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  1. When we were in kindergarten, it was common to take a watch apart—and not get it back together. Some of us, not content with things that no longer worked, went on to fixing things instead of just taking them apart. Toying with mechanical things versus putting things back together properly is for most a clear fork in the road. In my early childhood, I was fascinated with all things that rolled: trucks, cars, bicycles, motorized cycles, locomotives, take your pick! By age eleven, with the go kart and mini-bike craze in full swing, a neighbor built his sons a gasoline powered, wooden cart with a Briggs & Stratton lawn mower engine that had a rope starter…I was hooked. On my birthday two years later, my folks found a used Bug Kart with a bent front axle and a Clinton 2.5 horsepower two-stroke engine. I witnessed my first oxygen-acetylene welding repair when a family friend, Paul Starjack, restored the front axle with a fresh piece of new chrome-moly tubing. The task could have been a candidate for TIG, but Paul's adept skill with a gas torch made quick work of the 4130 chromoly welding repair. 55 years ago, I had a Bug Kart similar to this one. Mine came with a bent front axle tube. Watching a skilled welder replace that tube with a fresh 4130 piece taught me the the merits of welding! The end result and a fresh coat of paint made my cart look and run great. By fourteen, other mentors crossed my mechanical path. Joe Bruns ran a traditional postwar garage at Gardnerville, across the street from the Hancock gas station where I held my first job. An $8 street legal Cushman/Allstate scooter occupied my time and money that summer, and when the magneto would not fire, Mr. Bruns taught me the intricacies of a condenser on his grease-covered work bench. The dimly lit, acrid oil wafting shop, full of old cars like a Graham-Paige, a Willys-Knight tow truck, a Hudson Terraplane and a Packard, captured my imagination. This beautifully restored 1955 Allstate (Cushman) Deluxe scooter is the 'as new' version of the $8 "beater" that I bought in the summer of 1963 at Gardnerville, Nevada. Mine came with a rod knock and white paint job that looked like it had been applied with a broom. Nevada's Scooter Law enabled riding at 35 mph maximum on highways with a "basic speed law". It was not uncommon for cars and trucks to legally pass scooters at 100 mph on Highway 395. (Photo courtesy of the owner's posting online...Thanks, it's gorgeous, and the mountain backdrop looks like Carson Valley!) I grew up around older Buicks and Packards in our family, which drew me to the C.O.D. Garage (Chevrolet/Buick/Jeep® dealership) at Minden, Nevada. The dirt field across the main drag was the dealership's parking lot for Depression Era, 'forties and 'fifties cars and trucks that made their last run into Carson Valley on a tow hook. Rolling into valley from California and nearby rural Nevada communities, these vehicles had died unceremoniously from overheating, cracked blocks, throwing connecting rods or frying transmission and axle gears. I worked at the community’s service stations under the tutelage of full-service mechanics, in those years men who performed breaker point tune-ups, chassis work, tire busting and detailed lubrication and fluid changes. An oscilloscope tune-up was the hallmark of the era, and working at Bud Berrum’s Minden Chevron Station schooled me at vehicle light service and lube room repairs. This would prove ground school for my early automotive trade employment as a light and medium duty truck fleet mechanic. From age 14 to 18, I had my share of four-wheeled “project” vehicles plus numerous trips to Werner's Machine Shop at Carson City. Bill Werner smiled each time I showed up with a Ford flathead V-8 block. Several of these blocks failed the test for machining and landed in the iron scrap pile. Most often, they had cracks from freezing or cylinder wall weaknesses that opened up during the boring process. Bill was relieved when I moved to mid-'fifties Chevy small-block OHV V-8s. There were many other “teachers”. My Douglas High School Ag and Welding instructor, Mr. Gray, taught me the foundation skills for welding that led to my lifetime interest in metallurgy and all forms of welding and brazing processes. The Odom brothers at the East Bay, George Zirkle at the Nevada City NAPA machine shop, veteran truck fleet mechanic colleagues and service pros, machinists and chassis/alignment experts each deserve their due. When I served an apprenticeship with Local 3 of the Operating Engineers Union, old hands taught me the new and old school repair, welding and operator’s skills around heavy equipment…To all of these folks and any not named here, I am grateful. The learning was typically hands on, often accompanied by patient discussion, and I looked over many shoulders before performing work myself. Years later, after 15 years of hands-on professional work as a journey level truck fleet mechanic, motorcycle tech and 4x4 restorer, I worked at Cunningham GMC/Pontiac in El Cajon, California, representing the service department at the General Motors Burbank Training Center and bringing that information home to be shared