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Buy a New 4x4 or Restore an Older One?

general discussion sharing ideas 4WD forums four-wheel drive outdoor lifestyle

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#1 Moses Ludel

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Posted 17 May 2014 - 02:26 PM

Many members at these forums have shared stories about an older 4x4 that was "the best 4x4 they've ever owned".  Some have suggested they would like to get that older vehicle back and restore it.  Others have actually found the vehicle or a similar one, and the restoration process is underway.

 

I have given a lot of thought to automotive restorations.  Having done many professional motor vehicle restorations, including a string of mainstream 4x4 magazine projects, I have reached several conclusions about restoring older vehicles—and which 4x4s are worth restoring.  I have rebuilt and mechanically restored models ranging from utility 4x4 trucks to high-end collectible cars, some with notable provenance and museum pedigrees.

 

When do I restore an older 4x4 vehicle and for what reasons?  Well, here we get more subjective, as there are many reasons why an older vehicle restoration can be worthwhile—and many motives for doing a restoration.  Subjective is about opinions, and here, I would emphasize, are mine...

 

When I was young, used vehicles had much appeal.  Postwar Baby Boomers had parents who'd lived through the Great Depression.  For many, a motor vehicle meant images from John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, those decades old cars and trucks that needed constant work. 

 

The 'fifties ushered in an era of American prosperity unrivaled in history, many had access to family-wage income, there were plentiful jobs, and extensive onshore manufacturing provided an unprecedented standard of living and consumer buying clout.  New cars, trucks, homes, appliances (durable goods) and food seemed readily accessible to more Americans than ever.  So impressive was that buying power and living standard, with short term low-interest loans and revolving credit to back it up, that the 'fifties and 'sixties have become the benchmark for America's "good old days". 

 

Not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I thought that used cars and trucks made great sense.  As a budding motorhead, working on cars, trucks and motorcycles seemed just part of the fun!  I quickly learned that shop manuals and literacy paid off, and my automotive projects had happy endings and satisfying results.  My "academic" automotive bent has served me for a half-century now, and in that time, I've lived and breathed the American automotive culture down to the nuts and bolts!

 

Yes, there are many good reasons for restoring an older vehicle.  First, though, let's separate those vehicles that get restored for "nostalgic" and "collectible" value.  Nostalgia and investment vehicles generally involve discretionary spending.  Nostalgia projects have a wide range of motives, often unrelated to either transportation or the utility use of the vehicle.

 

Instead, I'd like to focus on motor vehicles used for transportation, recreational pursuits or for work use.  Let's begin by asking ourselves a basic question,  "How much of my income and lifetime earnings do I want to invest in motor vehicle transportation or work vehicles?"

 

Some argue that a new vehicle is essential or practical because it requires only a minimal need for service and repairs.  So, let's look at what that so-called "peace of mind" is worth...When my folks bought the new 1964 Jeep CJ-5 with F134 engine, T98A truck four-speed transmission and 1/3-2/3 front seat, the price for that shiny new Jeep was $2300.  An extra $300 or so bought a Whitco cloth top, Cutlass free-wheeling front hubs, a dealer installed Jeep heater, right side wiper and a drawbar hitch.  Out the door, the Jeep 4x4 cost about $2700.  Adult jobs at the time paid in the neighborhood of $3.50-$7 per hour.  At that rate, a normal down payment and 15-20% of monthly income would handle a short term, low-interest rate new vehicle loan.  (Add insurance, DMV fees, fuel and normal maintenance to that cost.)

 

Moving along, my folks stepped up for a new Chevy K10 4x4 SWB pickup in 1970, equipped with 350 V-8, automatic transmission, power steering and heavy-duty rear bumper.  Out-the-door price:  $3700. 

 

Note: For a not so heartening look at our standard of living since 1970 (1973-74 was the peak of U.S. wage-earning prosperity), consider this information:  http://economix.blog...type=blogs&_r=0.  If you can come up with a more glowing view or statistics, please share them.

