am getting some wham-o-dyne engine. I simply mean that, quite literally, my engine was being stored inside of a boat (that might I add, had two other motors [not including the mounted one {making four motors, for those of you keeping count} for the boat] as well) and I had to get it out of there.

When you are two not so very big guys, a feat like pulling an engine out of a motor boat is actually quite daunting, especially when all you have is a couple of pickup trucks and a cherry picker. Tony and I hauled the cherry picker into the truck, backed the truck up to the boat, and found ourselves some plywood to put between the boat side and the motor.

We commenced a heaving, and hoeing. Readjust the picker. Raise the engine. Lower the engine. Move the chains on the engine. Heave. Hoe. Heave some more. We moved the wood. Moved the engine another two inches…

After two and a half hours in the hot Arizona sun, without food and/or water (remember, this was supposed to be a simple snatch and grab), we finally got the engine out of the boat and into the truck.

Nice one man! But that is not your truck… Yep, now we have to put this engine into my truck. At least that part was not as difficult.

We were able to back the trucks up, tailgate to tailgate; and seeing as mine folds down all the way, vertically, we could just drop the engine into my truck. Well, sort of. We ended up setting the engine down in the bed of the first truck and re-booming the picker. We had it on ¼ ton (all the way out) and we boomed it in to a one ton pick (all the way in). We moved the picker out toward the engine, which was sitting on the tailgate, and then boomed back out, to ¼ ton where we commenced a pickin’. We brought the engine high enough to clear the tire we were setting it on and then swung it over and laid it down onto its temporary final resting place.

For those of you that have never had to spend two and a half hours in the Arizona sun, during an early summer after noon, battling a hot long block Chevy out of a motor boat, trying to put it into one pickup so you could turn around and move it into another…

Wow, when I put it like that, THERE HAS TO BE ANOTHER WAY!!

No forklift. No A-frame. No crane. Just two guys, a cherry picker, some trucks and more determination than brains. That was us.

We finally got it. Nothing got damaged. No one got hurt. By the time all was said and done, both of us vowed to never do that again; and originally, we had plans to go back to the house, clean up ourselves and the garage, put the 400 onto the engine stand and start stripping it down for inspection and rebuild.

Haha! Not so fast. Even though there was nothing else to do with the engine (barring the above), and we ran into no further problems, we were so wiped out from the previous experience that we did not have it in us to do anything other than wash up, get ourselves each a super tall 32oz iced tea, head back to the house with some hoagies and… do absolutely nothing. We spent the first 30 minutes in silence, just recuperating, before we did anything more.

After we each had well over 50oz of iced tea (I made some Jasmine/green tea at the house) and ate our sandwiches, we chose to spend the rest of the day inside watching movies, in the dark and comfortable 77°F that was my house. We decided to get a few movies from the Redbox and wanted one of those to be Deadpool.

Remember that “no simple task, left uncomplicated” I often speak of? I promise; it is not me! That is just the way things often work (or more precisely don’t work) out for me.

Well, we went to the nearby grocery store to get the Redbox movies, and I figured we could get it there. Nope. Not on Redbox. Okay, I know the store sells it. Nada. They just sold out yesterday. Oh well, there is another store just up the street, they should have it. Try again guys!

We ended up driving the seven miles to Walmart, braving the twelve street lights and all of the Sunday drivers (remember, two guys with more determination than brains), just in order to spend $20.00 of our hard earned money on a piece of plastic that was to give us direct entertainment only two hours at a time.

‘MURICA!!!

Legend has it that in the late 1700’s, the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, said this when she found out the peasants were starving (and another version is said she spoke these words as a last reprieve before losing her head).

Did she really say that? Do we really care? Why are we even talking about 18th century France, I thought this was a Jeep build?!?

The reason I bring it up is due to the slight similarities between this supposed saying and my current circumstances. You see, the significance of this saying is that the Queen was so disconnected from her people that she did not realize it was not simply that one food was absent and could be replaced with another, but the fact that there was a shortage of supplies in general. There was no food!