with the dealership's techs. Just prior to working for the Cunningham family and fresh out of the University of Oregon, I had my first taste of teaching at the San Diego Job Corps. That was my original stint of “giving back” through teaching, passing along those years of exposure to top professionals. My next step along the path was journalism, writing technical articles and columns for a broad range of enthusiast trade magazines and newspapers. Learning to Teach When I taught at the Job Corps in the early ‘eighties, the breaker point ignition era was barely ended. Electronic fuel injection was the lofty undertaking of German engineers at Bosch. That quickly changed, and by the mid-‘eighties, American vehicle manufacturers brought the internal combustion engine back from the edge of emissions extinction with the use of EFI and electronic spark management systems. All of us went back to the drawing board, up the learning curve, and became familiar with the new electronic technology. I held California smog equipment Installer and Inspection licenses during that period. Learning EFI/spark management required a foundation at automotive mechanics and the willingness to read. I was writing simultaneously to the tune of 880 published pages of magazine articles per year by 1989 (not to be confused with manuscript pages). 1990-1998 became a period of book projects alongside my continuing flow of magazine and newspaper assignments each month. Consulting to 4x4 truck, Jeep® and SUV manufacturers, plus new book editions, involved even more writing. After an intensive career at photojournalism, tech column writing, book authorship and building magazine 4x4 projects, I took a detour and returned to the classroom from 1999-2004, five teaching and administrator contract years. Working with the Rite of Passage program, first as an Automotive/Diesel Technologies instructor then as the Director of Vocational Training for four Rite of Passage campuses, we taught automotive, welding, construction trades and IT. Within the Rite of Passage training process, I was as much a student as teacher. Sure, I brought over three decades of profession level trade skills to the classroom, but my effectiveness at teaching was only as good as the delivery. What I quickly discovered in the era just before the onslaught of internet information, was that students without a clear direction and foundation in a subject were as apt to “take the watch apart” as to fix it. When left to their own devices, some students were perfectly happy dismantling mechanical things with no sense for how to put them back together—and not an inkling of academic ambition nor the curiosity to read a manual or textbook! Lectures or audio visual training tapes could easily put a non-invested student to sleep. These young adults provided the humbling lesson that without context and a drive to learn, human beings are capable of remaining kindergarten level performers forever. And that pre-internet learning environment was merely a portent of things to come, heralding Toffler's glorious, consumer driven Information Era. Along Came the Internet The fledgling internet and its information exchange showed promise. Maybe the Tofflers' predictions in their 2006 book Revolutionary Wealth were true. Alvin and Heidi Toffler predicted that the internet's wealth of “free” information would lead to a society of consumers who were less dependent upon paying for services and far more self-reliant. The emerging age would be a virtual barter system of freebie facts and answers meeting consumer needs, essentially a way to circumvent the increasingly pervasive co-dependency on corporations and professional service outlets. This idealized view of the internet, a virtual blueprint for opting out of consumer dependency, was the optimal solution to the rising costs of consumer services. In fact, outsourcing and subletting labor costs, using automotive “professional” services as just one example, have skyrocketed over the last dozen years. At North America, there is no more glaring example of consumer dependency than the automotive consumer market. Imagine paying $75,815 for a new, decked out Ram 4x4 with a Cummins 6.7L diesel. Now add to that the maintenance costs at the local dealership. CANBus troubleshooting and diagnostics equipment, exotic transmission filling and draining methods plus a host of other "specialty equipment" requirements compel many DIY consumers to reluctantly creep back into the dealerships' service lanes. Once the warranty period ends on the vehicle, consumers often try the nearly as expensive independent shops, aware that second tier aftermarket diagnostic equipment may not be up to date. A dealership's labor rate can be $110 per hour or higher. Independent shops are at least $75-$90 per hour. So given these conditions and the potential information available online, what if you could get diagnostic and troubleshooting information—or even actual how-to repair steps—for free online. Yes, how about gleaning information gratuitously placed before your eyes by simply participating at a free forum? Many believe this is possible, and to such an extent that they cannot envision paying for any kind of automotive information. Of