 

Attached File  Productivity and Real Income 1964-2008.jpg   30.68KB   0 downloads

If you prefer a graphic view of income between 1964 and the present, this will help.  Skeptical?  Please challenge these U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics-based findings if you can.

 

As a coincidence, just after the peak of U.S. real dollar wage earnings, the mid-'seventies saw a dramatic hike in new vehicle prices.  As a heavy-equipment operator working on the I-80 bypass at Winnemucca, Nevada, I looked at a new high-boy 1976 Ford F250 Lariat 4x4 pickup, loaded with available equipment, in the fall of 1975.  Dealer sticker price was near $4,600.  In less than two years, that same truck would jump to $6000-plus.  The rest is history, as we've watched similarly equipped trucks reach the $40,000-plus price range today. 

 

Keep in mind that all trucks and cars are new at the beginning, and as they say in the car business, "There's a butt for every seat."  The concern here is what percentage of your income goes toward a motor vehicle, and for how long?  Interest and financing now reach to 84 months in some cases. 

 

The renewed popularity of leasing hints about the growing inability for buyers to build equity from a new vehicle purchase.  New vehicles, known to depreciate "like a rock", leave a low down payment, long term contract buyer without any equity or means for bailing out or trading off the vehicle—for many years. 

 

Note: Leasing moves new vehicles off the lot and also creates a resale market of more affordable lease turn-in vehicles.  Consumer/leasers simply abandon the idea of vehicle "ownership" or building any kind of equity.  Instead, they make leasing payments, much like an apartment or home renter.  Some leases now include service and warranty coverage during the term of the lease.  This makes the overall cost of operating a vehicle that much clearer.  There's only the soaring cost of fuel to contend with...In a positive sense, at least the consumer can budget for the perpetual, never ending cost, in real dollars, of having an un-owned vehicle in the driveway or garage.

 

So, fast forward to the present, what some now refer to as the post-Great Recession era economy.  Average wages in real dollars are lower than ever, new vehicle costs are still high and climbing, and there's apparently no way to contain fuel costs.  Yet we continue to depend upon motor vehicles for our transportation, work chores, leisure life and, let's admit it, status as Americans

 

Observation: When we lived at Southern California during the 1980s and mixed with virtual strangers at social gatherings, the three questions invariably thrown our way were: 1) "What do you do?" [the employment/income question]  2) "Where do you live?" [the real estate holdings question] and 3) "What do you drive?" [the most universal consumer status question].

 

New versus restored older vehicle?  The lines between practicality, utility and basic human needs get blurred when status, cultural conditioning or the innocent fascination with all things mechanical get in the way.  With motor vehicles, an additional consideration is your safety and well-being.  Clearly, we do need to protect ourselves and our families from the perils of motoring, from unsafe and outdated technology, and from getting stranded in the middle of nowhere with an unreliable vehicle!

 

To what lengths do we need to compensate for these threats?  As informed consumers, we can discriminate between old, questionable technology and more modern, safer equipment.  In my Jeep CJ Rebuilder's Manuals (1946-71 and 1972-86 editions, Bentley Publishers), I discuss and illustrate the conversion from an inadequate vintage Jeep 9-inch diameter drum brake system to modern four-wheel disc brakes with a safer dual master cylinder.  Similarly, Saginaw steering and a one-piece tie-rod made this 1955 Jeep CJ-5 prototype safer. 

 

By knowing the difference, I was able to upgrade a vintage 4x4 1/4-ton utility truck for better performance on public roads, making the CJ more than a "parade vehicle".  I also replaced the F-head four cylinder engine with a 231 Buick V-6 to keep safely up to speed with other highway traffic.

 

Restoring an older 4x4 truck, one with a good foundation for performance, traction and safety, can be rewarding in a variety of ways.  Restored to "as new" operating condition could cost a mere fraction of a new truck's pricing.  If an older model will satisfy your utility, work chore, transportation, towing, on- and off-highway safety, driving pleasure and other needs, wouldn't this be a good choice?  Well, maybe...

