Five. That’s the goal. And though to the layperson that may seem achievable, to me — someone currently in possession of 13 mostly-broken cars — it seems impossible. But this weekend, I’m going to make a strong push towards freedom.
I really am talking about freedom, here. I just got off the phone with a local Detroit Car Nut named Darko, and he told me a story about how, when he was younger, he put every dollar he had into his heavily-modified Jeep CJ-7. After four years, he realized that damn near every free moment of his time he had spent on that Jeep; the machine had become a monster, consuming his dollars and minutes with no mercy.
Things like that tend to creep up on you. You look back and realize that 90 percent of your weekends have been you and your socket set at a junkyard or in your own garage. You’ve learned a lot, but you’re well past the knee in the learning curve; it’s time to learn new things. It’s time to offload your mechanical monsters.
And so here I am, coming to the same realization that Darko and so many of my other car friends have come to after years greased up under vehicles. I’ve got to get the count down — not to a normal number of cars (let’s not kid ourselves, here) — but to a number that I can manage. That number, I’ve arbitrarily chosen, is five.
Actually, it’s not entirely arbitrary. It’s a totally emotional choice. I want to keep my original Jeep XJ Cherokee, I’m holding onto my brother’s 1966 Ford Mustang, my beloved Jeep J10 will never leave my side, you bet your ass I’m not getting rid of all of my Holy Grail manual Jeep Grand Cherokees, and then there’s a diesel manual minivan in Europe that I refuse to let go to the crusher that, in Europe, loves to shred diesel cars.
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Oh, and I do want to do an EV conversion on my FC-170. So that’s six. Call the Mustang my brother’s, and it’s five, though that’s a technicality that I’m going to exploit to appear ~20 percent more normal.
Thus, soon enough, my fleet will include just these incredible machines:
That means that, on the chopping block are: My 1965 Plymouth Valiant, my 1991 Jeep Cherokee, my 1957 Willys FC-150, my 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee (going to the junker), my 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee and my 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle. Oh, and that Nissan Versa I bought for my brother’s girlfriend.
Here’s death row:
One of the things that probably holds lots of car hoarders — err, collectors — back is an unwillingness to lose money on cars. I’ll admit that I myself am stubborn on that front. I know if I sell my ’79 Golden Eagle now, it won’t fetch one fifth of what it would if I got it running and cleaned up. Same thing for my (possibly stolen) FC-150.
So this weekend, I’ve invited some wrenching machines to help free me from my mechanical burdens. Mercedes Streeter will arrive in her Smart Car and drive my 1991 Jeep Cherokee to its buyer near Chicago. Hopefully I’ll have my leaf spring job done by then, so we can focus on repairing the rest of the vehicles.
Here’s what needs to be done:
- My two 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokees need to be merged into a single, functional Grand Cherokee. As they sit, they’re both toast. This is going to take a long time, as swapping over transmissions and interiors could be rough in the cold.
- My 1965 Plymouth Valiant works great and is in sellable shape.
- My 1957 Willys FC-150 needs a title (I need to figure that out), and it needs a jumpstart with a 12-volt battery, as its six-volt battery isn’t cranking the motor over. From there, we’ll diagnose what’s going on with it.
- My 1992 Jeep Cherokee needs a new radiator, cylinder head, and rear axle. These will all suck.
- My 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle needs Jesus.
I’m going to focus on the first bullet point. I want to at least get one of the ZJs hauled to the crapper and the other one up and mobile. I can perfect it later; for now, I just need to get it driving.
In parallel, I’ll try to work some magic on that (potentially) stolen 1957 FC’s title. Then we’ll try to get the engine turned over and running. I’ll then pretty it up and sell it.
Next, I’ll tear into the Golden Eagle’s motor, figure out why I’m getting no oil to my top end, and then part ways with this machine, too. I’m also looking for some nice stock steel wheels for my 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee so I can sell that, too. Then it’s time to tear into the XJ’s cylinder head. Do you see how all of this stuff can get kind of out of hand?
Hopefully by the end of the weekend, Mercedes and I will be pretty far underway turning the two ZJs into one. On Sunday, Dustin, the Wisconsinite who introduced Jalopnik his rusted-out manual “Holy Grail” Jeep Grand Cherokee back in 2019, will be stopping by for a few days to help with transplanting his former Jeep’s guts into the body of the $250 Jeep I bought in Virginia last year.
From Saturday until Wednesday, I’ll be wrenching with good people, cranking some tunes, and enjoying the wea — wait, let’s see what outside conditions will be like:
Okay, not optimal. Saturday and Sunday will suck, but I’ll have my tank top ready for the rest of the week.
Five. That’s all I’m asking for. Wrenching gods, please help me get to five before a beautiful first-generation RX-7 on Facebook Marketplace tempts me and throws me off track.