I do not think of myself as your queen, nor you as my subjects. Please do not start a revolution against me and expect my head. But I must point out that you are my audience and I do owe you something as your entertainer.

Now, it has been five months since we were last here, and believe me, a lot has gone on! So much in fact, that I have neglected to place a timeline of happenings here for you to keep up with. I do not expect you to be merely satisfied with cake, you deserve more than just that!

But where do we start? A wise man once said “…at the beginning. And when you get to the end, STOP.” Okay, so that was Tweedledee and Tweedledum that may have said that, nonetheless…

Last we spoke, I was talking to Craig about my front end build. Spoiler alert! He declined. I am still trying to figure out what to do about that front end. I do not know enough about castor and camber to be able to just start welding up a front end. Plus, I only have a little Lincoln 110, and my electricity is fickle.

You see, the way my house is laid out, the junction box is on the opposite side of the house that the garage is on. To make matters worse, when they built these houses, they never expected anyone to do anything except park a car in them, so there are only two outlets – one on the ceiling, for the garage door opener, and one on the far wall, which already has a power strip attached to it.

All of this means the welder has to be plugged into a 50′ extension cord. Now, for those who may not know, electricity does not like to travel very far. Especially through a small 14ga cord. That means breakers pop. That means you get terrible welds. Now I get to gouge most of the welds I already made and weld them up again, with proper electricity.

The good news is, we figured out how to mitigate the problem. I will be running 6ga wire from its own breaker at the j-box to a small outlet box inside the garage. I will have a heavy duty, super industrial extension cord that I can use to bring clean electricity to the work space. As far as the welder is concerned, it is plugged into the wall receiving electricity straight from the source. It does not realize it is being extended, and that is okay with me. As long as I get to weld without popping breakers, as long as the welding machine is happy enough to let me do my job, I do not care what it thinks.

I would prefer to rewire the garage for more outlets, but that is not in the cards as the landlord has made it clear that everything I do, has to be able to be undone when I leave. Hence the super cord.

Where does that leave the little monster? Right where it has been – in many pieces, mostly on its side in the garage. I am, however, cleaning out the garage to better accommodate a workspace… not to mention the other truck I bought. What? I did not say anything about another truck!

 

You may have noticed there has been quite the gap in progress on the little Jeep affectionately known as “FrankenJeep”. I am hoping to soon remedy that as my truck mechanic moonlights as a metal fabricator.

Craig, at KNI Automotive, has agreed to check out my Dana 44 drop axle conversion project and see if it is something he is willing to tackle on the weekends. I will be dropping it off to him on Monday, so we will see what he thinks.

I did get the truck on the road, not without its little problems, but that can all be read on the J20 build site. This is also my alibi to where I was on at the time of questioning.

I know you are all wondering when I will get off my computer and into the garage to build this darn thing. Well, the answer is – I now have a truck, and a guy looking into building my front end. As soon as I get my truck back from him, I will be picking up the GM 400 and the 12 bolt rear end.

I have also decided to look for a Muncie transmission. If you know a guy, send him my way. If the Muncie thing does not pan out, I still have the TH400 automatic transmission ready for install.

I will let you know what happens with the front axle project as soon as I know. I will also update progress on the little Jeep and how it is doing as soon as we have some new developments.

Now that you have been caught up on the last few months, what are the plans for the little hot rod? Well honestly, everything hinges on… that is right, getting a truck! Yes, I realize I just told you I got one, but this one is not street legal, yet. That is something I have been working on for the past two weeks. Once I get the truck legal, I will be taking the drop Dana to a welder, and I will be getting my 12 bolt rear end home, then we can start fabbing up suspension.

Until then, hop on over and see what is going on with the J20 Build, I think you may be impressed with the progress that is going on over there.

This is my new truck.