 

For some, there are good reasons not to take the older restoration option: 1) not enough time to do the restoration, 2) the need to sublet nearly all the work, which can drive costs through the roof, 3) no place to perform the work, 4) inadequate tools for the job, and 5) lacking the necessary skills to perform safe, reliable, professional-grade work.  This last point is the most critical reason to opt out of restoring an older 4x4 vehicle.

 

The internet is a wonderful learning resource.  There is good information available, and unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation as well.  It has taken over 45 years of hands-on professional experience to learn what I know—and also where to look for the right information when I do not know.  A clear sign of an unprofessional approach is to minimize a mechanical task or be dismissive about the need to research and find the right troubleshooting or mechanical steps needed to perform a task professionally.

 

I can rebuild a newly designed, complex automatic transmission and expect professional results.  How and why?  By having the ability to research and follow professional procedures to assure safe, predictable and reliable results.  When I taught automotive technology and drafted lesson plans, my aim was to enable the students to "think like a professional mechanic/technician".  Each of my seven Bentley Publishers books targeted that goal.

 

Unless a restorer is willing to invest time and energy in "thinking like a professional mechanic", the restoration project will be unsuccessful.  Even with a one-shot, never again project, the outcome depends upon professional work habits, following professional steps and procedures, and thoroughly understanding these steps involved.  This distinguishes professional grade work from hobby or shade-tree work.  We're now in an era where an "older" 4x4 could have EFI, an electronically controlled transmission, a lock-up converter or ABS.  There's no room for shade tree or shortcut tactics here. 

 

I am a strong advocate for restoring older vehicles and keeping them as safe and reliable as a newer one.  If you're willing to raise the bar and professionalize your mechanical skills and work habits, the results can be financially rewarding, esteem building and satisfying.  You will be less dependent upon others while meeting your transportation needs, and you will be far more self-reliant in the kinds of situations that a 4x4 light truck, SUV or Jeep® might find itself!

 

Moses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 



#2 RareCJ8

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Posted 17 May 2014 - 02:39 PM

quality info moses, thanks.  i still regret selling my low mile 1968 merc cougar.  and for $700!  argh.

 

 

the old/new divide is interesting.   i've always liked the willys rat rods.  Or   last year at hot august nights was an old 30s ford truck  truck but closer look revealed under the tub is a dodge CTD.  they took a wrecked dodge truck, stripped the sheetmetal, shortened the frame and grafted on an old truck body.  might be interesting to see how its titled.  but this was a long haul road worthy diesel truck that looks like it came right out of bonnie and clyde.  best part, all the metal was left as the rusted, patina as found.  sorry, no pix

 

 

now, back to the CJ projects-- prepping for the black rock next week     beer break over


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#3 biggman100

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Posted 17 May 2014 - 04:06 PM

Moses, a question if i may. When you say older vehicles, are you referring to 1970's, 1980's and 1990's vehicles, or are you going back even further than that? I know on your side of the country, 1990's vehicles probably wont need as much in the way of "restoring", but in the northeast, even vehicles as new as 1998, at least around here, have been known to need severe bdy, and mechanical restoration. For perfect example, my green 1995 Dakota doesnt really need as much in the way of body work, due to buying it further south, but the 1995 Dakota i just picked up needs as much body work as it does mechanical work, due to salt on the roads, and previous owners who didnt take the time to keep it clean, especially underneath. With the 1994, i am concentrating more on the mechanical parts that were neglected, such as the engine, suspension and steering parts, and transmission, but, with the 1995, we may be replacing the frame, as well as the entire box, front fenders, shocks, engine, and a bunch of other suspension and steering parts, as well as rear brakes. People always ask me why i would put so much time into a vehicle like that, and my answer is always 3 parts. One, with what we have going out, i cant afford a vehicle payment every month, and what i spend on my trucks is less than what i would pay in payments for 6 months for a new vehicle. Two, the second generation (1991-1996) Dakotas are perfect size, get decent fuel mileage, and are, after much trial and error, the best vehicle for me for what i use them for. And three, since i can do almost all of the work myself, repair and maintenance costs are really not as much as people assume they are. Also, with my trucks, by doing this, i know there are parts i can upgrade, or at the very least get better than OEM, so that i know my vehicles are as safe as they possibly can be, which, at least to me, is more important than having a newer, flashier vehicle.