course, we do want to avoid the high cost of labor and limited parts choices, i.e., the additional and arbitrary cost for dealership provided parts. Do we also expect to become independent mechanics without scaling any kind of learning curve or paying for schooling? As a point of interest, aside from earning a Pac-Ten university four-year degree with Dean's List honors and all the textbook costs that entailed, my library of classic and contemporary professional automotive factory and trade service manuals, plus a dozen welding instruction and metallurgy books, would today cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $7,500. I bought the Tofflers' book as an audio CD version and played it in my shop while performing professional restoration work on vintage transmissions, steering gears, engines, engine peripherals and axles. The book's theme was captivating, suggesting that we could be energy independent (off the grid) and consumer self-sufficient, sidestepping the endless grind of societal consumerism in America. Pondering just how well that would work with automotive service or IT needs, it took little thought after four decades in the automotive trade (when this book came out) to realize that bartering information, or even information in itself, is not enough to get the job done! So Where Do You Get Your “Free” Information? For automotive service work around sophisticated powertrains with 8-speed automatic transmissions or variable cylinder EFI/MPI systems, where do you barter for your free service information? Consider the bevy of diagnostic tools needed to service a vehicle and the $200-plus CD set that makes up the factory service manual for a particular model. Do you know a trained service professional who has spent $10,000 or more on equipment and data and wants to freely offer that investment to total strangers surfing the internet's Google Search engine? According to the Tofflers theory, the model would apply better to pouring a garden foot path and needing information on how to set forms. This kind of information can be found at the Lowe’s or Home Depot professional contractors desk. It’s not critical, "permitted" work and does not require meeting code. Seldom will anyone get hurt by a DIY foot path project or improperly laid sidewalk pavers. These two retailers will gladly offer free information since they will be providing the materials you need for this job. Now let’s fast forward to your automotive project. A motor vehicle is built to SAE, DOT, NHTSA and EPA standards. Whether an owner elects to honor the EPA requirements, the SAE, DOT and NHTSA standards for brakes, steering and safe suspension are something not to be ignored. There are sanctioning bodies like ASE and dealership tech training programs, apprenticeships, military training schools and college trade programs intended to support these professional standards for automotive service work. Why? Simple: Because your life and the lives of family members and others on the road depend upon vehicles that perform safely and reliably. This includes brakes, tires, chassis members, steering, suspension, the engine/powertrain, axles and electrical/electronic systems. So that begs the question: Where do you get your automotive service recommendations? Exactly who is at that forum with years of professional experience, mentoring, college level courses, military training schools, apprentice training or dealership training? If they have that level of schooling and experience, why are they at the forum giving away information for free? The Toffler paradigm may apply to shoveling and forming the ditch for a garden path footing or macramé, but do you really want to fix your brakes or troubleshoot that engine issue without a service manual, a basic knowledge of automotive mechanics or a “mentor” with some trade experience? I taught adult education level automotive and diesel mechanics plus welding for seven years. As of this month, I have a half-century of professional experience at mechanics, yet I still pull a professional trade manual or “FSM” off the shelf for any work I perform on my vehicles. —Moses Ludel
  2. At the 4WD Mechanix Magazine 'Tech and Travel' Forums, the goal is meaningful discussion groups and forum communities. We value everyone's input, and when member "biggman100" made the following suggestion, I promptly responded: "I have a suggestion for the forums. We should have an off topic area that isn't specific to any one make or model, so users can post comments or suggestions relating to the off-road community, items that wouldn't otherwise fit in any one category. Like, for an example, say a new style multi-fit bed tool box comes out, and someone wants info on it. Or maybe someone would like to share experiences with a certain off road parts supplier—that kind of thing...I have a question that has been submitted to every forum I am on. It's about time to get my wife a new car, and I'm curious about AWD sedans. I have been asking around for opinions but haven't yet found a place to post such a question..." Well, biggman100, please post your full question at this forum! The new "Let's Talk!" category and these four new forum groups are specially set up to field these kinds of questions. Thanks for your suggestion, it's now a part of the message board communities! Moses
