Posts Tagged ‘J20’

I know I usually give these messages retroactively, but I thought I might change things up a bit and let you know that I will be taking a small break from the FrankenJeep build… before too much time goes by and I realize I forgot to write anything here. Okay, I understand that you may have already clued in on the fact that it has already been some time since I was actually working on this project… alright, it has been four months since I have been in the garage. It is not for lack of want but, contrarily, I have failed to get into the garage and work on the little truck due to having… now this is embarrassing, too many projects.

WHAAAAT?!? Too many projects? You?!?

Ha. Ha. Yuck it up. I know. I am still working on this truck; I am just trying to get these other things in order first. The old job situation threw a wrench in all of this, and then I was gaining so much ground in the J20 build, then the new job situation… Anyhow, both the FrankenJeep and the J20 will be on a slight hiatus while I get the shop worked out, we are moving shops and are in the process of reallocating the importance of all builds in progress.

Whether it makes any sense to you or not, I will be working on my 2006 Grand Prix next.

WAIT… WHAT??? When did you get a Pontiac?

I told you about it earlier; I did! During the Quarter Panel Quandary, I specifically mentioned my “inability to focus on a single project … the Grand Prix … etc…” Does any of that ring a bell?

Okay. Okay. In the beginning of spring I was trying to fix the Camry and juggle cars between the drivers of the house. I figured there had to be a better way, and I went looking for a vehicle on the cheap. The wife had her Jetta, the teenager’s Camry was obviously out of commission as it needed head work, and although the Regal worked, it was showing signs of wear. The three of us needed a full time vehicle, but there were only two available. I picked up a sweet Crown Victoria ex-cop car [if only there was a facetious font]… that is, it was a sweet ride until I actually needed to depend on it. I drove it over the long weekend and decided it was going to be my daily driver. I paid for it and the next day it threw a check engine light; I found out that cylinders 2, 4, & 6 had low compression. It turned out they had put in some oil additive to temporarily fix the problem… just long enough for some sucker to come along and buy it.


Alright, perhaps I deserve that one. Anyhow, I spoke with them and told them the situation – basically, I needed a car that worked and was reliable. Having half an engine was not “reliable” enough for me. I have played that game too many times. We came to an agreement and the Crown Vic went back to them, and instead, I got a Ford Explorer for the teenager to drive. So far, he is stoked with his new truck. Awesome.

That still did not account for my Regal that was tired of driving. Cylinder #4 has low compression on the Buick, and I do not want to open up the engine to find out it is a problem I need to rebuild; then I am out of a car. Right now the vehicle drives and gets me from point A to B. Sometimes it even gets me back. There are a whole mess of little tiny problems with the Regal that do not affect the drivability of the car but are very annoying, nonetheless.

  • Rear windows do not roll down
  • Front windows roll down, but the passenger’s side does not always roll up
  • The VATS (Vehicle Anti-Theft Security) system is on the fritz and it will keep the car from starting for three minutes at a time… whenever it feels like it
  • The car alarm has taken to going off whenever it wants (even though I never lock the car)
  • The A/C will not turn off… unless I have a passenger, then they have to kick the dashboard bottom to get it to turn on
  • The Daylight Running Lights do what they want… sometimes they will both come on, other times only one will
  • The CD player and tape deck are broken, I only have AM/FM radio… this is not a problem until I am driving anywhere east of Globe, AZ
  • I cannot get into the trunk… the fob is broken and the key will not work
  • The windshield washer fluid reservoir will not hold washer fluid

I am sure you get the point. None of these make the car inoperable, and it would probably only take me about $150 or so and a solid weekend to fix all of it… but at the end of the day, I am still in a 1997 Regal.

If you hate the car so much, why did you buy it in the first place?

Well, I did not exactly buy a 1997 Buick Regal. I would not have any interest in that. However, the supercharged 3.8L V6 inside of that car, I do have interest in. So, I bought a supercharged engine and got a running car with it.

What did you do next?

I saved my dollars and bought a Suburban.


…you can see why I had no interest in fixing anything on the Regal other than what was required to keep it running for the last year or so.

Why did you buy a Suburban?

Good question! If you read the J20 Build, you will know that a Suburban and my Jeep truck share the same wheelbase… and if you know your Suburbans, you know that I bought the wrong one.

Well, that is not entirely accurate. This is a ¾ ton 4×4 Suburban with a 454ci engine. All of that is perfect for a diesel conversion. What is not perfect, for my application, is Independent Front Suspension. IFS is worthless to me and I need a solid front axle. No worries though, I happen to know a guy that could make very good use out of this truck, and he has just the parts I need. So we trade, but all of that is in the J20 stories. You are wondering when I will circle back to the Grand Prix.

Just a recap – the Camry was down and to replace it, I bought a Crown Vic and then traded it for an Explorer. To get my J20 running, I bought a Suburban and traded it for an older Suburban; and I bought a Grand Prix to replace the Regal.

Yeah, yeah. Whatever! Let’s see this new car!!


This is my 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix. I bought it from a guy off the Craigslist and it turned out to be exactly what he said it was. He had a clean, well maintained 3.8L V6… with a broken transmission.


Perhaps you are right, but this has so far turned out to be an excellent deal…

Wait a minute! You said Grand Prix “PROJECT”… you are not planning on…

Supercharging the Grand Prix? That is already in the works. I will give this build its own mini write-up and you can see how that progress goes over there.

. . .

Do not worry, I will not allow this FrankenJeep build to be abandoned; there is far too much insanity to leave blank pages. My boss, Jack, provided the engine and drivetrain for the little hot rod; he is itching to hear it roar again. He is helping me with the logistics and the fabrication involved in creating such a unique beast, but he also has his own projects, and everything will get done in due time. Once we are settled in our new shop and we have gotten the chance to catch up with our work load, we will be working on these things like mad men.


This is my new truck.


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.


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.


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.