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I admit it is a little rough around the edges, but remember, it is a fully functioning ¾ ton J-truck; a 1979 J20, to be exact. That means I have a Dana 60 rear, and a Dana 44 front. I have eight lug wheels, and plenty of room to work with.

What have we done to the truck? Well, that is something you will have to go to the J20 Build blog for. This blog here is for the hot rod, and this is just my reasoning for procrastinating – one of them.

Maybe you were unaware of this, but the J10 was not my first run in with a Full Size Jeep. My first full size was an ’84 Wagoneer. I bought it off a father/son that had lost interest. That was sometime in 2012, actually it was in August. You will find out shortly why I just remembered that.

Anyhow, my Waggy was a basket case full of fun. Power everything, plush leather seats, carpet interior… except that the carpet interior was all rolled up and thrown in the back, and the plush leather seats needed re-upholstering. The power everything worked, and even though it got me nine miles to the gallon, I loved that ginormous grocery getter.

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It was a love that was to be short lived. Not but thirty days after I purchased the Wagoneer, did some broad rear end me on the freeway off ramp. She was doing 40mph, I was doing stopped. The good thing about being in that beastly vehicle is both Jaiden and I were unharmed. My truck on the other hand, was now nine inches shorter. She hit me so hard that the factory welds on the radiator broke, causing it to fly into the engine fan. Right there I had a salvage vehicle; I could not drive it off the site, so it had to be towed. Upon further inspection, I found cracks half way through my frame at the firewall.

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Seeing as someone else was at fault there, insurance took over the dealings with. I actually made money when I bought the truck back. I had it towed to a friend’s house where it stayed for about 18 months before I cannibalized it for the hot rod. I let him scrap the remains in order to compensate for my storage fees. I took the drive train and axles, and he took the rest to the scrap yard.

It was that very Jeep that led me to know Tad, and then Jerry; I met Rick because of it too.

Now that you know I have had two Full Size Jeeps totaled by women, and that my son Jaiden was involved in both of those accidents – you may be wondering why I would be so interested in getting another one, and why Jaiden would be so excited to help me build it. Well, again the answer is simple – they are just that effin’ cool!

. . .

Back to the now, I continued my search for another J-truck and I had a specific set of guidelines to follow this time. Knowing these rules will also help make sense to why I did not mind talking two separate men out of selling their trucks.

These rules, set in their precedence were as follows:

Rule 1: The next truck has to be a ¾ ton and it must run

Rule 2: The next truck has to be 1980 or older (in ’81 they removed the windshield brow from the truck)

Rule 3: I would prefer if the next truck were pre-emission – that means I needed a truck made before 1968

My perfect truck would have been a ’74-80 with a pre-’68 title, and since that gets into grey areas with the paper police, I was probably not going to find one of those in my price range. But otherwise, that was it, just three rules. And, when you actually got down to it, I really only needed to follow Rule #1. You see, back to Arizona emissions law, I can transplant any engine newer than the body year of the vehicle, and a ¾ ton is a valid recipient of a diesel transplant. Seeing as the J-truck ceased production in 1988 and Cummins did not start putting a diesel into a pickup until 1989, no matter what year ¾ ton truck I got, I was legal to swap.

I continued on my search for another truck, and I found plenty of J-trucks in my price range. I was hoping to spend less than $3000 for one, I would have spent up to $4000, but I refused to spend more than $5000 for a truck. You see, I had $5000 set aside for a truck, and the less it cost me to get it home, the more I had to spend on it later. The problem with all of these J-trucks in my price range was I kept finding ½ ton pickups. That does me no good. (Refer to rule #1)

I almost gave up my search for a Jeep truck and actually started looking for Chevys and diesel Rams. I went to look at a few, even test drove some, but nothing was really what I needed. That was because I needed a Jeep truck. I nearly gave up on the truck search all together, when I came across an ad on the Craigslist.