  3. We each have an appreciation for tools, and here's a humorous note on what tools can do. At the "swapmeetdave.com" site, Dave shares a humorous tool list by Peter Egan from his Road & Track column. You will appreciate Peter's insightful wit, humor and obvious awareness tools: http://www.swapmeetdave.com/Humor/Workshop/Definitions.htm. Enjoy! Thanks to Swap Meet Dave and Peter Egan... Moses
  4. For any members having difficulty adding photos or illustrations to posts, begin by clicking on "More Reply Options" next to the "Post" button. Drop to the bottom of the full editor box, and you'll find the "Attach Files" button at the left. That will open up your computer file browser, where you can pick the photo file or any other file (several at one time if you like), then add it/them to the attachments. You'll see the photo(s) or file load. Now place the curser at the point in the edit box where you want the photo to appear. Click on the "Add" button next to the loaded file. The bracketed file description will appear in the edit box. When you "Post", the photo (thumb) or file (like the PDFs I like to toss out for folks) will appear in position at your post! Take advantage, we welcome your photo posts... Moses Ludel
  5. For most of the world, an outdoor lifestyle involves motor vehicles. In North America, 4x4 utility vehicles long ago became the icon for backcountry travel, which now spans four generations of postwar Jeep, SUV and 4x4 light truck enthusiasts. When not used for work chores, these vehicles have taken families camping, hunting," rock hounding", fishing, exploring and rock crawling. 4x4s have accessed the most primitive and scenic reaches of the globe. The emergence of dirt motorcycles, ATVs and the popular S-by-S UTVs has given us an even wider range of vehicle choices. Dirt motorcycles, once strictly competition-oriented for desert, Six-Days Trials and motocross use, have expanded into the dual-sport crossovers and license plated, bona fide dirt enduro bikes. The sport bikes have now given up their top sales segment status to the "adventure-touring" class of heavyweight highway/occasional dirt use cycles—not so "occasional" for Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman in the two "Long Way..." documentary series that have attracted millions of bucket list followers! "Long Way Down"* was a 15,000 mile ride, with extensive primitive roads through the African continent. *Note: Want to treat your family to a moto, geography and cultural lesson? Watch the 45-minute segments, available as streaming video at Netflix! Each of us has our motor vehicle legacy, and in my case, the focus has been both 4x4 utility/SUV vehicles and dirt motorcycles. I have my reasons. My view of 4x4s and dirt motorcycles breaks down like this: 1) 4x4 Utility Vehicles: The Jeep CJs and current XJ Cherokee 4x4, two FJ40 Land Cruisers and an I-H Scout were each "family oriented". (We also had a string of beam axle GM 4x4 pickup trucks and 3/4-ton 4WD Suburbans that doubled for work and recreational/family use.) Camping, hunting, fishing and outdoor exploring are instant memories, each of these vehicles has its special association with remote "places". I drove a Jeep CJ-5 4x4 with my learner's permit and took the driver's license exam in that F-head model. Our children and grandchildren have each benefitted from a "4x4 lifestyle", and outdoor activities have defined our family for four generations. On the upside, a 4x4 utility, SUV or light truck can be a family foundation for outdoor activity and recreation; the downside is the ridiculously high price of admission to the new vehicle market...A "used 4x4" can be the practical alternative. 2) Dual-Sport Motorcycles: I grew up at rural Nevada when the state's population was so sparse that a "Scooter License" was available at the age of 14. Who would pass up such an opportunity? I bought a '55 Cushman/Allstate and quickly outfitted it with an oversized Super Eagle long block. That 'sleeper' made 60 mph. If it's in your blood, one motorcycle leads to another, and my first bona fide "off-pavement" bike came in the form of a two-year-old 1969 BSA 441cc Victor single-cylinder thumper, which really had more place on-pavement but looked very cool as an "On Any Sunday" scrambler/enduro of that era. Drawn to BSAs, I eventually owned an A65L Lightning and A75R Rocket III, both for pavement only...My resumption of dirt bike riding came two decades later, as riding with our youngest son Jacob led to a string of pre-owned Honda XR air-cooled models. The latest acquisition, 2000 Honda XR650R feels "just right" for open desert while the remaining '84 Honda XR350R makes for a nice single-track trail and moderate desert runner...The upside of dirt motorcycles is the incredibly reasonable price of admission when compared to a 4x4 vehicle; the limitation is that this is not "family recreation" unless the entire family rides on individual motorcycles and enjoys the sport. Unless we see a dramatic decrease in the gap between income and the cost of new motor vehicles, and a real drop in fuel costs, the used vehicle alternative will