#4 Moses Ludel

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Posted 17 May 2014 - 11:55 PM

You pose a really good point, Biggman100.  I often forget the idyllic vehicle preservation climate at the Far West.  When I found the 1955 Jeep CJ-5 for the Jeep CJ Rebuilder's Manual: 1946-71 project, the Jeep had been parked for 20 years in an outdoor body shop compound at Carson City.  It had many sheet metal areas with paint chipped through to bare metal, yet there was not a single point with "rust perforation" or "exfoliation".

 

By contrast, I restored the 1983 Jeep CJ-5 that forum members may remember as my late '80s OFF-ROAD Magazine project ("Project Trials Machine"), which I later featured in the Jeep Owner's Bible.  That Jeep had "mystery" rust perforation in the body tub, seen as only slight bubbling in the paint.  This was actually exfoliation, something you would recognize readily, Biggman100.  The vehicle originally came from Illinois and landed at San Diego, California, where I found the Jeep on a car lot.  The rust caught me off-guard!

 

So, when I say "vintage", you're right, I need to qualify the term.  For the Far West and the less humid parts of the U.S. without salted winter roads, a 4x4 restoration candidate might be a 1941 Model MB Willys 4x4!  For your neck of the woods and the "Rust Belt", as you note, a 1990s vehicle might be tops.

 

Going further, I would break choices down by technology and vehicle design.  When I consider "vintage" or older vehicles worth restoring, specific models and makes come to mind.  (I detail design and technology milestones by model in my Jeep®, Toyota Truck/Land Cruiser, Ford truck and GM truck Owner's Bible book series.)  My reasoning is based upon reliable powertrains, a solid chassis, safety concerns like a dual braking system, steering gear design, disc front brakes or at least large drum type, ease of service access, parts availability and potential owner/driver satisfaction from what the vehicle can deliver if restored properly. 

 

Vehicles older than the models described can often be upgraded with features found in the vehicles on my list.  For example, I really like the 1971 GM K10 models for their disc front brakes.  I once ran through an intersection at the base of an interstate off-ramp (no traffic around, fortunately!) with a 1970 K10 pulling a U-Haul trailer—the perilously inadequate OE front drum brakes failed to stop the truck.  The 1970 model looks nearly identical to the 1971-72, but the front drum brakes are a deal-breaker.  If one were willing to swap a 1971-72 front disc brake axle, and all of the other disc brake components, into a 1967-70 GM K10 (or a drum front brake K5 Blazer), these earlier models might be a consideration.

 

So, here are some quick 4x4 picks, and we can certainly expand on this and go into more detail if anyone is interested:

 

GM 4x4 Trucks:  Any 1971-91 pickup or SUV with a beam front live axle, which includes K-pickups to 1986 and the Suburban and classic K5 Blazer/Jimmy to 1991.  The 1987-91 K5 Blazer (full-size) and Suburban have Rochester TBI, simple to troubleshoot and reliable.

 

Ford Trucks:  Any beam front axle F100, F150 or F250/F350 model, disc front brakes a must or plan a disc brake conversion for any drum front brake model.  Best Ford 4x4s are disc front brake models to 1979 with the NP205 transfer case; Twin-Traction Beam would be acceptable on F150s and full-size Broncos only, the cutoff point would be the Triton engines.  No Twin-Traction Beam F250s or Triton models are on my restoration list.  Nix the 351M/400 engines, too.  Ford 9-inch rear axles are a plus for 1/2-ton models and Broncos.  (Don't confuse the 9-inch with an integral 8.8", that 0.2" stands for far more than ring gear diameter.)  My favorite Ford trucks would be disc front brake 1976-79 F100/150 and F250 or F350 models, classic Broncos from 1971-77 and the '78/'79 Bronco.  Best engines for these chassis are the 302, 351W, 360/390 FE V-8s and the torque making but gas guzzling 460 V-8.