1979 J20 4×4

I checked it out. It was a flatbed, which is not something that I was for or against; it was not even a consideration of mine. I asked Adam when the latest/earliest that I could come to see the truck and he told me that he got home at 18:00, and that any time between 04-06:00 was fine to look at it. I told him that I would be there around 05:00 the following day to come check it out. He obliged and so it was set up that I would meet him the following morning to look at his truck. I asked him the normal questions, and it all seemed legit. I test drove it, and it drove better than my J10 did, as there was no road shimmy above 55 mph. The manual transmission shifted fine through all of the gears, and the brakes worked like they were supposed to. So, I was looking at a truck that started, stopped and steered like it was supposed to, let’s see what I can get this for.

I asked Adam what his bottom dollar was. He replied by telling me there was a buyer from New Mexico that was going to buy it, sight unseen, for asking price. $2800 it is! We made arrangements to get it to my house, and it so happened that he was going to my side of town the same day I was to come home, September 11. He trailered it to my house and I met him with cash in hand.

Baby, I am so sorry. We are okay, but I rolled your truck and it is not. We are okay, but please do not be mad at me.

That was the message I got one night. I called her up and ensured that she and my son were, indeed, safe and we tried to figure out what could be done about all of this. I had her send me some photos of the truck, and it was not pretty.

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So, what did we end up doing with it? Yeah, that is kind of a sore subject.

The wrecking yard wanted $500, plus $40 a day since the accident, if I wanted it back. I was not going to pay over $1000 to tow a truck to someone else’s house, when I spent but $3000 to drive it to mine. They can keep it. What I did not know about, was the fact that I had to turn over my title. I soon got a letter from the state telling me that I was going to have to pay $500 for an abandoned vehicle fee. Well, I sure as hell was not about to pay money to have my truck totaled, so I spoke with the Motor Vehicle Department and they informed me that if the wrecking yard would oblige, I could simply turn over my title to them and not pay the $500 fee.

So, I called up the wrecking yard, and they said they would be happy to receive the title and that they would cease advances on the abandoned vehicle. Great! But there is one more thing; I had to pay for the initial tow – $150. So they got me anyway! I paid the $150 and left my truck there. I was allowed to get only my personal property that was detached, meaning that if I had to unplug, unscrew, unbolt or unwire anything, it was off limits. Well, there goes my Grant Classic GT steering wheel. I loved that steering wheel.

I had not realized how much I needed a truck, until I had one and lost it. Every single one of my plans hinged on having that truck. I was going to camp with the boy and the dog. I was going to move some motors around. I had an axle to get and another one to deliver to a welder. I had so many plans, yet none of them got done.

Insurance was not going to help out because I only had liability on the truck and this was a one vehicle accident with no outside influence to blame. My wife was driving down the road, following the flow of traffic, and the truck got a little squirrely. She corrected, over corrected, over corrected again, and ended up on the incoming shoulder… upside down.

It was up to me to get another truck, and I vowed that I would. I immediately started looking again for another J-truck. I found one in Flagstaff and called the guy on it (Hey Matt!). It was basically my truck, one year older, but otherwise the same. His was a brown J10, but it still looked the same, and he had done everything I wanted to do to mine, down to the Rhino Grille conversion. I spoke with him and told him my story; I told him what I had planned for my next truck. I got him so amped up again about the whole Jeep truck thing, that he decided if I was not going to buy it, he would not sell it. I thought it over throughout the night, and I decided that I would not be buying his truck. I figured that, because I have to emission it, I would have to undo everything he did to the engine, and that just made no sense.

I found another truck in Redding, CA and spoke with Brett, the owner. I went through the same thing with him, telling him my story, and all of my aspirations for my new truck. Again, I ended up practically talking a guy out of selling his truck. But you know what, I do not really mind. I know that these are not simply guys with Jeeps, but these are Jeep guys. These guys were not in a bind and forced to sell, they had only lost the spark to build these pickups into what they deserve to be. Now, both of them are building on their respective trucks. I hope to one day give you an update on both of these guys so you can see what other things are possible with a Full Size Jeep.