become increasingly more popular for 4x4 enthusiasts. If there is no whole family "buy-in" (spouse or kids simply don't like bouncing around in a 4x4 all day), the powersports (i.e., dirt/dual-sport motorcycle, ATV or UTV) option becomes viable for those interested. This lower price of admission for a dirt motorcycle can be the leverage when you're the only one in the family who likes motorized, off-pavement travel and recreation. It's easier to keep peace in the family with the purchase and prep of a dirt or dual-sport motorcycle, for well under $10K even if bought new, than trying to push the idea of a showroom fresh JK Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited (4-Door) 4x4 at $40K—plus an additional $12K-$15K worth of "must have" add-ons and upgrades planned within five minutes of buying the Jeep—or after the first undercarriage-pounding rock crawl on stock diameter tires with that 116" wheelbase! Many spouses will go along with a used or new dirt bike expenditure in the $2500 to $9000 price range. 4x4s and dirt motorcycles are two distinctly different paradigms. If the whole family does not ride in the dirt, a motorcycle will be a solitary outlet for Dad (or Mom in this era) and friends with similar interests. For whole family recreation, a used or even the right new 4x4 makes sense. Buying used might leave enough funding for a dirt bike, too! Another consideration is riding skill. I'm lucky that my muscle memories for two-wheel motorized on- and off-highway cycling date back fifty years now. Riding in the dirt and on-pavement for that long builds reflexes and survival skills. It even compensates for aging to a degree. (Often, I am pleasantly surprised to "pull it off" with a strictly reflexive move at this ripe age!) On the other hand, without putting a damper on anyone's enthusiasm, I caution middle-age, first time riders: Go gradually, you've got a lot of catching up to do! Note: Having ridden highway under the "Basic Speed Law" at rural Nevada in the day, on a tuned BSA Rocket III that could soar to 115 mph without hesitation, with over fifty years of off-pavement riding experience as well, my health "secret" is defensive riding. That's the only way to stay uninjured and alive, frankly. Fortunately, I've never been down on the pavement nor done a high-side or "endo"/cartwheel in the dirt...No broken bones or injuries, I'm grateful and ever vigilant. If you have years of on-highway riding experience, that helps a lot in the dirt. However, riding off-pavement is it's own critter, beware of the handling quirks and dynamics that are unique to dirt riding. There are courses and trail riding schools. Watch every video you can on how to ride dirt at speed...On that note, don't ride at speed until you're good and ready! For those of us with a level head, motorcycling is potentially dangerous, and if you doubt that and do not ride defensively and reasonably, while wearing the right riding gear for the environment, you can expect to hear your friends and family's resounding, "I told you those things are dangerous!" Before gushing further about dirt and dual-sport motorcycles, I admit that dirt riding is a totally different angle. Camping out requires lightweight, easy to tote equipment—and not much of it! Inexpensive motels or B&Bs are a welcome alternative after eating dust all day. Weather becomes an issue, icy highways a hazard, mud a grind, and scorching heat a quick way to dehydrate. (Wear and use a Camelback or similar device!) If you like the comfort of a heater and air conditioning, a dirt motorcycle is not the way to go...If you want a five-muscle group exercise machine and an incentive for staying in good physical condition, a dirt bike and single track trails or open desert riding will do the trick! For our household, the current rolling stock and applications break down like this: 1) 1999 XJ Cherokee 4WD doubles as a daily driver/magazine chores and true trail use vehicle with its 6-inch long arm suspension lift and 33" tires, a winch on a winch bumper and ARB Air Lockers front and rear with 4.10 axle gearing. 2) 2005 Dodge Ram 3500 4WD Quad-Cab with Cummins 5.9L engine, our primary work vehicle, "ultimate" hauler and tow vehicle when needed. 95% of the Ram's life has been eating up highway miles at a tolerable 21-plus mpg...A great utility workhorse and overall vehicle, great ride quality for those 720 miles (each way) trips to Moab! 3) Honda XR650R motorcycle recently added to the stable and earmarked for outdoor promotion and use as a video filming platform. The iconic desert enduro motorcycle ("Dust to Glory" star in its HRC form), converted for dual-sport riding, license plated and insured, this bike is at home both on pavement and in the dirt...This is the fifth XR in our household, and another one (an XR400R in "as new" condition) heads into youngest son Jacob's garage later today. Honda XR motorcycle inventory: The wholly intact 1984 Honda XR500R needs some restorative work and currently rests under a protective tarp; the pristine '83 XR200R went to a good home years ago; Jacob's original and pieced together XR75 got ridden into the ground ($70 total invested, it ran for five years); and the '84 XR350R has remained in the stable, maintained meticulously. 