 

Dodge and Ram:  Kudos to Chrysler for preserving beam front axle design until the later 1/2-ton and SUV chassis.  A Ram 150, 250/2500 or 350/3500 with beam front axle and disc front brakes works for me!  The Cummins 24-valve 5.9L is a winner if still in good condition and properly maintained.  Don't overlook the Ramcharger and Plymouth Trail Duster, each is packed with full-size truck features.  The unit bearing front wheel hubs in '70s Dodge 4x4s suck and need retrofitting to a traditional full-floating spindle and wheel hub.  Drum front brakes should be the cut-off point when going back in model years.  While the classic R-body is attractive, those models need a laundry list of modern upgrades, including disc front brakes and a wider track width, to be roadworthy.

 

Note: The Dodge Ram four-speed automatic overdrive transmissions to 2007 leave much to be desired and will likely be on your rebuilding cost estimate, but that can be said for GM 700R4 units and even the higher mileage 4L60-E and 4L80-E overdrive transmissions—certainly plan on rebuilding a higher mileage Ford AOD or E4OD automatic. 

 

Jeep®:  I like the classic full-size Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, the J-trucks and many of the Jeep utility models.  Choices for a ready restoration (no upgrades required) would be the disc front brake full-size Cherokee, Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer, J-trucks and 1977-up CJs.  Wrangler YJ and TJ models make good material, with the 1991 MPI 4.0L a huge gain for the YJ Wrangler that can save considerable cost over an EFI retrofit for the 1987-90 4.2L engine.  The XJ Cherokee and any beam axle ZJ/WJ Grand Cherokee makes this list, but plan on rebuilding or replacing the full-time 4WD transfer case if a used Grand Cherokee is so equipped.  The '98-2001 XJ Cherokee ('98/'99 is best and most trouble free) and the WJ Grand Cherokee from 1999-2004 top my Grand Cherokee list.  The ZJ Grand Cherokee can be a workable proposition, and the 5.2L and 5.9L pushrod V-8s, or a 4.0L inline six, are much easier to rebuild than later 4.7L V-8s and 3.8L V-6s or 3.6L Pentastar engines.

 

I-H:  Costs can get up there when restoring a Scout II or I-H 1200 or 1300 series truck, but if you find a vehicle with the right history and disc front brakes, these 4x4s are tremendously well built.  Most desirable would be a pristine last generation big 4x4 I-H pickup with a full-floating rear axle, front disc brakes, the 345 or 392 V-8 and power options.  A 1980 Scout II with the Nissan marine turbo-diesel option would have a nice resto outcome, too!  The Travelall is also high on my list.  In 1975, I went to Alaska in a '66 1/2-ton 4x4 Travelall, the 304 V-8 did not use a drop of engine oil all the way to the Kenai Peninsula.  That truck had over 100,000 miles on its odometer when we left for the far north.  I serviced and overhauled I-H trucks as a truck fleet mechanic in the late '60s, models dating to the early '50s.  I-H built the very best trucks with the best parts available in a given era—period.

 

Toyota/Land Cruiser:  Want a smaller, bulletproof vintage pickup?  The 22R and 22RE four-cylinder mini-4x4 pickups built from 1979-85 will forever top my list. They're still running over the Rubicon Trail!  The FJ40/45/55 Land Cruisers, if you have very deep pockets, can be a classic restoration project, opt for a disc front brake era vehicle and the 2F and later engines.  Don't overlook the rugged FJ60 and FJ80 4x4s, there are values to be had.  Expect to spend a small fortune for any Toyota sourced parts.  Fuel efficiency does get better with the overhead camshaft FJ80 Land Cruiser engine.  Rust is a perennial issue for the Toyota FJ40, apparently sheet metal galvanizing was not a priority for Toyota until later.  East of the Mississippi, one would be lucky to find anything but the iron inline six-cylinder engine still intact if an FJ40 set out in a field for years.

 

For the Eccentrics:  If "different" is your style and a 4x4 truck your aim, there are classic, one-off trucks to consider.  I still have a penchant for the SWB 3/4-ton 1956 I-H S120 4x4 pickup.  Nearly bought a pristine one in 1969, I still kick myself that the 9 miles per gallon deterred me.  This is the quintessential, 50 mph top speed truck for that once a month, dirt road drive to the crossroads hardware store...Then there's the rare early '60s Studebaker 4WD pickup.  I fell for this one about the time the Avanti and Lark Daytona hit the scene, filling one up with gas and checking the oil level in its 289 V-8.  Even at 14 years of age, I wanted one of these trucks!  Drum brakes, archaic steering and stodgy lumber wagon suspension, take your pick:  the 1956 S120 I-H at 4210 pounds or the "nimbler" Studebaker 1/2-ton 4x4 with an engine akin to the Avanti?  Actually, the I-H was not that heavy considering this was strictly 4x4 utility iron with no consideration for creature comfort! 

 

There is also a list of lighter, modern 4x4 vehicles.  Your Dakota or a GM S-truck from the right year could easily fit the restoration candidate category.  On these lighter 4x4s, IFS is far less of a stigma.  Even the Ford Ranger, with its bulletproof 4.0L Capri V-6, has merit here.  We can certainly widen the field with practical, economical and reasonable to service vehicles built into the '90s and as late as 2003 or so.  Fuel efficiency has also improved with many of these later, mid-size trucks!

 

Please share your best choices and candidates for restoration.  I agree with Biggman100, there's a lot to be gained if you can properly restore a "used" or vintage 4x4 truck!

 

Moses



#5 recomer

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Posted 18 May 2014 - 10:18 AM

Hey Moses, in the Eccentrics class you missed mentioned the AMC Eagle :) I agree about restoring the older vehicles.

 

Sometimes, though, you have to modify older vehicles as parts become no longer available (like my AMC Eagle). A lot of the Eagle owners have changed out rear axles (D35 for better selection of gear ratios and ability to upgrade to disc brakes), transfer cases (Eagles only came with AWD or Select trac giving only choice of 2WD or AWD), transfer case of choice is an NP242, and engines.  While the 258 is a great engine, the 4.0L fuel injected motor provides better HP and torque numbers and is a solid motor.  

 

Great topic.

 

Rich



#6 Moses Ludel

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Posted 19 May 2014 - 03:09 PM

I'm very pleased with your responses and enthusiasm, Rich.  I had no idea Eagle owners want two-speed transfer cases, but why not?  The XJ Cherokee and Grand Cherokee each have them, and the Eagle pioneered the unitized body 4WD at AMC.

 

You also pose a significant point, Rich.  While straight restoration is gratifying, presumably with predictable results, the build-up of a used or older vehicle also provides room for creativity, upgrading and ingenuity.  Since the price of admission is a fraction of a new vehicle's cost, there's now incentive and room for upgrades like disc brakes, better steering systems, chassis and gear train improvements, even a better powertrain or engine choice!

 

It's quite liberating to not be shackled with a vehicle caught up in the "system", where you're forced to stay "stock" to meet warranty or emissions demands and dependent upon OEM components.  Some OEM components are assuredly less reliable, even guaranteed to fail over time—like RareCJ8's GM truck epidemic transfer case pump and housing issue, or a ZJ Grand Cherokee NP249 transfer case's failure prone viscous coupler, or entire axle assemblies (even stock Dana 44s in a Rubicon edition) that are suddenly "inadequate" because you have installed grossly oversized 37" diameter tires and a lift kit, planning to tackle the Rubicon Trail in a JK Wrangler Unlimited!  For the record, I drove the Rubicon Trail in 1967 with a stone stock F-head four-cylinder 1964 Jeep CJ-5 equipped with the T98A four-speed transmission and 30" diameter tires.  Today, that vehicle would require 33" tires, but the stock 5.38 axle gearing would likely handle such tires just fine.