4) 1984 Honda XR350R motorcycle that was built for hare-and-hound by an A&E licensed aircraft mechanic then never raced. This is a pristine, highly dependable air-cooled thumper with factory dual carburetors. (Many whine about the dual carbs, they are fundamental and not difficult to rebuild and sync, I'd be delighted to share details.) This engine starts on the first or second kick every time, hot or cold, and the four-valve technology makes it a kick-butt, fun and highly dependable motorcycle! Despite wife Donna's prodding about why I need more than one motorcycle, I've managed to keep this endearing motorcycle in the stable. All of our motor vehicles are paid for, and that has been the trend for us. We did buy the 2005 Ram new, the only vehicle in this batch that came off a dealer's lot. Each of the other vehicles was a "private party" purchase. We have enough funding left at the end of the day to buy the fuel, outdoor gear, fly fishing tackle, hunting paraphernalia and other outdoor lifestyle necessities. If being on a vehicle "cash footing" sounds appealing, these forums, the magazine and my Vimeo On Demand instructional videos can help you enjoy an affordable, motorized outdoor lifestyle! Moses
  6. 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.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/22/the-uncomfortable-truth-about-american-wages/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0. If you can come up with a more glowing view or statistics, please share them. 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
  7. Moses, can we post videos or a link to a video? I'd like to share my technical issues and think that video would be helpful. Forman
  8. Members JJ_Jeep and biggman100 suggested that the magazine's shop projects could benefit from a difficulty ranking system...I'd like to incorporate that approach at the magazine and also when we share projects, service work and rebuilding chores at these forums. It needs to be a ranking system that is very clear, not generalized. We've all seen rankings that give, say, four levels of difficulty without much detail about the experience required for each. Tools needed will be a concern, however, the real issue is the skill level required. Would it be better to describe each project in a paragraph about its difficulty, or do folks prefer a scale or number system? If a scale, is there a recognized, universal pattern, or is the ranking system specific to each source? The information era is unique in that there is ready access to professional-level data. This in itself does not make us "professional", though. Just because the information is available does not mean we always need to act upon it. It's okay for a project/article or HD video to provide enough information for us to make an informed decision—in some cases that choice may be whether to plunge into the rebuild chores, buy a rebuilt or new parts assembly, or sublet the task to a professional shop. I like to use welding, torch cutting and brazing as examples: You can't teach these techniques strictly from a textbook. These are hand-to-eye coordination skills that require actual practice and experience. For those with experience, it's often much more effective to watch an HD video of a process than to "read about" the technique. The same applies with many mechanical skills, like using a hydraulic press, installing a seal or installing rods, pistons and insert bearings into a cylinder block. This is why we have service and skill trades, where professionalism can be cultivated over time through a learning process or apprenticeship. I'm open to suggestions about ranking methods and content. Want this to work for everyone! Moses
  9. I want to encourage others to become forum members. Joining these forums is free, and it is very easy to become a member, just as fast as becoming a member on any other website or forum! Moses Ludel, the publisher of the magazine and author of several books, has many years of valuable experience at professional repairs and maintenance. He has hands on, valuable experience at building magazine specialty vehicles for places like the Rubicon Trail and all-weather/all-terrain use—with lots of travel and back country experiences to share! Moses Ludel taught 4WD driving clinics for the Tread Lightly program, too. In becoming a member, you will find diverse yet on-topic conversations, ranging from old and new Jeep vehicles to GM, Ford, Dodge and Ram, Toyota and other 4WD trucks and SUVs. We also talk about off-road motorcycles, camping, outdoor lifestyle interests and even places to visit or have an adventure, whether it be for a day, or a week, or you are looking for a new place to move! I'm getting reliable information, professional advice, money saving tips, safety recommendations and, for the first time, practical and proven solutions that don't always involve spending a fortune. And when it's time to buy parts and aftermarket items, I'm making better choices and have confidence that the upgrades and accessories will actually work! Join us, you'll be doing yourself a huge favor, and we'd like your participation!
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