 

Entering the 4x4 scene with a used vehicle that has already taken the initial and huge depreciation hit provides the restorer with a wide array of options and choices.  The initial vehicle purchase can range from a very inexpensive used 4x4 with, let's say, an engine or transmission failure (otherwise intact) to the pristine, ultra-low mileage 4x4 with a documented history of light use, minimal wear and proper maintenance. 

 

Example: In 2010, My brother- and sister-in-law found an eleven year old Jeep TJ Wrangler Sport with only 70K original miles.  The original owners, a retired couple, had purchased the vehicle for four-season driving on the highway.  They offered the Jeep as a private party sale with the assurance that the vehicle had never been off-pavement.  (There was not a scratch topside or bottom, which backed that statement up.) The vehicle had the unused factory cloth top still in a box (hardtop/soft-top option, the hardtop was in place).  Pristine condition with an automatic transmission, 4.0L engine and A/C, the Jeep had at least 130K or more miles of trouble-free life still in it—if maintained properly.  Price of admission:  $6,800*...At this price, consider all of the options and upgrades one could afford to buy here over time!  This was a calculated, well-researched, patient buy, and the vehicle did take considerable time to find.  Well worth it! *This vehicle still books for $11,000 in a private party sale.

 

What's exciting and shared in your comments, Rich, is that a used vehicle, purchased right, can also be a platform for real personalizing.  Jeep® marketing has noted for decades that Jeep® utility vehicles are the most "personalized" and "accessorized" vehicles in the world.  Attend the SEMA Show, and you can see this truth unfold. 

 

That said, must we start with a $40K new Jeep® JK Wrangler Unlimited, fresh from the assembly line, and add $30K worth of upgrades and accessories immediately?  How about the option of buying a pristine, low mileage and unbattered LJ Rubicon Wrangler, with a known and documented history, then strategically upgrade from the $12K-$14K purchase with $4K-$6K worth of sensible improvements?

 

You can't convince me that $60K-$70K worth of 4x4 vehicle is required to do the Rubicon Trail.  I've done the Rubicon Trail with a Land Cruiser FJ40 that was a dozen years old at the time and had 33" tires.  I've done the trail in stock Jeep Wrangler 4WDs (allow us 31" oversized tires, please).  I drove and guided a pair of 2-door Geo Trackers over the trail in 1995 as a publicity stunt, one of the bigger challenges in my 4x4 lifetime...Today, I see quads and dirt motorcycles go through the Rubicon for a fraction of any 4x4's cost.  Pedestrian hikers traverse the Rubicon Trail for the cost of camping gear, hiking equipment, good boots and their food...A friend from high school days once patrolled the Desolation Wilderness Area (adjacent to the Rubicon Trail) for the U.S. Forest Service—by horseback.  Hikers walk from Mexico to Canada and cross the Rubicon Trail.

 

Implied in this used vehicle option is that we do have control over some things in life.  Here, it's the amount of money we want to allocate toward transportation, work vehicles or our leisure activities.  It's uplifting to know that you can get to the same place with a fundamental $12K 4x4 as a $70K creation.  Sensible planning and a willingness to apply sweat equity to a 4x4 project has substantially modified 1979-85 20R and 22R/RE Toyota mini-pickups tackling the Rubicon Trail successfully—for way less than the $12K figure!

 

Again, the outcome and quality of any automotive project is governed by the degree of professionalism you achieve in your work and the reliability of the components you use.  In these forums, we share important information about mechanical work, professional standards, the quality of OE and aftermarket replacement parts, and accessories and upgrades that work best.  Sharing details at this level can help assure the success of your projects; it takes into consideration your family's safety; and you can increase the reliability and driving satisfaction of your 4x4—regardless of its age.

 

Moses





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